Updated: May 23, 2019
It was a bit of a gamble, planning a Minnesota wedding for the middle of October. Ever the optimists, my then-fiancé and I decided that if October 15, 2005 was cold—or even snowy—we’d have 50 years of beautiful anniversaries to look forward to. Even if our wedding went the way of the great Halloween Blizzard of 1991, nothing would freeze our spirits. But our wedding day was a sunny, calm unseasonably balmy 65-degree day. And then came our first anniversary.
Nearly one later, on October 14, 2006, we sat in the Baltimore airport, waiting to board the first of our three flights to Honolulu, Hawaii. We could have taken a short trip down the east coast to Mexico or the Caribbean, but October is still hurricane season there, and we didn’t want to take a gamble on encountering a natural disaster on such an important trip. We moved 1500 miles away right after our wedding, so this trip was not only our first anniversary celebration, but also our honeymoon.
“I don’t care if we even make it there,” I said as we sat eagerly at the gate. “Just this is enough. I’m so happy to have some time with you!” We were gushing. We were excited. We had to be annoying.
We reached Atlanta without incident, then settled in for our flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles. “Should be smooth sailing on this nice, southern route,” the pilot assured us. But soon after take-off, one of our fellow passengers had a medical emergency. Our flight was diverted to Dallas, where we waited for emergency personnel to arrive. And where we then waited for that passenger to be carted off the plane. And where we waited and waited for our unscheduled flight to be able to take off. And by the time we got to Los Angeles, we also waited on stand-by, because we had missed our connection.
Standing in the middle of the Los Angeles airport, I called our resort, while my husband of less than a year tried to get us on a flight. I also started to recite what would become my mantra for the next two days: “It’s no one’s fault. Everything will be fine!”
Our positive attitude landed us on a late-night, six-hour flight to Hawaii. Sadly, our luggage failed to make the journey. But the airline assured us that our suitcase would be on a later flight that same night, and they would deliver it to our hotel as soon as it arrived. "This is no one’s fault. Everything will be fine!" As we filled out pages of airline paperwork, the clock struck midnight—6:00 in the morning back home—and we wished each other a groggy happy anniversary. Or we forgot to because we were so tired. The details are hazy.
Off we went to the car rental facility, generous airline toiletry kits in hand. “Oh, I’m really sorry,” the car-rental attendant sighed. “You’re really late. We don’t have any cars left.” Again, my husband of just 364 days tried to find us another mode of transportation, while I tried to remain positive. “It’s no one’s fault," I told her. "Everything will be fine!” We found a rental car from another company and started our journey to the north side of the island, now more than a day after we first left Baltimore.
Nearly an hour later, we arrived at Turtle Bay Resort, home to hundreds of Hollywood blockbusters like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and an equal number of forgettable television programs like season 10 of “The Bachelor.” RIP, Andy and Tessa.
“Do you hear ocean? Are we near the ocean?” our severely sleep-deprived selves asked each other. “We can enjoy it in the morning! Everything will be fine!” After all, we had made it successfully to our hotel, where we had a full week of exploring to do, all with luggage that may even arrive before we wake up.
“Oh, wow. You’re really late.” Another super helpful clerk. “We had to give your room away.” We protested, reminding her that we called from Los Angeles. “You said you’d be late. You didn’t say you'd be laaaaate.” But we lost our luggage! And there was paperwork! And we had to find a car! And it’s our anniversary! “But it’s no one’s fault," we sighed. "Everything will be fine.”
Thankfully, someone was even later than we were. We raced to our room, unencumbered by pesky luggage before the clerk could change her mind. We threw open the door to discover the first delightful surprise of the last 27 hours: rose petals strewn about the room, a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. In a sleep-deprived daze and general confusion about where I even was, I assumed it was all for us. “We told them it was our anniversary, and they gave us all this!” Ever the analytical one in our twosome, my husband noted, “But that was awfully fast,” as he read the card that was also left in the room. “Happy wedding day, Suzie and Jim. Love Uncle Bob and Aunt Shirley.” We were in someone else’s honeymoon suite. Of course. Too tired to care, we each took a side of the comforter, threw those pesky petals all over the floor, and collapsed asleep.
Not more than 30 minutes later, there was a knock on the door. “I’m so sorry,” Antonio the overnight bell clerk said sheepishly, “but the couple that reserved this room checked in. And they want their stuff.” As we sat amid the remnants of Suzie and Jim's rose petals, the smell of their newly married happiness still hanging fresh in the air, we watched Antonio carry away their champagne, their strawberries, and their delightful card from Uncle Bob and Aunt Shirley. And we watched as Antonio attempted to pick rose petals off the floor at 4:00 in the morning, we were sure this was the last of our troubles. Everything will be fine! So when all of Suzie and Jim's happiness was sufficiently removed, we collapsed back into bed and went to sleep for good.
Just about three hours later, at 7:07 Hawaii time, we heard a loud thumping from the room next door. It sounded like some raucous honeymooners—no doubt Suzie and Jim, the jerks—were saying good morning in the most obnoxious way imaginable. “Hey!” I knocked on the wall. “Give it a rest! Some of us just fell asleep!” Then we saw the lamp was swaying back and forth. And we looked outside and saw all the buildings swaying with the lamp. “Hm. Guess it wasn’t the neighbors.”
The Kiholo Bay earthquake had a magnitude of 6.7 and caused hundreds of millions of damage throughout the Hawaiian islands. Our island, Oahu, manually shut down the power within minutes of the quake so that it could assess damage and prevent permanent power outages. And also so it could ruin the dinner plans of a couple who intended to celebrate their first anniversary in style later that evening. No matter. The dress I had purchased for the occasion was stuck in my luggage, which, for all we knew, was at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. But that would be no one’s fault! Everything will be fine.
Thus began our day of “making the most of things” on this, our very first anniversary. We found a Mexican restaurant—let’s call it “Heaven”—that was serving half-price Big Gulp margaritas. The lights were off, because they were using their generator to power the freezer full of ice. Then the ice ran out. And no one cared. If they were pouring, we were staying.
Later that afternoon, we stumbled to the Dole Plantation, aka “Hawaii’s Pineapple Experience,” aka “kind of depressing with power, and a bit horrifying in the dark after a few Big Gulp margaritas.” We reminded each other that we were together. And the weather seemed to be clearing up. "Everything will be fine!"
As the day wore on, we felt increasingly dirty. My underwear were already inside out, and I would be in full underwear panic mode in a matter of hours. With the last bit of precious daylight ticking away, we stumbled on Surf-n-Sea, a tiny surf shop on the northwest coast of the island. Not since my fifth birthday have I been so thrilled to score a set of “Days of the Week” underwear. We headed back to our hotel to change into our sweet surfer clothes: purple culottes and a skin-tight Hawaiian tank top for me (not to mention, some pretty sweet "Sunday" underwear), flowered shorts and a way-too-tight flowered t-shirt for my groom.
Although we now blended in seamlessly with Hawaiian surf culture, we wished we had some swimsuits so we could try out the pool. Instead, we settled for drinks by the ocean in our stylish surfer wear. "It could be worse!” we said. “At least we’re outside!” As if on cue, the heavens opened and a deluge dumped water all over our brand new, clean clothes.
And I cracked. I finally broke down. After nearly two days of travel disasters, natural disasters and fashion disasters, something has to be somebody’s fault. Everything was not going to be fine. I sat in the hotel lobby, sobbing and ugly crying. The rain was pouring down now, beating through the open front wall of the lobby. The sun was quickly setting on the only first anniversary we would ever have. We saved for years to take a special trip together, and we’re spending it in on the floor of a depressingly damp hotel lobby.
But we decided to try to make the best of things just one more time. We got ourselves some cold food and warm beer from the hotel restaurant’s buffet and brought two overflowing take-out boxes to our earthquake-ravaged, honeymoon-ransacked, dark-as-night hotel room. The lights came on just as we sat down for our anniversary picnic on the floor.
The next morning, the sun came out in full force. Stores were open again, and we bought a week’s worth of socks, clothes, swimwear and toiletries. When we returned to the hotel, Antonio met us at the door of Suzie and Jim’s honeymoon suite with our luggage. An anniversary gift even Uncle Bob and Aunt Shirley couldn’t finagle.
Just about every October 15 since that beautiful day in 2005 has had miserable weather. We’ve endured thunderstorms, tornado warnings and hail showers. Last night, we celebrated our 12th anniversary at an outdoor event in a freezing cold torrential downpour. But every year, we remember with great fondness our beautiful, unseasonably warm wedding day. And I remind myself how lucky I am to face every day with a partner who not only makes everything fine, but makes every moment memorable and a whole lot better.