Successful honeymoons are all alike. Every disastrous honeymoon is disastrous in its own way.
December is a whirlwind of celebration in our family – a birthday, an anniversary, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We do it all and we do it up big. Perhaps, Jay and I got this going because we’re still trying to wipe out the blot on the page that was our honeymoon, a misadventure if ever there was one.
Naively, we set it up that way. Getting married during Advent was until recently frowned upon in the Roman Catholic Church. In the church year, this is a season of preparation and reflection, not festivity and frivolity. Had we heeded that ancient wisdom and chosen a more sensible wedding day, our honeymoon may very well have been blissful.
The minds of twenty-somethings, however, are not known for wisdom. And we were no exception. Immediately following Jay’s sister’s wedding in October, it seemed perfectly reasonable to plan one of our own to take place six weeks later. The Saturday before Christmas made eminent sense because we would both be on school break. Being married during a festive season chimed for us with romantic fervor.
In photos taken on my wedding day, I am truly beaming and dewy-eyed. No hint in those pictures that many of the guests became stranded in an icy underpass on the way to the reception or that the caterer took the lids off the food an hour early and everyone who did make it ate cold food. Undaunted by such setbacks, we took off in a snowstorm for northern Michigan and our skiing honeymoon.
Not Necessarily a Time for Everything
Skiing? Honeymoon? Those two words sound odd together because there are very few people in the world for which they flow smoothly in the same sentence. And we were not among them.
The idyllic oblivion that carried us through the wedding mishaps refused to let us be daunted by the icy roads and dense fogs that dogged our journey north. After several hours, we arrived cold, wet, hungry and happy at our shabby-chic inn on Traverse Bay. Okay, more shabby than chic, but the beds were comfy even if the rooms were chilly. And we had enough heat between us to overcome that obstacle.
The real calamity waited for the next morning. We headed for the ski slopes at a nearby resort, one of us a seasoned skier, the other one a complete neophyte. We intended to bridge the gap by signing me up for ski school. Once that was settled, Jay kissed me goodbye, hoisted himself on a J-bar and was literally up and away. I stared at the tall, thin boards in my grasp. My heart sunk. I couldn’t possibly learn to maneuver on such outlandish objects. I felt every bit the deserted wife. And I’d only been married three days.
Nonetheless, I trudged after the bright young woman who assured a collection of other adults, all of whom appeared fairly stressed, that we’d be skiing “in no time.” Not true. When Jay came to collect me for lunch, I could finally stand on the skis without immediately tripping, but I certainly wasn’t “ski-ing.”
After a hearty burger, he told me not to worry and headed for the slopes. My eyes followed him until he was a blur at the top of the mountain. Then I trudged by to ski-school. By the end of the second day, I was the last in my class still not “skiing.” My classmates had hit the hills – albeit the bunny slopes. Reduced to practicing with the kids’ class, my mood darkened every day. Only the fabulous nights saved our marriage from being one of the shortest ones on record.
Photo by Clement Delhaye
And then that ended. On the fourth day, I begged Jay to let me try skiing with him. He chose the easiest of the trails. Heart in my throat, I slung a leg over the J-bar and managed to slide off at the top without crashing into the snow. With much encouragement, I pushed off. Suddenly the world raced by and I had no idea how to stop it or control its direction. I panicked, dug in my poles and flipped over backward.
Jay slid to stop, knelt beside me, and whispered “Jule” in hushed tones.
“What?” I barked back.
“Thank, God. You’re okay,” he answered.
“I am not,” I retorted. “I can’t move my right leg.”
Another skier alerted the ski patrol. Rescuers arrived and I was carried down the mountain on the back of a very burly, good-looking hunk. Sadly, I was in no state to appreciate that unique opportunity. At a nearby clinic, we discovered nothing was broken, but I had torn all the ligements in my knee and sprained my ankle. I would be on crutches for several weeks.
The next morning, Jay set me up on a big cushy sofa in the front of a roaring fire, an Agatha Cristie mystery and a thermos of hot cocoa at my side. He advised that I rest and sleep. He’d see me when the slopes closed. That lasted one day.
Honeymoons, I insisted that evening, were meant to be spent together. We need to move to Plan B, which as it happens was non-existent. But we couldn’t go “home.” Our apartment wasn’t available for another week.
Instead, we drove to Detroit where we spent our first Christmas with my grandmother and treated ourselves to “Mary Poppins” at the Fox Theater. It was the most enchanting moment of our honeymoon. The movie was our “spoonful of sugar.”
It meant that for the next fifty-five years, we remember the ups and downs of the Honeymoon Disaster with fondness rather than bitterness.
We had vowed “For Better, For Worse,” and in one week of Love’s Lessons, we learned how very true that promise would be.
Did your honeymoon live up to your dreams? What Love Lessons did you learn on your honeymoon? We all have so much to share with one another. Please do so right in the comment box.
Your honeymoon tells the world–and maybe you–who you are.
GINGER STRAND, Inventing Niagara