The other day (“Big Birthdays”) I wrote about having a superstitious reluctance to think too hard about the future, or indeed write about it. I plan ahead to a certain extent, though not as much as many other people.
We had a party yesterday for my wife’s Big Birthday and there was some uncertainty about it until a few days before. I had booked the hall back in February but hadn’t been able to confirm the details before Easter, and it wasn’t until last Wednesday that I could confirm that, yes, it was all booked, there hadn’t been any mix-up, and we wouldn’t have to make alternative plans.
(For the record, the woman who used to run the hall, and took the booking back in February, was working from home at the time, despite having pneumonia. Although she had made a note of the booking there were no details about it in the diary apart from my first name – no surname, no phone number. And she retired before Easter, so the woman who replaced her had no way of contacting me before I contacted her.)
What would we have done if there had been a mistake with the booking and the hall hadn’t been available? I don’t know, and frankly don’t care. It’s all past, and the party went fine.
In the months leading up to our wedding day in August 2001 my wife and I had to field many speculative questions, beginning “What will you do if …?” The one that came up most often was “What will you do if it rains?” My future mother-in-law asked this question many times and I replied the same way every time: we should be okay, there won’t be much time spent out of doors without any cover. It would affect the photos outside the church but not much else.
As things turned out we were married on one of the hottest, sunniest days of the year. The sun shines on the righteous, we were told. You’d think that might have put an end to the question but even on that bright sunny afternoon, while complaining about how hot it was, my mother-in-law continued to ask, “But what would you have done if it had rained?” Clearly we do not think about things the same way. This is not the kind of question I am ever inclined to ask.
Many weeks later, on our return from honeymoon, we were looking through the wedding photographs with my parents-in-law. My mother-in-law complained about how hot it had been that afternoon, and used words that I have never used. “I wanted to die,” she said. It was so hot that she wanted to die. “Well, it didn’t rain,” I reminded her, and immediately regretted it. “Ah, but what would you have done if it had rained?”
Nearly 15 years after the event, we still use this catchphrase to answer any pointless, speculative questions about what we might have done at some point in the past if something out of our control had worked out differently. What would we have done, on our wedding day, if it had rained?