Pop Goes The World

Joann Ware

Earlier in the year, my friend, Vanessa, announced she was marrying the man she had been dating for several years. The invitation arrived in May and I did n’t hesitate to RSVP, even though it was taking place in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, which is quite a ways from here. But Roma agreed to drive and I began to make plans for a nice weekend away with good friends in a state I had never visited before.

I referenced Vanessa and our shared acquaintances in my May column. We all met through the site Television Without Pity in the “Little House on the Prairie” TV forum years ago. I had met Vanessa in person a couple times and she was always a lot of fun. I knew her wedding would be as well.

A couple of our “Prairie” companions live in Pennsylvania and said they would be able to attend. I had met Jen, but not her husband Joe. I had not met Karla, who lived just 45 minutes from the venue, and I was excited to see her. She and I also share a love for all things Titanic.

Vanessa had set aside a block of rooms for her wedding guests at a hotel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I made my reservation directly with the hotel and spoke with a woman whose grasp of the English language was a little shaky. I don’t think she understood me and I had a hard time understanding her. She gave me my confirmation number, but I did not take it down.

That was my first mistake. After booking the reservation, I told Stephanie Blevins, the paper’s award winning composition artist and photographer, that I would be staying at a hotel in Bethlehem and unlike Joseph and Mary, I had a guaranteed room reserved in my name.

That was my second mistake.

I told myself that I would call the hotel and confirm my reservation the week of the wedding. I worked at a hotel for 13 years and I know this is a good practice. But for whatever reason, I didn’t.

That was my third mistake. On the morning of July 23 during an historic heat wave, Roma and I departed our home for the five-hour trip at 8. If we got there by 1 p.m., we would have plenty of time to get ready for the wedding and for the 3:15 departure of the shuttle to the wedding venue 45 minutes from the hotel.

Of course, we made a couple stops along the way and ended up arriving at the hotel a little after 1 p.m. We thought we were still in pretty good shape, although we were warned by Jen that the front desk clerk wasn’t friendly and was denying early check-ins.

When I gave my name to the desk clerk, he grimaced and said that I wasn’t on the arrivals list. He asked for my confirmation number, which I hadn’t recorded. I asked him to search by my first name. He needed my confirmation number, he said. Well, could we book a room for the night? He told us there was no room at the inn.

From my experience at a hotel front desk, I know there are a number of ways one can search for a reservation. But this man was unable to pursue any of those avenues, despite the fact that Roma and I were obviously in distress, miles away from home and unsure what to do next.

I saw Jen and Joe looking at me worriedly at a distance. Lisa, who came the night before from Michigan, was there too. Karla had been unable to make it due to a recent COVID diagnosis.

The irony was not lost on me that I was denied a room at a Bethlehem hotel five months before the eve of Christmas Eve.

Lisa invited us up to her room so that we would have a place to freshen up and change. We discovered the tiny settee in her room folded out into a bed and she told us we could sleep there if our reservation remained MIA.

The wedding was held outside under clear blue skies and a blazing hot sun. My phone told me the temperature was 95 degrees. A plentiful amount of ice water was provided for the guests as were handheld fans, which many of us used to shelter our perspiration streaked faces from the sun. Vanessa looked resplendent in an ice blue cocktail dress with crystal accents as she walked down the aisle.

The reception was held in a barn that had been converted into event space. Vanessa’s “Prairie” friends were grouped together at a table with one of her coworkers and her husband.

Shortly after Vanessa and her new husband arrived at the reception, she made a beeline to me and hugged me. I was embarrassed because I was coated in a layer of sweat, but she didn’t seem to mind. She hugged Roma, whom she had never met, and Lisa and Jen.

As the evening progressed, the temperature inside the barn rose. After dinner, some of us ventured outside. Jen, Joe, Lisa, Roma and I found a table down a staircase behind the barn to a patio. It was much cooler there. We sat and had some drinks and talked in the kind of easy and unforced way of people who’ve known each other for many years, softly spoken words with occasional bursts of laughter one might hear on a porch from a sidewalk on a simmering summer night.

The wedding invitation stated: “Absolutely no gifts, please. Your presence is the only present we need.”

I realized how true that was that day. Despite the oppressive heat and being turned away from the inn, the day was a long awaited one, like Christmas, with gifts in the forms of people who are dear to me and ones that were missed as well. And it took place five months before the eve of Christmas Eve.

During the reception, Roma contacted the hotel and a more helpful desk clerk took the time to find our reservation. It was listed under the name Ward, not Ware.

After a shower, I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep in the hotel room. I was like Ralphie in the last scene of “A Christmas Story” with his Red Ryder BB gun tucked under his arm as he drifted off to sleep.

And all was right with the world.

The News-Gazette

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