Exactly three months ago, Tanner and I were floating in the waters off the Gulf of Mexico in Anna Maria Island, Florida. We were chuckling to ourselves over how successful the wedding had been: it hadn’t rained; the weather had been beautiful; it seemed that people had had fun. We were so pleased. We were on our honeymoon.
I’m writing this post not to wax on about our perfect honeymoon (don’t worry, it wasn’t perfect: some nights it rained; one afternoon there were jellyfishes everywhere; and on our last day Tanner got stung by a stingray), but, rather, to ruminate upon the true purpose of a honeymoon. In order to do so, I must return to the weeks before the wedding and elaborate upon the structured chaos.
Because we got married in my parents’ backyard, our list of tasks was long. Complicating matters was the fact that, although we’d been in Gap for four weeks leading up to the wedding, two of those weeks had been filled with desperate, non-stop studying (and non-stop worrying) for the Bar exam. After getting past that horrible ordeal, we finally got down to the necessary gardening, planning, weeding, mulching, talking to caterers, and so on and so forth. It was constant activity, and we didn’t have much time to ourselves. Things became even more chaotic in the last week before the wedding when my relatives and Tanner’s immediate family descended upon Gap to lend a helping hand.
During this period, our only alone time came during our abridged gym visits in the morning, when we were often too tired and bleary-eyed to really make it count. The chaos had gotten us out of the rhythm we’d established as a couple, and we were, I can see now, a tad disoriented. (People planning their weddings complain about this phenomenon; it’s impossible to see the truth in it until it’s upon you.)
Our stay in Florida was the first time in a long while that we were able to go back to being ourselves. It also gave us a chance to explore what married life would be like in a stress-free environment. While we always knew the honeymoon was going to be great–who doesn’t like to go on vacation?–we’d never realized how essential it was going to be.
There were funny little details we still had to work out. The honeymoon granted us the chance to work those details out among strangers we knew we’d never see again (I’d rather not imagine what my siblings–kindhearted people though they may be–would have said had they witnessed our fumbling that week). Let me give you an example. On Monday, our first full day in Florida, we were in the middle of a morning bike ride when Tanner’s phone rang. He looked down and saw that it was the insurance agent. “Hello?” he said, and then paused. I knew the person on the other side of the phone had just asked him his name because he shot me a panicked look.
“Ah, well, my name’s Tanner . . . ah, Tanner . . . Ryan. But when I first called and spoke with you last week, I wasn’t married, and my name was Tanner Minot.” It was a hot day, but I could see the questions were making Tanner sweat even more.
“And what’s your wife’s name?” I heard the lady ask.
” . . . My wife?” Tanner stammered, as he stared directly at me. At this point, I assumed he didn’t know the answer, so, trying to be helpful, I pointed to myself. “Ah, yes. Carolyn. Her name is Carolyn Warner. No, no, I mean Carolyn Ryan.” He looked defeated. When he got off the phone, he confessed that he was thrown off by the name question, but it was the wife question that had completely done him in.
It took me until our very last day of our week in Florida to utter the foreign word, “husband”.
“What’s wrong?” the hotel manager asked me as I burst into the hotel, somewhat frantically.
“My . . . husband’s lying on the beach bleeding everywhere! I think he got stung by something.” It was only afterward when I realized what I said. (Tanner’s stingray sting was good for something after all. It was also good for a story, as Tanner has proceeded to brag to anyone who will listen about the incident.) The manager didn’t bat an eye.