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Feeling wedding jitters

Open SpaceDerek FranzGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Stepping onto the platform, I switched on the mic and turned to face the fine clothes and concentrated eyes of the wedding crowd.The mic wasn’t on after all. Frantically stabbing at the power button, the sudden wave of jitters must have been the realization that I was now standing upon the altar of marriage. Apparently I’d crossed a threshold of sorts before I’d had more than an inkling it was even there. Oops. Deep breath.The mic now reverberated every quiver in my throat over the mountain breeze with a slight delay that made me feel like Lou Gehrig (“I am the luckiest man-an-an …”). I hacked my way through the opening lines of my speech, which was written more as a poem.I finally looked up to the eyes of the bride in between my lines. Her white gown penetrated my retinas as I lifted my chin to meet her beaming, familiar blue eyes. “I’ve known Tara since we were 14. …” The lines now began to come naturally and without forethought. “As for Todd …” I greeted my buddy’s green eyes, shining even brighter than his slickly styled bald head, which sat atop 5 feet, 8 inches of sharp class.When I had practiced at the campfire the previous night, it felt difficult to recite the words with meaning. Nerves poked me with second guesses as I heard my voice stumbling through the prose that suddenly seemed cliché and cheesy as I read to the imagined audience.Candiss, my dear friend, listened intently from an aspen log beside the crackling embers of wood and trash. (The site was obviously popular for high school “woodsies.”)”It’s great,” she said. “It’s lovely. But you’re going to lose a lot of people’s attention around the fourth ‘graph. …”I knew it. Oh, my gosh – I wanted to start over right then, but of course that was out of the question. I calmed myself by saying out loud that Tara and Todd, ultimately, were the people I’d written the piece for and the only opinions that mattered. “They will know what I’m talking about,” I said.Still, I fretted some more, until it was late and the beer cans lying over the coals glowed hot orange in the dirty little pit, which filled the night up with foul smoke that conjured images of drunk, ignorant children with driver’s licenses chuckling as they chucked their refuse into a flaming pile, honestly believing their garbage would be gone by first light.I remember what it was like to be one of those kids, so I can’t pass judgment. I learned, though (I don’t dare stop learning), and hope they will, too, before they make more kids that are just like them, burying us all in their thoughtless, populating trash.In the morning I dive into more self editing. We drive to breakfast in Rifle, where I bust out my pen and rough draft, and begin slashing marks across the paper in earnest.The waitress pours the coffee as fast as I can down it for an hour, but I don’t make any real progress because we’re wondering how it could take an hour to cook eggs and why all the other customers have eaten and left, though we’re assured our food “will be out any minute.”I keep telling myself to put my energy into positive thinking. I’m so steamed, however, that the restaurant would hold us captive for so long with no apologies. The egg dishes finally come. The teenage waitress drops a tab for $15 on the table before we’ve had a bite and seems to think I’m the one being rude. … And I was trying hard to be respectful and tactful! (I’m so incapable of standing up for myself in these situations it’s sometimes embarrassing.)Candiss and I stop for an hour of rock climbing on our way to the ceremony, which is above Rifle Mountain Park at Coulter Lake Guest Ranch. I end up dangling from my rope on an “easy” route, wobbling in a screaming fit of frustration.From there, sweaty and defeated, we made our way to the ranch for showers.With a tie finally cinched around my neck, I scrambled to find the minister for some last-minute advice on my speech.Sitting on a bench by the reeds and water, Milton offered the shot of confidence I needed, advising me to keep everything as I had it.I reminded myself a few more times that Todd and Tara were the only ones that mattered as they paced to the altar.Making my way through the lines, the crowd seemed to melt away until only the bride and groom were left on either side of me. I was caught in the moment, right where I needed to be.I got to the end, the part where I throw the rock “through the blue sky, out over the lake to watch such a spectacular splash.”To my surprise the crowd burst into applause as the last drops fell back into the lake. People outside our little circle in the front had really listened and connected – I wasn’t an annoying distraction after all. My worry was for nothing. With a sigh of relief, I gladly passed the microphone to the next speaker and sat down to watch the best part of the wedding.When Tara and Todd kissed I felt a unique sense of pride, a feeling of honor that they’d have me up there to help them sow that memorable moment. … I was reminded, on several levels, that there’s no gift like that of the heart.I learned something else, too: It’s really freakin’ scary to stand at the altar of holy matrimony.Derek Franz finds it amusing that one of the definitions for “alter” in Webster’s New World College Dictionary is a verb, “to castrate or spay.” If you would like to make a proposal for his next column, he can be reached at dfranz@postindependent.com or 384-9113.


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