It could have happened to you but probably didn’t.
The young man was 28 years old and in love with a 21-year-old beauty. His prospects were not great, but he finally landed a steady job at the Post Office near the end of an economic downturn.
Marriage was now possible; his intended said “yes,” and her parents gave their permission.
The next step was getting a marriage license.
The betrothed pair agreed to meet in downtown Chicago at Marshall Field and Co., now known as Macy’s. That block-long edifice faces State Street on the west, Randolph on the north, and Washington on the south.
The time was set. From “Field’s,” they would make the short walk to City Hall to obtain the legal document.
“We’ll meet under the store clock,” he’d said off-handedly. She quickly agreed.
The day came, and he arrived at the appointed time, right below the clock at Randolph and State as promised.
Only she wasn’t.
What happened? Why the delay? Was she injured?
Perhaps, she got cold feet.
Meanwhile, a lovely woman aged 21 stood at the corner of Washington and State.
She thought to herself, “What became of Milton? He’s so punctual. Where might he be? I’m standing under the clock as we agreed!“
You see, a slight misunderstanding occurred. Marshall Field’s had two clocks, one at each State Street corner.
It wasn’t long before one or the other figured things out and walked toward the corner opposite. There was an embrace, a kiss, much relief, and the lovers proceeded a little late. The marriage license in hand, the wedding followed later that year.
Nineteen Forty, in case you’re wondering.
Both the bride and the groom showed up on time and in the right place.
My parents’ wedding.
How easily it could have gone wrong, in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this because I wouldn’t have written it. I’d not have been the product of “a twinkle” in my father’s eye, as he sometimes referred to me.
And my wife couldn’t have married a man who didn’t exist. Our kids and grandkids: “poof,” along with my brothers, their children, grandchildren, etc.
Standing alone is hardly unheard of, whether at landmarks, dates, or the alter.
Take the 2005 media circus surrounding Jennifer Carol Wilbanks, who disappeared to avoid wedding bells, later falsely stating (to explain her absence) she had been abducted and sexually assaulted.
The worst tale I ever heard from one of the people involved concerned a “high society” ceremony. Big money, a glorious setting, gifts galore, newspaper photographers, and tons of people.
Everyone came other than the groom, who didn’t call ahead to cancel or apologize. Not by letter, e-mail, phone, or text, and certainly not face-to-face. Not ever.
And then I encountered an internet story of a young man who went through the wedding ceremony, only to startle the assembled crowd of well-wishers upon completion of the union.
He informed them of his intention to get an annulment the next day because of his new wife’s recent sexual escapade with the best man.
Moreover, the groom then whipped out photos to verify his report.
Now some would say, “everything happens for a reason,” and everything turns out well in the end.
I am not one of those people. I believe in accidents, lucky and unlucky, which seem to be randomly distributed despite our effort to avoid adverse events.
As far as happy endings are concerned, they happen, although not everything ends happily.
Still, we must make the best of things.
The humiliated young woman of the “high society” wedding did marry a man who loved her to pieces and showed up on the right day to prove it. They’ve been married forever, glued together in love. Sticky, I guess.
And, it’s hard to argue the fellow who promised annulment would have been better off attached to his temporary spouse.
Let’s hope they both learned something and went on to find happiness elsewhere.
In the end, when you are young, most setbacks are relatively brief, no matter how long the endless time seems.
Of course, whatever children might have emerged from the last two ill-starred matches never came to be.
A good thing? Not a good thing?
Did we miss the next baby Beethoven (who was born of a miserable marriage)?
I can’t say.
All I know for sure is that I’m glad my folks had enough confidence in their love to stick around and that one of them walked down the block in search of the other.
If not for that — well, you know.
At the top, one of the two State Street clocks of the old Marshall Field and Co. store in Chicago, now known as Macy’s. The Macy’s photo is by DDima.
The second image is a Casio W-86 wristwatch photographed by Multicherry. Both of the pictures were sourced from Wikimedia Commons.
I’m one of those people who believe that “everything happens for a reason” and “everything turns out well in the end.” It lessons the blow when things don’t turn out as I had hoped for or planned.
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I have long avoided attempts to persuade others on this and many other subjects. Perhaps one day I will even be delighted to discover I am wrong! In any case, I feel better about a world where your pain is diminished than the alternative.
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I was engaged once before and broke it off a month before the wedding because I was harboring great doubts and knew we’d divorce. It was an ugly breakup with a lot of drama, which fed the gossip circle in our small town. I met my husband five months later and we’ve been happily married most of our adult lives. This is a nice post Dr. Stein and I am glad your parents were able to locate one another on that iconic day.
Glad it worked out, Nancy. I imagine your husband knows how you feel about him.
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Great story and food for thought! Thank you!
Thank you, Wynne. We all have stories. You have no shortage of them yourself!