Maybe this shouldn’t be the opening paragraph about a unique and blessed October wedding in the forest that I helped bring forth. But there it is, a vivid memory of my laundry room. It was a curious moment: seeing something so utterly out-of-place, perhaps even anathema, in one’s home. I stood before my cramped laundry room and stared. Stacks of six-packs beside groupings of red and white (and pink? —I had never seen that) wines had overtaken the floor. I almost took a picture of the bizarre arrangement of alcohol hogging space where laundry often waits to be transformed. And then laughed at the ridiculous sight. Thank goodness I didn’t need to pay for it. Our guests would have good choices to accompany the Cuban buffet-style food. I would soon sip limonada and be at ease. Happier than I imagined. Certainly alcohol would not have added one worthwhile thing.
Visiting family members were also startled and amused. That would be the only time anyone would see alcohol stored in my home. I am not a drinker; neither is my husband. We don’t keep it about just in case someone else would like a beer. I have been in recovery so long that I’ve stopped thinking about it every day and can barely recall my last drink. Some people might say that is not necessarily a good sign. I find it evidence that of a life of well-being that fits me like a glove, molded around my understanding and acceptance of chemical substances’ power and my sturdy faith in God, kept in focus by engagement in creative activities and an active lifestyle– what long ago seemed too elusive.
This past week-end, a week after the wedding, we hiked two different trails–one along the Columbia River through marshland meadows, and one through the forest. I could have continued longer and farther except for muddy, slippery paths. Peace first played hopscotch with me, then gradually pervaded every step. Later on I wrote poetry. I had to watch a decidedly “soapy” tv show. I read Psalms and offered my prayers heavenward. It was all part of the necessary recuperation time following the wedding. I was more tired than I had been since being kept awake all night by babies.
But the store of mini-bar staples in the laundry room was only a tiny slice of what was to become an epic time to embrace, capture in memory, and later anlayze. The wedding of my youngest, A., came to be on a misty Sunday afternoon despite gently (did I write that?–yes, it was a tender fraying) frayed nerves. And then it was done. How is it that momentous occasions can be planned into wee hours of the night for months and then be happening and then finished so quickly? Adrenalin, wonderment, even mishaps all carried me forth as if I was under a spell.
Marc and I raised five children. Each shared tasks as we neared deadlines. There were one hundred plum napkins to be folded. There were purple and teal balloons to acquire, twenty bags of ice to heft and fifteen floral (delphinium and limonium with ferns) arrangements to be set atop tables. One helped me sort a ton of candy and fill bowls as part of favors. Another gathered beautiful stones and purple velvety bags for guests to fill with their choices. Another sister typed and printed descriptions for each and the seating list. A.’s only brother offered to help with transportation despite being a groomsman as well. And there was the bride’s and groom’s cake to create and bake. A.’s sister, a baker extraordinaire from Virginia, had offered to make it: nine layers of rainbow hues. It took a complicated day to create and was lovely to behold.
I double-checked my notebook jammed with directives, contacts and orders. I had been confident everything was moving along, yet there seemed to be ten last things to address. Teal as well as white linens: tick. Were all woodsy decorations together in one bag to take to the reception site? Tick. The maps in case someone was lost getting to or leaving this wedding in the woods: tick. Cheese and meats and crackers and drinks for five bridemaids and make up artist who would be here on day of wedding: tick. Did anyone get the giant coffee creamer still needed? And my camera would peter out if I didn’t plug it in once again.
But who had time or inclination to take pictures? Ah yes, my brother and sister-in-law, who happen to be award-winning photographers. What good fortune that they were present the whole week-end. Have I mentioned I have four older siblings? They were here, along with spouses, from a family Saturday brunch we put on to the “Day Of”. We chattered away and noted the weather map with relief: no rain forecast Sunday after an earlier drizzle. The aftermath of a typhoon had seemingly been banished.
Three bridesmaids were women I have known since their youths, now career women, wives and mothers, still quirky and bright. Two more were A.’s older sisters, one who flew in from New York, one who resides in our city. They all fluttered around my daughter like human butterflies, emanating warmth and kindness. Buttoned her into her vintage ivory, lace-adorned dress, spoke in breathless tones, laughed with her. Fussed over her (my mother’s) sparkling jewelry. Snapped pictures of her gold brocade shoes.
And then the ride to the Wedding Meadow. I drove. My oldest daughter sat beside me. The bride rode in the back, her satiny skirts spread out across the seat to keep it wrinkle-free. We chatted a little but we were mostly lost in our thoughts, the chief one on my mind being that we would be there on time as I zigzagged across busy lanes. We were nearly there with minutes to spare–until we were halfway down the one lane service road that led to the meadow. Coming toward us was a huge truck, only it was trying to back out.
It was laboring but making few gains. A helper jumped out of the truck and frantically tried to direct the driver away from flourishing forest vegetation. It was the party supply truck, and though it had delivered the chairs in time the driver seemed unable to get out of the way and let us by. Our tight schedule…foiled by a truck that was too big for the dead-end road!
We might have wept with frustration. But did not. It struck me more like a medium, one-alarm emergency.
“Can you believe it? Everything has worked out perfectly until this. Too weird!” That was me.
“Who would have thought someone would attempt to drive a semi back here?” That was A.’s oldest sister.
“Well, if this is the worst thing that happens, not so bad, I guess.” This was A.
“Well, he’s actually backing up more.”
“Mom, put it in gear!”
The next ten minutes I tried to navigate a curvy, gravel one-lane road in reverse. I kept turning a little loosely, slipping off the actual road (trying not to worry about a possibly slippery slope) and having to wildly correct. I was getting us to safety and getting us to that wedding. Minute by minute, inch by inch, we moved backwards to the main road.
“I can’t even see where to pull over!”
“Keep driving, the truck is coming! Oh, wait, now there’s a car coming the other way…”
“Mom, keep going–stop, just pull off there!”
“Turn around, mom, just get us there now…”
The semi lumbered off without so much of a wave from the driver. I felt stunned by the foolishness, the ordinariness of the mishap. I put the car in drive. Headed back down the road, to the Wedding Meadow. I snickered a little despite my concern. Of all things…a truck. But we were fifteen minutes late. My other daughter hopped out to alert the guests that the ceremony would soon begin.
The bridesmaids, groomsmen and groom arm-in-arm with his mother made their way to the presiding Douglas fir which sheltered the minister. Ring bearer, my grandson, and flower girls prepared the way. Sage was burned and a brass bell was sounded by my granddaughter: one vibrant note, a pause, another ring, pause, a ring, making a circle around all celebrants. From the distance travelled guitar music, played by her father. I walked A. down the winding, piney trail where ferns reached out and branches swayed over us. Toward the meadow where D., families and friends awaited. The air was misty, cool. Sunlight and shadow played in branches, a breeze shifted tree tops. A. turned her face toward mine. She smiled a mysterious smile, eyes lit with a love which arose from deep within and belonged to her and D.. Then we emerged from the woods and stepped onto the path, followed the gentle terrain down to the waiting group. I kissed her cheeks, hugged her close, stepped back. Then A., effervescent enchantress, turned to D., good-humored, debonair–best friends touched by romance. Hearts held fast with vows and hands with ribbon soon were set free to embrace the adventure together.