It could have happened to you, but it 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 had 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.
A marriage license would be required.
They agreed to meet in downtown Chicago at the famous Marshall Field and Company Building, 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 get the legal document.
“We’ll meet under the Field’s clock,” he’d said off-handedly and she’d quickly agreed.
The day came and at the appointed time he was there. Right under the clock at Randolph and State as he’d promised.
Only she wasn’t.
What could have happened? Did she get delayed? Was she injured?
Or, just perhaps, did she get cold feet?
Meanwhile, a lovely young woman aged 21 stood at the corner of Washington and State.
And she was thinking to herself, “What happened to Milton? He is always so punctual. Where could he be? I’m standing under the clock just as we agreed.”
You see, a small misunderstanding had 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. The meeting occurred, only a little late. The marriage license was obtained and the wedding followed later that year, just as planned.
Both the bride and the groom showed up for that, on time and in the right place.
My parents’ wedding.
How easily it all could have gone wrong, in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this and I wouldn’t have written it, because I never would have been even “a twinkle” in my father’s eye, as he sometimes referred to me.
And my wife couldn’t have married me — a man who didn’t exist. And our kids would never have been born, etc., etc.
Getting “stood up” at weddings is hardly unheard of. Movies have been made about such events. Think Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
Then there was the 2005 media circus surrounding Jennifer Carol Wilbanks, who disappeared in order to avoid wedding bells, later falsely stating (in an effort to explain her absence at the alter) that she had been abducted and sexually assaulted.
The worst “real life” tale of this type that I ever heard from someone personally involved in the event concerned a “high society” wedding — one for which no expense had been spared, enormous numbers of people had been invited, and everyone showed up other than the groom, who didn’t even call ahead to cancel or ever apologize to his fiance by letter, e-mail, phone, or text message, and certainly not face-to-face.
And then there is an Internet story of a young man who actually went so far as to go through the wedding ceremony and reception, only to speak to the assembled throng of well-wishers declaring that he intended to get an annulment the next day because of his new wife’s recent sexual escapade with his best man, upon which he pulled out photos of the two that more than verified his report.
Now there are those who would say that “everything happens for a reason,” and that everything turns out well in the end.
I am not one of those people. I believe in accidents, good and bad, which seem to be randomly distributed despite our best efforts to control events.
And, as far as happy endings are concerned, they do happen sometimes, although not everything ends happily.
But, I do believe that you have to make the best of things.
The young woman of the “high society” wedding I mentioned was humiliated and devastated, but did eventually marry a man who loved her to pieces and actually showed up on their wedding day to prove it. They’ve been married forever and continue to be very much in love.
And, it’s hard to argue that the man who promised annulment would have been better off married for more than a day to his unfaithful if temporary spouse.
Let’s hope they both learned something from the experience and went on to find happiness elsewhere.
In the end, especially when you are young, most set-backs are relatively brief, especially if you have some resilience.
Of course, whatever children might have been born of the last two ill-starred matches I’ve described never came to be.
A good thing? Not a good thing?
Did we miss the next baby Beethoven (who was born of a very unhappy 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 to find the other.
But for that… well, you know.
One of the two State Street clocks of the old Marshall Field and Company Building in Chicago, now known as Macy’s. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons, photo by DDima.