The Polegreen Church


"John, please pull over."

We were on our way back to Williamsburg after attending a wedding in D.C. John was tired - he was a groomsman and had been, according to him, subjected to hundreds, no, thousands of photos. 

"We have an important tee time to get to, Al."

He hadn't played his home course in a while and was so excited to be out of traffic and back with his parents for a day before we had to return home to Florida. 

"I know, I'll be quick," I said. "I just need to stop and then get a water."

He sighed and ran his hand through his hair, "Can you wait until exit 38A?" 

We weren't even supposed to be driving. We had planned to take an early train up to the city but John had to pick up his tuxedo before checking into the hotel and felt it would be easier to just take a car instead. 

"That's fine," I said, scrolling through a Spotify playlist. My nail polish was messy and chipped. "It doesn't matter." 

It really didn't matter, because I had absolutely no idea where we were. I had been thinking about writing and reading that afternoon instead of golfing. I wanted to relax a bit since I knew the day we returned home would be full of unpacking and dog kisses and grocery shopping. 

I only realized where we were when we pulled off the exit ramp and saw the sign for Pole Green Road, and my hand shot up to cover my mouth. 

"Do you know where we are?" I said, my voice hitching. "John, do you know where we are?" 

"No," John said, his eyebrow raised and his eyes roaming curiously over me. 

"I can't believe we are here," I said. "I can't believe it, John. How did this happen!" I grabbed my phone and quickly ran my fingers over my keyboard. 

"John," I said, "this is where the church is." 

I gripped my phone while running inside a gas station to get water, thinking, John won't want to go look at it. He won't want to go. He's in a rush. I wish we weren't in a rush.  

I slid back into the car and found John looking at me, smiling, and realized that I had been wrong. Because, even though golf is important to him - that his family is important to him, my eagerness and excitement about the world and moments like these still somehow fascinate and excite him, too. My smiles are important to him. 

So we pulled away from where we were heading to drive out to where we wanted to go. We went out and out and out until the outline of the historic Polegreen Church made itself visible to us through the trees. We silently parked and found our way to the front of the skeleton church where two men were taking photos. 

One of them asked if I wanted him to take one of us. 

"Yes," I said, smiling even though my face was covered in tears. 

"Does this place hold a special meaning to you?" He handed my phone back to me. 

I didn't know what to say. I didn't tell him that I had been thinking of this church on a weekly basis since I first found it online four years ago. I didn't tell him that all of these years couldn't have prepared me for how beautiful it was seeing it in person now. I didn't tell him that I had just been adamant the prior week to my friend, Teri, about getting married in Virginia. I didn't tell him that we weren't supposed to be driving to and from D.C. this weekend and that seeing this was a complete accident. That we somehow, somehow, had pulled off this exit. That I was with John when it happened. 

So I just said the truth. 

"This is where I want to get married."

And, standing in the middle of the beams of it all, watching John as he walked around and lightly touched the open windows, I knew it wasn't just an idea in my head any longer. It was real. 

Alexandria GryderComment