“The Wedding,” New Era, Feb. 1987, 40
The house at 402 Cinnamon Street was covered with a blanket of darkness. The moon lit up the yard in dim, random patches, almost as if playing a game of hide-and-seek in the cloud-covered sky.
Gentle whispering of sleep echoed about the bedroom. In her dream the Grand Ballroom was even more beautiful than Amy remembered. The catering manager, dressed in suit and tie, was motioning with his arms.
“And, Miss Harding, your guests will enter the ballroom through these doors. Inside to the right on a table will be the wedding book to sign. Next will be a table for the gifts. Proceeding on around, the guests will meet you and Steve and your families here. We’ll have flowers and trees, and this is where the photographer will be taking pictures. Then the line proceeds on past the wedding cake.”
Amy slept peacefully in her bed. She was oblivious to the clouds, once small in number, building forces in the sky. In the midst of Amy’s pleasant dream, a storm was brewing.
Headlights from a passing car threw fleeting shadows across the bedroom wall. Amy pulled her blanket up over her shoulders and turned over. A flash of light streaked across the midnight sky. The bolt of lightning and accompanying crash of thunder awakened Amy with a start.
She stared at the darkened walls, going over the list in her mind.
She could hear her mother’s comments. “… a wedding cake, and we remembered to ask for the little pink flowers on the top. The invitations are all addressed, waiting to be mailed. I called the florist today. Do you think we’ve missed anything?”
Thunder continued to rumble. It seemed like tiny earthquakes were shaking the ground. In the excitement of her temple marriage, was she forgetting something? Was she leaving out some small detail, overlooking an important element?
Amy moved to the window to part the curtains. To Amy, who was always fascinated with electrical storms, it just seemed like a big show in the sky. As the rain pelted against the windowpane, Amy’s thoughts flashed back to her date with Steve that evening.
“You look great, Amy. But maybe you’d better bring along a jacket. The evenings can be cool.” Steve, dressed in his college sweatshirt and baseball cap, had been waiting for Amy. “Sorry, I’m late. You know how that dumb car is.”
Steve opened the car door for her, then walked around to his side. He was over six foot four, and his legs fit awkwardly behind the wheel. He turned onto the freeway and lowered the visor to keep the sun from blinding him. “Did you go to the hotel this morning?”
“You wouldn’t believe the ice sculptures, Steve. The catering manager showed me pictures. The largest one on the main buffet is of the temple, complete with the Angel Moroni. Oh, and get this! One sculpture is of two love birds kissing, and they’re sitting on a heart.”
Steve stared straight ahead at the road while Amy rattled on. “And another one is our initials on a huge pedestal.”
Steve hit the turn signal, glancing in his rearview mirror before making a turn. “Couldn’t we just use ice cubes like normal people?”
Amy nudged Steve hard with her elbow. “It’s for decoration, not to keep the punch cold. Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have made the arrangements without you, Steve. I keep thinking I’m missing something.”
Steve shook his head. “Naw, that’s okay. I don’t know anything about stuff like that. I trust your judgment.”
The drive to the park was fun. They drove around a few minutes before claiming a small picnic table nestled under several shade trees. Amy and Steve sat quietly for a few minutes, watching a little bird hop around and listening to a tiny stream nearby.
Amy dug her tennis shoe into the soft soil, leaving a ridged imprint. Then with her toe she smashed a fallen leaf, brittle from lack of nourishment. Steve sneezed. The trees brought out his allergies. Amy crunched another leaf. Steve sneezed again. Amy stepped on another leaf. Steve continued to sneeze. She tried, but she couldn’t stand it any longer.
“Steve, please take an allergy pill. Your sneezing is driving me crazy.”
Steve reached for an allergy pill. He swallowed it without water. Then he leaned back, squirted two drops of medication into each eye, squinted, then raised his head. His eyes were tearing and were as red as the nose of a clown.
“I get the allergies from my mom. Sometimes I just wish I could have inherited my dad’s crooked toes. You can at least hide them.”
Steve’s voice dropped off. He didn’t remember much about them. Both parents died when he was young, and his aunt had raised him. But certain small memories were imprinted forever in his mind.
Amy reached over and took Steve’s hand. “Steve, we haven’t forgotten to invite a relative of yours to the reception, have we?”
Steve picked up a broken twig and drew Xs and Os in the dirt. “You know, I keep thinking we’ve forgotten something, too. And I’m wondering if we ought to spend so much money on a wedding band for me. And it bothers me that so much is being spent on the reception.”
Amy was agitated. “Rings represent forever, an endless circle. You know, like you and me. You are getting that wedding band. And you know how much the reception means to my mother. We can’t take that away from her.”
“I’m sorry, Amy. You’re right. It’s just that material things have never mattered much to me. You know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a couple named Young who used to sit in front of me every Sunday during sacrament meeting right after I joined the Church. They always sat so close together even though they had a bunch of kids crawling all over them.
“When they bore their testimonies I could really feel they understood what the Church meant to the other one. So I started praying for a girl I could take to the temple who really understood what the Church meant to me.”
Steve squeezed Amy’s hand. “I found her. I found her the night you bore your testimony at that fireside.”
Amy squeezed back. “I’ll always remember that night. I’d been a member two weeks. It took a lot of courage to stand when I hardly knew anything. I didn’t have Primary when I was young or Sunday School. But I did know one thing for sure the night I stood up. I knew the Church was true.”
Steve dropped his stick and took Amy by her shoulders. “We’re learning the answers together. We’ve been able to share so much.”
Steve put his arm around her. “Amy, I do want this wedding and reception to be everything you and your family want it to be. So let’s do something. How about if right now we start a special fast? Just the two of us. If something is missing, some small detail or someone we’ve forgotten, then we can find it. What do you think?”
Amy shrugged her shoulders. “Fasting is hard. But okay. Starting right now, for 24 hours?”
A tap at Amy’s door brought her back to the reality of her bedroom.
“Is that you, Mom?”
A soft voice responded. “Yes, dear. I couldn’t sleep and saw your light.”
Amy walked over to the door. “Come on in.”
Amy’s mom looked troubled. She sat beside Amy on the edge of the bed, pulling her robe tight around her.
“What’s wrong, Mom? I’ve heard you wandering around downstairs tonight. Is it the storm?”
Her mother stood up and began to pace. Her slippers made little squeaky noises across the hardwood floor. “I really like Steve. And I have the reception to look forward to. But honey, you’re my only child. I want to be at your wedding. Why can’t I go inside the temple?”
Amy lowered her head. This was hard for her too, having her parents missing from the sealing ceremony.
“Mom, I’m going to invite the missionaries over Sunday. I think they will be able to explain to you why nonmembers aren’t allowed in the temple. If only you knew how much I want you to be there.”
Her mother walked over and lifted Amy’s chin to look into her eyes. “It’s hurting your father, too, Amy. He understands very little about this church you have joined. But he knows how happy it has made you. Maybe it would help to have someone explain why we can’t go inside the temple. I’ll let your dad know they’re coming.”
She kissed Amy’s cheek. “Good night, honey.”
After her mother left the room and closed the door, Amy lay back on the bed. As she stared up at the ceiling, her eyes were drawn to the light fixture. Suddenly she imagined herself standing in the Grand Ballroom staring up at the chandeliers. The diamond-shaped crystal had tinkled delicately. Amy finally fell asleep.
The morning was almost gone when the phone rang on Amy’s nightstand. Amy was startled from a deep sleep. After grabbing the phone by instinct, it took her a moment to realize what she was doing.
The caller hesitated. “Uh, hello? Is that you, Amy? It’s Steve. Were you still asleep?”
Amy pushed her hair away from her face and sat up. “Yeah. What time is it?”
The line was fuzzy. “Around nine I guess.”
“You sound so far away. Where are you calling from, Timbuktu?”
Steve chuckled. “No, but close. Somewhere near Storm Mountain. The car is acting up, and I stopped to cool it down. I’ve been rock climbing.”
Amy had a momentary vision of Moses climbing the mountain to talk to God. “Sounds pretty heavy. You shouldn’t be exerting yourself so much when you’re fasting.”
“I know, but ever since I started fasting I’ve been haunted by the impression that something very important was missing. I just had to get away to see if I could find out what it is.”
Amy heard a loud clunk. Steve had dropped the phone. “Oops, sorry. Hey, could we come up here for the Young Adult activity tonight? Campfire, games, and dinner. We could break our fast then.”
“But what about that history report you wanted to finish, Steve? Isn’t it due soon?”
“Yes, but it can wait another night. I’m afraid I’ve discovered what it is that’s missing, Amy. It’s not something missing from our wedding. It’s something missing in our lives, especially my life.”
Amy tried to clear her mind to think. “Well, okay. Pick me up at five, the car willing.”
Amy hung up the phone and sat staring at it for a minute, confused. Deciding not to think about it, she spent the afternoon with her nose buried in college textbooks and trying to keep her mind off food.
A large group had already gathered when Steve and Amy arrived. They had to stop twice to fiddle with the car. Steve lifted the hood as soon as they parked at the campsite while Amy visited with friends. Food was cooking, and the young people were throwing frisbees and playing badminton.
The smell of hamburgers teased hearty appetites, and the food was gone in minutes.
The sun began to set. More firewood was gathered, and everyone sat close together around the warmth of the campfire. Steve and Amy huddled together on a fallen log.
Roger, always the unspoken leader, suggested they play a game, one that his dad always loved to play for Family Home Evening.
One boy, Aaron, chided him. “Oh, brother. Not “button, button, whose got the button.’”
Roger shook his head, leaning closer to the fire. “No. This game is called ‘Search Your Soul in Two Minutes or Less.’ And I’m the emcee.”
Roger squinted, trying to make out the familiar faces around the smoky campfire. He pointed to Heather. “Okay, Heather, you have two minutes to answer the first question. Ready?”
Heather shrugged her shoulders and nodded.
“Heather, why do you live the gospel?”
Heather, her short brown hair barely visible around the hood of her parka, was thrown off guard. “Come on, Roger, how can I answer a question like that?”
Roger smiled, enjoying the challenge. “I didn’t say the game was easy, did I?”
Heather lowered her head and took her full two minutes.
“Time’s up, Heather. Let’s have the answer.”
Her voice was shaky. “I lived with my Heavenly Father before I ever came here. I live the gospel because it’s the only way to get back to his presence.”
The group huddled even closer. Roger chose his best friend next.
“Okay, Craig buddy, reach down into your soul. Why do you live the gospel?”
Everyone expected a wisecrack. But instead Craig reached into his back pocket and dug through his wallet. He passed around a picture. Everyone leaned close to the light to make it out. The picture was worn with frayed corners.
“I have five brothers and two sisters. I have two parents who drive me crazy but love me even when I’m driving them crazy. I have aunts, uncles, cousins, and twin nephews two weeks old. My sister and her husband are staying with us for a little while. The babies kept us up almost all last night. I guess I live the gospel because for some stupid reason I want it to stay this way. I want to be with my family forever.”
Amy and Steve held hands. Roger pointed to Kathy. “Okay, greenie, you’re the newest member. In two minutes or less, why did you join the Church?”
Kathy stared at the fire, watching the little sparks jump in the air and burn themselves out. She appeared to look at Roger, but with a serious look seemed to see beyond Roger or anything else in the radius of the campfire.
“I’ve never been a happy person. I really don’t know why. Maybe I thought no one really cared. The elders were interested in me as a person. One was from Maryland, the other from England. That’s a long way to come to give me a message.
“I listened and knew it was true. I am happier. And I’m beginning to understand why. Without the Church in my life, something was missing. And if it hadn’t been for those elders sacrificing to go on a mission, it would always have been missing.”
Amy felt something creep up her back. She could hardly breathe. She turned to Steve and, through the light of the fire, saw in his eyes the answer he had brought down with him from Storm Mountain. Their eyes pierced through each other.
Amy jerked her hand away and hurried from the circle. She began to run. Through the shadows of darkened trees, Amy ran faster and faster, wishing she could run forever.
“Amy, wait! I can’t see you! You’ll fall or something! Amy, get back here!”
Steve couldn’t tell which direction Amy had headed. He stood still for a moment, then heard movement to his left. He saw Amy struggling up a steep incline. His heart was in his stomach, envisioning her falling over the edge. He followed her, watching her trip several times, holding onto tree roots and small, jagged rocks sticking out from the hillside.
At last Steve stood at the top, the whole valley lying before him in a panoramic view. The lights twinkled like Christmas trees. He spotted Amy crouched beside a large boulder.
He sat down beside her and put his arm around her gently, not wanting to frighten her and have her jerk away. Amy sniffed and wiped her eyes.
“Amy,” Steve said breaking the awkward silence, “today when I was climbing, I couldn’t think about anything except those four sets of missionaries I went through during my conversion. Elder Snow gave up a baseball scholarship. Elder Decker postponed his education. Another missionary’s father had to work two jobs to support him. And then all I thought about was a postage stamp.”
Amy shook her head, pulling a weed from the soil and picking it apart. “You climbed Storm Mountain, fasting and everything, and all you could think about was a postage stamp?”
Steve’s voice was barely audible. Amy knew right away he was going to talk about his mother. “Once when I was six or seven years old and my dad was out of town, my mom needed a postage stamp to mail Uncle Robert’s birthday card. We lived in the country. The mailman would pick up the mail but couldn’t sell us stamps. Mom couldn’t wait until Dad got back home with the car or the card wouldn’t arrive at the right time.
“Mom sent me to Mrs. Harold’s down the lane. She was an old lady who kind of looked after Mom and me when Dad was on the road. Of course Mrs. Harold loaned me the stamp, and we mailed the card on time. But the next day Mom told me we were going to pack a picnic lunch and walk the two miles to the post office to buy a stamp to replace the one we borrowed from Mrs. Harold.”
Steve picked up a little rock and tossed it down the hillside. “I remember saying to her, ‘Why don’t we just bake her some cookies or just give her ten cents to cover the cost of the postage stamp?’
“And then I said, ‘We could wait until Dad gets home in a few days and drive to the post office. Why today? What’s a couple more days?’
“Mom put her arms around me. Then she said, ‘Because today is the day we owe for the postage stamp, not tomorrow or the next day.’”
Steve tightened his arm around Amy. “Uncle Robert got his card when he needed it, and the debt was paid when it was owed.”
Amy buried her face in her hands, crying. “You’re telling me there isn’t going to be a wedding? After all the plans, all the dreams, you’re telling me that you’re leaving me for two years?”
Steve was sniffing and rubbing his nose, but not from his allergies. “Amy, look how the town is all lit up. We have the gospel here. But there are areas of the world that are pitch dark. Christ said, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). I have to light up that little corner of the world that’s dark, Amy. Our corner.”
The drive home was a quiet one. When they pulled into the driveway, Steve looked at Amy as he turned off the ignition. He started to speak, but before he could say a word, Amy threw open the door and bolted from the car. Tears were streaming down her face. Steve got out and stood for a moment, not knowing what to do. Then he lifted the hood of the car, almost out of habit, while he glanced out of the corner of his eye as Amy slipped into the house.
When Amy walked in the front door, she was glad it was quiet. She wanted to go to her room to be alone. After opening her door and then closing it quietly behind her, she turned on her bedroom lamp.
The room was just as she had left it.
Amy glanced down at her engagement ring. A wave of deep sadness swept over her. She took a soft handkerchief and tried to polish the setting. The diamond didn’t seem to sparkle as brightly as it had the day in the jewelry store. She pulled her ring from her finger and placed it in her jewelry box.
The rain began to plink against her windowpane. Thunder was barely audible in the distance as tears flowed down Amy’s cheeks in torrents. She loved Steve so very much. But did she love the gospel more? And if she sacrificed Steve for just a little while, if she could somehow bear it, would both loves merge almost as one, making both even stronger?
Amy walked to the window. Rain was coming down faster now as Steve huddled under the hood trying to make some kind of adjustment. She looked at the terrible storm lurking on the horizon. The trees were beginning to bow and the house began to creek from the wailing wind sneaking through unseen cracks.
Amy went to her closet and pulled down a rain hat and coat. She grabbed a black umbrella from the top shelf. She couldn’t, she wouldn’t, leave Steve out in that downpour trying to fix the car by himself.
When she came up behind him, he jumped, startled.
“How many times do you suppose we’ve fixed this dumb car, Steve?”
Steve turned. The umbrella barely covered the both of them. Steve looked like a drowned rat.
“Well, I don’t have my calculator handy.” He jokingly patted his shirt pocket. “But off the top of my head I’d say if we’ve fixed it once, we’ve fixed it a hundred times—in just the last two weeks.”
Amy moved closer, pushing his wet hair from his eyes. “Seems like whenever we’re in the car and feel something isn’t running right, we get out of the car together, lift the hood, and look inside, right?”
Steve nodded, wiping his forehead with a greasy hand.
“And we fix whatever is wrong and continue on to where it was we were heading. Is that what we’re trying to do tonight?”
Steve couldn’t resist hugging her. “Yes, Amy. And as I was going to say as we drove into the driveway, I love you. But I just want to pay our debt now, while we owe it. Two years is a long time, I know, but what did Roger say tonight? ‘Who said the game was going to be easy?’”
Amy felt her heart would break as Steve kissed her gently. He didn’t have to tell her it was a kiss that would have to last two years. Tomorrow was Sunday, and Amy knew Steve would go to the bishop in the morning. But then a bright hope flooded Amy’s thoughts. Sunday was also the day her parents agreed to see the missionaries. A lot could happen in two years.
They fixed the car. Amy went inside as Steve drove away in the yellow car. Amy went to her room, changed into her nightgown, towel dried her hair, and then knelt beside her bed. There was nowhere else to go with all the hurt she felt inside.
She prayed with all her heart for comfort. At first she just felt sick even trying to say the words, but a feeling of peace started in a little corner, building and building until she felt the warmth of a blazing fire.
As Amy fell asleep that night, outside a terrible storm was raging. The lightning cracked across the sky, the thunder boomed, the dark clouds could be seen hovering over the neighborhood around the house at 402 Cinnamon Street. But through the raging storm, Amy slept peacefully in the midst of pleasant dreams. No matter what transpired in the ominous sky, for Amy and Steve this particular storm was over.