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The Big Tall Wish

January 22, 2023

We met at the trailhead of Mt. Willard in New Hampshire at 3:45 a.m.  Myself, Darlene, Kelly the Justice of the Peace and Shado and Isabelle, the photographers.  And it wasn’t just that we were meeting to begin a hike–we were literally all meeting for the first time.

What was perhaps most remarkable about today is that we were here at all.  Throughout much of my five plus year relationship with Darlene it was clear to both of us that we didn’t want to get married. Not only did it lack emotional appeal for us, it also seemed impractical. We lived in different states, and until we retired we’d never be able to cohabitate–and retirement was still several years away.  

Leah, Darlene’s oldest granddaughter, viewed the matter very differently.  She definitely  wanted us both to be married, and would occasionally bring it up, usually in the form of a question:  are you going to get married?  Do you think you will get married?   This was often followed by Leah’s suggestions on what our wedding should be like (the Avengers themed wedding seemed to have the most appeal. To Leah, at least.).  Even though we didn’t really give Leah any reason to be encouraged we were headed that way, we sometimes found ourselves discussing it.  Absolutely not.  Well, there would be some financial benefits.  But that’s not a reason to get married.  No way. What, we’re going to be married and live in different states?  That’s stupid.  Well, if we ever decide to do it someday–at some distant point in the future–it will just be you and I on a mountaintop.

And then one day last spring, perhaps because we stopped analyzing it, we decided to do it.  Just because.  Just because it felt right.  On a lovely March afternoon in Rhinebeck, New York, we walked into Bread Alone cafe hungry for lunch, and walked out engaged.  But this was going to be our secret. We were eloping. And we weren’t going to tell anybody until after we came down off the mountain.

But which mountain?  Some Google searching and we settled on Mt. Willard, near Bretton Woods in New Hampshire. It looked beautiful, the hike seemed reasonable, and Darlene was born in New Hampshire.  A perfect fit.  What we needed now was a photographer and a justice of the peace that were game for an early morning mountain hike in the darkness to do a wedding.  I would like to tell you it was difficult, but it really wasn’t:  Shado and Isabelle are young, energetic, and outdoorsy, so they loved the idea.  Kelly was an experienced hiker who lived twenty minutes away from Mt. Willard. We found them all on the internet–it was shockingly easy.


So there we all were, a bit awkward at first, hiking a mile and half up the mountain in the darkness. I had found a garment bag that folded up into a backpack, so my blazer and all of our other supplies fit perfectly in it.  We hooked Darlene’s dress onto the backpack, then sherpa’d our way up Mt. Willard. 

We changed into our marriage ware, and took a look at the mountaintop. It was perfect–the light, the clouds, the temperature–we could not have custom ordered a more ideal day.  The beauty of the mountaintop immediately washed away any awkwardness between us all–it became instantly clear why we were doing this here.  We all seemed overcome with joy, and  all started to feel like friends. 

Of course, no one was more joyous than Darlene and I.  As you can see, we had wonderful photos, and Kelly did a terrific job with the ceremony.  I have never been as deliriously happy as I was the day Darlene and I became husband and wife on that New Hampshire mountaintop.

Darlene and I have a tradition wherein on New Year’s Eve we light wish paper and watch it float up to the heavens as we silently make a wish.  We discovered during this recent New Year’s ceremony that we both had the same wish a year ago.  

And it did indeed come true.

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