When a torrential downpour drove our sizable wedding party into the old barn with the leaky roof, several guests assured us that it was a sign of good luck.

For our marriage, yes. For our honeymoon, no way.

The next day, back in Chicago, we were packing for our postnuptial trip to Seattle, Mount Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. We took a break and had dinner with friends that night at a Chinese restaurant.

It wasn't until around midnight, back in our new apartment, that I tried to find my purse. And couldn't. We looked everywhere among the piles of wedding gifts and moving boxes and loaded backpacks, but to no avail. And the restaurant was already closed for the night.

This was major-league bad news. The purse contained all our traveler's checks for the trip, my checkbook and all of my newly acquired credit cards. At the time, Steve's only credit card was from Sears. He had his checkbook, and about 13 bucks in cash.

We slept fitfully. Maybe, just maybe, Steve could get to the restaurant early in the morning, retrieve the purse, and everything would be fine.

Ha. Welcome to The Honeymoon in Hell.

As I was loading our bags into the taxi the next morning, Steve returned from the restaurant, purseless -- the place hadn't yet opened. We headed for the airport nonetheless. It took us several minutes to screw up the nerve to ask the driver how he felt about taking a check.

He screeched to a halt and demanded to know if we were kidding. Pale-faced, clammy-handed and smiling pitifully, we assured him it was no joke and that our check was good. And that we would tip verrrry generously. Pleeeeease? He relented, and eventually got us to the airport.

Things were looking up, we began to think, until we walked through the sliding doors. Teeming hordes milled between us and the Northwest Orient ticket counters.

Oh yeah. There was this airline strike that had been going on for weeks, which we'd conveniently forgotten about in the convivial confusion of getting married. Northwest Orient was running far fewer jets than usual.

By the time we got to the counter, our flight was long gone. "We can put you on standby for a flight in a few hours," a frazzled agent told us.

In the meantime, I called a friend, begging her to stop by the restaurant, look for my purse and send it to me in Seattle. We were ravenous but worried about spending too much of our extremely limited cash, so we split a sandwich and a glass of juice.

Boarding began. The line seemed endless. Finally, the standbys' turn came. There was room for only one of us, we were told. We pleaded and cajoled. I'd sit on his lap, he'd sit in the toilet, anything, please just let us on. No way.

Weepy and depressed, we headed back from the gate. What now? Return home? How? We barely had enough money for a phone call.

" ... From defeat to defeat to defeat," I said, quoting from the closing of our wedding service. We laughed weakly, but the line was becoming unpleasantly self-fulfilling.

"You could've gotten on that flight -- someone misread the seating availability," the ticket agent told us. Shock. Disbelief. A fresh wave of despair. "Unfortunately, the flight's gone now. But I can give you guaranteed reservations on a flight in a few hours. It's not a nonstop, though." We settled in to wait.

Finally, we found ourselves actually sitting on a jet, actually airborne. We would have been ecstatic if we weren't so exhausted. What we really wanted was a nice stiff drink, but we weren't about to squander our resources on such indulgence. Only several years later did I learn that newlyweds could usually score free drinks on their honeymoon flights.

At the first stop, in Salt Lake City, we called our host in Seattle to let him know we'd be a little late. On the next leg of the trip, at 37,000 feet or so, an elderly gentleman sitting near the rear of the plane started tugging on the emergency exit latch. Maybe being in the smoking section annoyed him. Maybe he wanted some fresh air. Maybe he thought he was on a Greyhound.

Whatever. Suddenly several flight attendants were skittering down the narrow aisle, trying to keep the hysteria out of their voices as they hissed through their frantic smiles, "Please, sir! Stop that, sir! Please don't do that, sir!"

He stopped, for a spell, and the attendants dispersed. Then he began again, and they converged again, whispering shrilly, "What are you doing, sir?" Steve swore he could feel cabin pressure dropping. Everyone looked mighty nervous.

We landed safely in Lander, Wyo. The elderly gentleman was invited to sit in first class, away from all doors and windows. The spring had been popped on the emergency exit door with which he'd been fussing; the door had to be removed and reinstalled.

Several airport technicians and mechanics thumped and pounded at the door for almost an hour before we were able to take off again. By this time, "from defeat to defeat to defeat" had become our marital mantra.

It was nearly midnight when we finally landed in Seattle, about 12 hours late. Our friend graciously agreed to cash checks for Steve until my purse arrived. (My friend in Chicago had indeed found it at the restaurant, undisturbed on the chair where I'd left it.)

Perhaps as a cosmic consolation prize after all we'd been through, the Washington weather was uncharacteristically splendid -- sunny and dry for 11 of our 14 days there. After a few days in the city, we hiked up the Carbon River Glacier of Mount Rainier. We ventured into the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, and along the stunning, stark coastline.

The purse arrived the day before our departure, and our return flight, happily, was without incident. We were glad to be home. But not for long. The next day, Steve called me at work. "Are you sitting down? I've been fired for taking a honeymoon." Magda Krance and Steve Leonard celebrated their 9 1/2-year anniversary yesterday.