“Is that all your luggage?” the customs official had asked with a skeptical glance.
“Yes.” We only had two small backpacks and a canvas bag with my dress and heels.
“We just jumped over for a wedding.” I felt like a jet-setter, but in reality we had caught a cheap red-eye flight to Christchurch. It was only three hours away.
It was after midnight by the time we reached our motel, the door to our room left unlocked. We ate an airport dinner on the bed and turned on the TV. There’s something about watching the news in a hotel room that elicits an inexplicable excitement in me.
Maybe it began back in ’94 with the promise of a new start in the Sunshine State, my mom turning on the news while my dad sat outside smoking the day’s first cigarette. Pack the last few items in the U-Haul and stop at the McDonalds on the way out of town. A long, long road lay ahead and the sun was just rising.
Barret and I have had an odd relationship with Christchurch. It’s a city still working to overcome a crippling earthquake that destroyed its entire downtown. Because of this, out of all the possible cities to visit in New Zealand, Christchurch would not currently be at the top of our list.
However we keep going back: once on our own, twice with Barret’s mom, and once again when my sister stopped there on her way to Antarctica.
I hadn’t planned on returning, but there we were the following morning in the only taxi that didn’t use GPS. The driver, an elderly guy who liked to talk about LPG tanks, handed Barret a thick book of maps. “Don’t worry,” he announced, “you have that discount coupon.”
Five minutes later we were back on track and pulling into a gravel parking lot outside a vineyard on the city’s outskirts. The wooden pavilions at the entrance were draped in pastel bunting and the soft autumnal light was filtering through a row of oak trees.
A Maori prayer was sung, then Bahá’í vows (a faith which originated in 19th century Persia), then traditional Christian vows. I tossed my sachet of oak leaves on the newlywed couple and tried to discretely wipe my tears away.
I’m not quite sure what impels me towards movement, to crossing oceans and mountains and state lines and doorsteps. However moments like these, when I’m seated at candlelit table decorated with gnarled driftwood and surrounded by good friends, I’m reminded of how important it is to sometimes stop. Or, at the very least, slow down long enough to be invited to awesome weddings in Christchurch.