One of my favorite sections of the New York Times is Vows, stories of all kinds of weddings and the love stories that made them happen. Today, I'm writing a more personal Vows story: that of our closest friends, John and Claudia. They would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend, but sadly, John left us more than eight years ago, leaving a hole in our hearts.
Claudia and I had known each other since we were young teens, but got separated when she went away to school. Our friendship rekindled when we found we were living just a block apart. Soon we started dating two guys who had attended Toledo University and served in the same Army reserve unit. We had lots of great times during those early years. In December, I married Andy. Claudia and John wed just a few months later.
St. Patrick's of Heatherdowns Church in Toledo was the setting for the ceremony. Andy and I were both in the wedding party, with bridesmaids attired in lime green dotted Swiss floor-length gowns and picture hats. I don't remember much about the actual wedding, but there was a beautiful reception at a local country club and a lovely buffet dinner at the home of the bride's parents for the wedding party and out-of-town guests. At that event, with the help of a few adult beverages, a plan was hatched.
Andy and I, plus George and Diane, two other members of the wedding party, knew the newlyweds were headed to Detroit, where they would spend their wedding night at the airport hotel before boarding a plane to Bermuda in the morning. Like fools, the four of us made the hour-long journey to the Detroit Airport Hotel. The clerk was happy to give us their room number and we banged on the door until John answered the door wrapped in Claudia's raincoat! We barged in with a bottle of champagne and drank a toast to the happy couple, who, as one might imagine, were not all that thrilled to see us. The next morning, nursing serious hangovers, the four intruders treated the newly minted Mr. and Mrs. to breakfast and escorted them to the gate (back when you could do that). I nearly got arrested for making a lame joke about a hijacking.
Hijinks aside, those newlyweds remained our close friends throughout the years. Although both couples moved around quite a bit, with Claudia and John spending many years in California, we managed to see each other at least once a year, often sharing weddings, baptisms and other family occasions. Our three children and their two kids became friends and a couple years ago, my granddaughter Lena became buddies with Claudia's granddaughter Addie while on a visit to Connecticut. As I get older, I treasure my longtime friendship even more and look forward to our next visit when I can finally use my plane ticket from a trip postponed because of COVID-19!
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.