Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Kind Gift

It’s probably safe to say that most little girls, at one point or another, dream of their wedding day. It’s also safe to say that when those dreams occur, it’s consisted of common aspects of what makes a wedding. A gown. Flowers. The Cake. Maybe a dream about a glorious veil cascading around; flowing and dancing as the one you love more than anything becomes your husband.

It is these aspects that create the fond memories once the big day finally arrives. But there are other things; unexpected and unplanned things that bears a permanent mark on what becomes the story of your wedding day.

My husband and I made the decision to elope in Las Vegas, Nevada. We wanted our day to be private, relaxed, and easy. I was met with inquisitive looks by several people when I mentioned “relaxed” “wedding” and “Vegas” in the same sentence. However, Vegas can be anything you want it to be when it comes to wedding planning. We chose a small little Victorian chapel on The Strip and planned on a small ceremony followed by professional photographs at various locations on Las Vegas Boulevard and dinner at our favorite restaurant in the city. We certainly looked the part of a typical bride and groom. I chose a gown made creamy ivory chiffon, satin, and beads with a beautiful train. The fabric felt cool against my skin and the skirt flowed around my feet. My husband looked amazingly handsome in his tux and cymbidium orchid boutonniere. We had flowers, a photographer, and a cake. Everything a little girl dreams of; just on a smaller scale in the grandeur of an entertainment capitol of the world.

We were blissfully happy. My cheeks ached from a day of smiling and laughing.

Once we had finished taking pictures around Las Vegas Boulevard with our hired photographer, we went inside The Bellagio to celebrate our new marital status at one of the Hotel’s restaurants. The Bellagio is situated in the near-center of the Las Vegas Strip and towers over a massive man-made lake that doubles as a fountain. Every fifteen minutes, in the evening, the fountains are set to music and lights. The water dances to the beat of the music – Sinatra, AndrĂ©a Bocelli, big band songs of the 40s - and the effect is awe inspiring. I have spent a lot of time in front of that hotel, gazing at the grandeur of the hotel itself and taking in the beauty of those majestic fountains.

The restaurant we chose to celebrate our marriage was situated inside the hotel and overlooked the Fountains of Bellagio. The entire back wall of the restaurant was made up of magnificent arched windows and drapey velvet curtains. Candles flicker on the tables and the lights are dimmed allowing for most of the light inside the restaurant to come from the dancing waters themselves. The only thing that could make it perfect is a glass of wine; and they have that too.

We were seated at a round table near the windows, and within seconds I observed that we were definitely the only bride and groom in the place. We followed the hostess to our table as I wandered between chairs and other patrons, with my hem brushing everything within its reach. Every face within a ten-table radius turned our way and smiled. I heard muffled voices saying “look at that dress!” and “congratulations you guys!” I felt almost celebrity and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it just a little bit.

After we were seated and ordered our first round of drinks, I held my bouquet close to my nose and took in the sweet scents of Casablanca lilies, roses, and orchids. The flowers were tied with a sweet satin ribbon; soft to the touch. The fountains outside were reaching a crescendo as I drank in everything the stimulated my senses. Roses, candles, pinot grigio, the twinkling of the light through the water, the music reverberating as the fountains came alive. As we sat, knees touching under the table, I could see dozens of people outside at the edge of the water. Onyx silhouettes illuminated by the radiance of the thoroughfare outside. I took several deep breaths trying to commit everything to memory. I thought the night was winding down but little did I know the best part had yet to be. There is beauty in sweet surprises and kindness that runs deep even in strangers.
We celebrated with delicious cuisine and libations interrupted by restaurant patrons clinking their forks against their water glasses demanding that the newlyweds kiss. A roomful of strangers and it felt like a grand reception with dear friends. It felt like community.

My husband and I conversed with those around us, laughing and commemorating the evening with patrons whose names I don’t even know. Where there is unspeakable joy, there can be friendship. In a world filled with hatred, crime, pain, loss, and despair there are moments where normalcy creeps in and fills you with the gentle kindness of those who share a piece of your heart looking for refuge and solace; finding it in the joy of new beginnings.

My husband and I had just finished our appetizers when the restaurant manager appeared at our table. Silently, they arranged an extravagant ice bucket and bottle of champagne at our table. I exchanged looks with my groom that said ‘I didn’t order this, did you?’ The words hadn’t even crossed my lips when he shook his head telling me that he, in fact did not order the champagne bottle.

I turned to tell the wait staff that they had the wrong table, and before the words that had formed in my mind could be verbalized the manager said,
“We have a very special guest tonight. They are here, dining as well, and today is their fortieth wedding anniversary. They wanted to give you this bottle of champagne as a gift and said to tell you that this day is a very good day to be married. Congratulations.”

Stunned, I thought about these strangers celebrating their own mile-stone and sharing this sweet gesture of a wedding gift with us on our first day of marriage. One day. Forty years. Unspeakable kindness.

As the first two glasses were poured, tears filled my eyes and spilled over. I’d love to tell you I cried sweet tears that slipped down my cheeks, eyes glistening in the candlelight, but I would be lying. It may have started out that way but I quickly transitioned into a scrunched-faced snot-flying sob complete with heaving shoulders. Lovely. I asked the manager if I could personally thank them and was informed that they preferred to remain anonymous. Respectfully, I asked if the restaurant could inform them that we were extremely grateful for such a thoughtful and considerate gift and to tell them that their generosity brought me to tears. Kindness comes in all shapes and sizes; sometimes it even comes in the form of a champagne toast.

After the last drop had been emptied, I requested that the bottle be wrapped up so I could take it home with me. The champagne bottle sits on my bureau where I can see it daily. It serves to remind me that kindness comes in the least expected places. A kind heart and sweet gift. We may not know their names, or their faces, but it is actions and gestures that impact our hearts with kindness and joy.

Kindness knows no bounds.