Abigail Feinstein is not an easy person to describe. She’s a young professional from Westchester County, N.Y., but she spends weekends in God’s country, otherwise known as Litchfield County. Some years back, Abigail became friendly with one of the priests in the Archdiocese of Hartford. In fact, she sends him a heavily scented valentine each February without the slightest understanding of the whole celibacy thing. She is totally self-centered, obsessed with outward appearances, and, strangest of all, Abigail Feinstein is entirely fictional.
That’s right. I made her up.
It started a dozen years ago when a priest friend was assigned to the northwest hills of Connecticut. One of the parishes he served was a favorite with brides because it’s so picturesque. The white steepled church is tucked in the crook of the Housatonic River, and the Appalachian Trail winds through the nearby state forest. It’s gorgeous. As a consequence, the church receives many requests from would-be brides who wish to get married in such a lovely setting.
The problem is that most of these brides have no church affiliation, nor are they interested in a religious wedding. They just want to rent the “adorable wedding chapel,” as many call it, in the same way that one might rent a bartender for a cocktail party.
Our priest friend grew increasingly frustrated by these requests. “Matrimony is a sacrament, not an excuse for a photo op!” he grouched on more than one occasion.
Never one to let pass an opportunity to torment a friend, I conceived a brilliant idea: invent a fictitious bride. Thus was born Abigail Feinstein, a superficial New York designer with no interest in religion, and a determination to create a storybook wedding.
I began by drafting a letter from Abigail to Father Friend-of-Ours. She introduced herself as a frequent visitor to the northwest hills, and asked if she could rent his adorable wedding chapel for her upcoming nuptials. She wrote that she’d always dreamed of getting married in a tiny chapel in the mountains, and now she’d found it. She added that she’d call soon to finalize plans and sign contracts. She’d already set the date.
An out-of-state friend mailed the letter for me, ensuring that it arrived with a New York postmark.
Then I waited.
About a week later, Peter and I received an envelope in the mail from our enraged priest friend. He included a copy of Abigail’s letter along with a note that said something like, “Can you believe what I have to put up with?”
I thought it was hilarious. Peter just rolled his eyes and asked, “When are you going to tell him the truth?” I was in no hurry.
The following week, Abigail wrote a second letter to the priest, indicating that she’d settled upon a church closer to home because it didn’t require any of that religious nonsense. She went on to suggest that the parish should advertise the adorable wedding chapel in New York bridal magazines as a way to augment church income.
This letter infuriated him even more. Fortunately, he still did not suspect foul play. After all, who invents a pushy bride?
My husband, who is far more principled than I, eventually prevailed upon me to ’fess up to our friend. To our immense amusement, he was disappointed. He was extremely disappointed, as a matter of fact. Abigail Feinstein embodied everything he hated about the modern wedding industry, and now we were taking her away. He kept asking, “So there’s really no Abigail Feinstein? Are you sure?”
But Abigail did not die. She quickly became a running joke, including the tradition of sending a heavily perfumed valentine to her priest friend each February. One year when our friend was transferred to a different parish, it amused me to no end that his assignment began on Valentine’s Day. (No, I’m not making this up.) Waiting for him at the rectory, of course, was a pink envelope drenched in cheap perfume. He offered no explanation to the staff. I mean what’s he going to say? “Oh, she’s not real. My friends made her up.”
The only downside to this game is that I seem to have something of a credibility problem with my friends. Go figure.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.