Wednesday, November 9, 2011

235. Gifted

"Wow," I said when we walked into the Adolphus Hotel. "This is fancy."

Cayden nodded. "Fancy and crowded."

He was right. There were at least 30 people standing in line at the front desk with their suitcases. I felt like I was standing in the middle of an old, stuffy country club. The people were old, the decor was old, and I felt out of place without a cigar and a a glass of single malt whiskey. From the photos I'd seen on the website, "old country club" is what they were going for.

It was old-world charm, smack dab in the middle of downtown Dallas and its shiny new skyscrapers. It wasn't my first pick, being that it was way out of my price range, but Priceline's Name Your Own Price feature scored me half off. Not to mention, I knew Cayden loved old buildings.

"Is there, like, a Republican convention in town?" I asked as I looked around at the clientele.

We got in line behind group of fancy folks and dropped our bags to the floor. I checked my phone and saw that it was 12:30. I had to be at the venue in 30 minutes, and by the looks of the checkin line, that wasn't going to happen.

Just then, a man in his 30s wearing a nice suit and holding a clipboard approached us. I was surprised to see he wasn't wearing white gloves and a monocle. I felt like a character in Clue. Miss Scarlet in the lobby with the candlestick.

"I do hate to trouble you, but we oversold the rooms for tonight," the man said. "Would you mind if we set you up with a room in the Magnolia next door? We'll give you a full refund for your inconvenience."

I started moving toward the door before he could finish his sentence. I couldn't believe our luck. The Magnolia was much more my scene, and I'm not just saying that because it was free. It's an iconic Dallas landmark that's easily recognizable in the Dallas skyline thanks to the red pegasus mounted high above the hotel's roof.

The suited Adolphus employee carried our bags and walked us next door.

"Again, I do apologize for any inconvenience. Please come back and stay at the Adolphus another time."

Maybe when I'm 80, I thought to myself.

"Their bill is on us," he told the woman behind the front desk before he left.

"Well, in that case, let's find you a room with a view!" she said as soon as he was out of earshot. She was my new best friend. "We also have complimentary happy hour for our guests from 4-6."

How perfect for Cayden and Josh's man date.

"What are the chances you have a car service that can take me to a wedding in about, oh, five minutes?"

"At your service," she said as she handed me a card. "Just call this number when you get up to your room and we'll have the car ready."

Cayden and I rushed up to our room and we were pleased to find a modern hotel bed and sleek black furniture rather than a four-poster grandma bed and hand carved armoir we probably would have had at Adolphus. I couldn't wait for hotel sex after the wedding when we'd both be buzzed off champagne.

I called the car service and headed downstairs with my dress and makeup bag, while Cayden carried the wedding gift.

"She's going to love this," he said, gesturing toward the gift. I smiled and nodded. I couldn't wait to see her face when she opened it.

"Are you sure you're going to be OK until the wedding?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm about to call Josh. No worries." He gave me a quick kiss and helped me get all of my things loaded up in the shiny black Escalade. "I'll see you tonight!"

I knew I wouldn't see him again until I was walking down the aisle in my sparkly black dress, unsteady in my black high heels, gripping a groomsman's arm for support. The thought of me walking down an aisle and Cayden watching me gave me butterflies it my stomach. I tried to imagine how Shanna would feel.

A few minutes later, the car dropped me off at Hickory Street Annex, an industrial building in a somewhat sketchy area of Dallas. I walked inside and followed the voices up a stairway. When I got to the top, I started around in awe. Just as El Fenix had surprised me, the inside of Hickory Street Annex overwhelmed me with its beauty. White paper lanterns of different sized hung from the wood-planked ceiling. Hundreds of them. White twinkle lights were wrapped tightly around the ceiling beams, stretching from one end of the open space to another. Circular tables with black tablecloths filled one half of the space.

Some of the bridesmaids were already there, bunching shiny silver material into a decorative pattern in the middle of the tables. They pointed toward a hallway to show me where to put my stuff down, but I needed to finish the tour first.

The space was divided by an old-school elevator shaft, the kind with the heavy metal doors that close horizontally instead of vertically. And on the other side was where the ceremony would take place. The room was filled with 100 white wooden chairs in the straightest rows I'd ever seen. The paper lanterns and twinkle lights adorned the ceiling on that side as well. But I knew no one would see them. All eyes would be on the beautiful bride.

At the end of the aisle, tall white cut outs of trees stood out against dark brown wall hangings. There was no doubt about it. I was going to cry.

I dropped my bag and gift off in the Bride's room and joined the other bridesmaids, ready to work. Shanna greeted me with a hug. She looked cool, calm and collected. I told her I wanted her to open her present at some point before the wedding. She excitedly agreed.

First, we placed square mirrors on top of the bunched silver fabric in the center of the tables. Then we placed three glass candle holders on top of the mirrors, in a specific arrangement. A tables got mirrors and B tables got white tree branch centerpieces with little crystals dangling from the limbs. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Shanna hung a large, blank canvas against one side of the elevator shaft upstairs and set out different colored paints in tiny jars and paintbrushes.

Downstairs, three of the bridesmaids and I took on the task of decorating the entrance. Long, thin shelves ran the length of one wall, which created the perfect place for us to set up Shanna and Ronnie's engagement photos. We arranged and rearranged the photos until we were all happy, and then we took them all down when we decided the shelves needed bunched silver fabric and black lace first, then the photos. We arranged and rearranged again. But it was missing something. There was a big gap no matter how we arranged it. Eventually we found an arrangement we were happy enough with and moved onto wrapped the stairwell railing with more shiny fabric. I was starting to understand why people eloped.

We set up a small table at the bottom of the stairs to house the guestbook. Also on the table was a small sign that read, "It all began at a fireworks show in 2006" and a mirrored glass vase filled with sparklers for the send off. The sign gave me goosebumps and made me tear up. I was at that fireworks show. That's where I set them up. And now they're getting married.

Before I could wipe my tears, Shanna's mom was at my side.

"Shanny sent me to find you. She's ready to open her gift now. Can I watch?"

Her mom was bubbling with excitement. She had been all day. Her baby girl was getting married.

"Of course you can watch."

We turned and went upstairs and into the bridal room where Shanna was about to get her hair done. A few of the bridesmaids were in the room already, starting on their own hair and makeup.

"I wanted to open it before we did makeup, just in case," she said with a curious look. I was so excited to see her reaction that my heart was bumping and my hands were shaking. The gift was leaned up against the wall so I set it down on the floor between us. She sat on her knees and I took a seat on the cooler against the wall. Shanna's mom stood nearby, looking as eager as I was.

She tore off the first piece of wrapping paper and I held my breath. A few of the girls were watching us through the reflection in the mirror. She tore off another piece to reveal the corner of a frame. Then she tore the paper across the mirror and stared down at it.

Her hands went to her mouth and she froze. I put my hands to my mouth while we sat in silence for a few seconds. Then she hung her head and started to cry. It was a silent cry, but her shoulders shook up and down and she covered her face with her hands. I didn't know what to do so I tried to explain parts of it.

"Those maps in the background... those are where you and Ronnie lived when you were doing long distance. And right there... that's OKC, where you're from. And here's Dallas..."

"Oh, Shanny," her mom said from above us. "It's absolutely perfect."

The other bridesmaids scooted closer. Shanna looked up with tears streaming down her face and nodded. "It's perfect. Just perfect," she said through the sobs. Then she hugged me so hard I don't think either of us could breath. But we both cried. A good ol' pre-wedding best friend cry.


  1. This post just made me cry. I think my boyfriend thinks I'm weird blubbering on the couch at someones blog post. Such a sweet gift!!

  2. Well, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was a big ol baby about it! But then again, I cry about everything. Tell your boyfriend I said "what up."

  3. Whitney! That gift is so amazing. I teared up just reading this post. You are a seriously awesome friend. I wanna cry now just typing this comment!

  4. Hey, thanks, Meg! I'll probably never be able to top that, so I should just quit while i'm ahead.

  5. That present is incredible - she's lucky to have a friend like you!