Dream Events, Ltd. (Very Limited)



It is five-twenty in the morning, and I’m gripped by a sudden need to write. I see poorly without contacts or glasses but it is dusky grey, anyway, and I know exactly where my notebook and pen are. Often there is an urge to write a phrase, a title that wants a story, a dream image that sticks, an insight that tugs me from sleep side of life to wakeful side. I sit up and scribble things as quickly as they come:

ice bought (how much) taken over at 11
small tent? (Josh?)
plum (if no teal tablecloths)?
deliveries at 2:30 to either rain/shine sites
alterations still due on gown…
mend reception dress
bridesmaid dress for one, still
mine…can I just do simple? old stuff?
extra car(s) for more family
research wildflowers!and others:cheap, please
troll Michael’s, etc. with K. tomorrow
haircut? A.says pixie, haha

These are clearly not notes for a short story. They’re so inelegant that no poem would have them. These fevered thoughts demanded yet another list. It’s still all about Wedding Planning. Every day.

Concerns on the cusp of delirious often awaken me prematurely, sleep yet exercising its gravity on body and mind. But it is no use. Even though I spent over six hours yesterday developing several neat, detailed Word documents to put in a new Wedding folder, I am not done. Not anywhere near it. Why did I imagine it would feel easier? That we could wrap this up like an online gift order, signed, sealed, ready to be useful and enjoyed?

I wrote another post (“The Duet of Marriage”) about the bride-to-be, A. and her fiance, D., who have moved to another state. A. is beginning an excellent position within the field for which she actually received her Masters degree. Thrilling! So now the MOB (mother of the bride) has taken the reins to guide this event all the way to successful denouement. From the start, I’ve been determined to get it right. I bought two books on weddings (barely cracked), developed multiple lists, added a notebook to keep it all in one place. Then had a tearful breakdown whereupon I determined I was absolutely incompetent as a planner of weddings, as well as being a human being. The feeling was dismal, as if my strength had been usurped, my brain’s circuitry dimmed. Clarity is what I crave!

Still I, the limping, sniffling mother-planner that I appear to be, have persevered, ignorance and all. Even am making some decent progress. This wedding will happen in a month–the bride- and groom-to-be will be flying in, ready to marry.  And the intricate threads are connecting day by day.

Since much of the family lives elsewhere, there are not a lot of ready-made helpers now. I look forward to their arrival so I can utilize assistance and absorb moral support. This moment they are living their daily lives, working and/or raising children or travelling for work or pleasure. I call out an SOS once a week like clockwork. But at least I have the time to devote to this endeavor–if not always the abundant financial reserves needed. I should be truthful and note the second is one of the things that awakens me in the night like a gong sounded in my ear. Do all parents of the bride feel this way?

Thank goodness I’m not obligated to work a paying job every day ten to twelve hours a day now. How did I get anything done in my personal life before retirement? On the other hand, after this I may need to look for work again. (Worrisome tangent here–no, I have never worked in hospitality services or in retail. I wonder where I could I could hang around and offer good will and solace.) But not for just financial replenishment. It is good to be immersed in activities that are new and challenging, sparking the mind, exacting rapid problem solving from my dumbfounded self.

I believed I was an organized employee, but as a mental health counselor much of my time was scheduled for me, whether or not I agreed with a day’s line-up. The real work was based on experience and education. Helping people help themselves is largely intuitive, requiring discernment and careful excavation of problems that create a lack of health. It is useful to employ tactful honesty and compassion, also patience when no one else can find it. I often spent hours locating and coordinating resources, and creating curriculum for groups I oversaw. And another skill was staying calm and clear-headed when there were alarming crises.

And so, I muse, it is with all this planning and coordinating and making decisions. On one hand I need and want to honor A. and D., their preferences and vision. On the other, they are not here and I have to meet with vendors, put in orders and pay. Well, they’re here–via that miracle of electronic communication, texting. I never expected to appreciate it so much. But have you tried to consult about an array of diverse, colorful items via camera photos while you are in a store or warehouse? It’s just not the same as being here in the flesh. We can’t compare together, debate our differences, settle–via discussions in real time–on the best and final choice. But we do talk on the phone often, even for a couple of hours. Nothing like the human voice to elucidate ideas.

But, wait. Seventy-five dollars for delivery of a few corsages? Another one hundred for set-up of chairs? And I need to track down moss and heather, ferns and tea lights. And mini sage sticks. And what about the vintage tablecloth I want to find for the guest book table? I need purple flowers most of all.

It takes skills to do this sort of thing. I have gained solid respect for events planners. They must have to be diplomatic, efficient, expert in many areas, resourceful, patient, empathetic and as hearty and energetic as marathon runners. A little like a mental health practitioner but on a very different stage. Maybe that’s what professional wedding planners are: stage directors who are secretly therapists, with a cast of characters who need their dearest dreams to come to fruition. They make it happen, so cheers to them.

I had no idea how many diagrams, possibilities, mistakes and inspired moments could occur. I hadn’t much thought of professional planners–or any of this–before. I’ve  executed lots of parties over the years; we have a good-sized family when we can gather. I felt in control then. Those events didn’t try to outwit or flummox me. Or become so ravenous for cash.

But this is something else: a daughter getting married. I know, it happens all the time. There have been other weddings in my family, but I didn’t have to do much. I wasn’t responsible for outcomes. That’s the source of moments of fears or tears. I want this to go so beautifully. For people to be happy. The day to flush with well-being. Family and friends to feel excited for bride and groom, pleased to witness and celebrate.

Joy in the moment. And contentment. What I would like for all people. Good grief, it really is starting to sound like the work I was paid for so long. In the end, it’s all about being human beings, working with and for others.

And, too, this is about myself. I may not be able to pull the whole thing off perfectly. There are things that will help or hinder along the way. Like: it could rain like only Oregon loves to rain–spontaneously, with gusts of wind, right into the forest meadow where the ceremony is to be held. (It’s more or less okay–we have a covered area rented, too!) But I can begin to see their vision. And it’s brimming with love. Yes, that’s the core of this.

So, if my posts are a little late over the next four weeks, please bear with me. I’ll be immersed in details, and looking forward to sharing with family and friends. I’m just a MOB who, coincidentally, is trying her hand at the role of wedding planner. After it’s over, I’m taking a vacation even if it’s on the couch. Or back at the computer with more stories, relaxation and my real work melded. Until then…the mad fun is just beginning, so please excuse me. I need to work on one last item before resting up for tomorrow. I  have a dream to make come (as much as possible) true.


Space and Time to Celebrate Family


(A gathering in 1964)

Because I am soon off to visit my brother, along with a gaggle of other family members, I thought I’d share a bit before I board the plane. I am more a traveler by car so this trip, non-stop, requires a good reason. Much of my family is converging on the other side of the country to celebrate W.’s seventieth birthday in a few days. It seems preposterous we all could have aged so, but certainly it’s a blessing we’re yet here on earth and engaged in hearty living. To that end, there will even be a nephew arriving from Germany. The party will be a good one.

December is a month full of meaningful dates. It occurs to me my mother’s birthday was this month; I wonder if she will attend in in spirit, which would be like her. And a dear grandson will be turning eight the day I fly back home. But, too, I must say–because he is so much on my mind–that I lost another nephew far too soon one December. I grieve his passing, still. And Christmas is coming up, a time of faith that matters to me spiritually, far less so materially.

Family. We all have complicated families. I read once that those who maintain congenial family relationships tend to fare better as they age–particularly if one feels close to siblings. There is comfort in familiarity (notice the root word there!), the forbearance and forgiving acceptance that being blood-connected offer us, and a love that cannot be shared in quite the same way with any other.

Besides, in my family we share: similar cowlicks, white hair generally arriving quite early (I am the odd one with more auburn brown still), large and mostly blue eyes, mental and physical stamina, musicality, and a tendency to believe all things possible, even good things. We love to hope, learn and create. We also can be fussy and critical, high-handed, overly generous rescuers, perfectionistic, easily moved by suffering and kept awake by troubles here and afar. We pull toward God, those ancient teachings a divine compass, yet we can be too demanding of ourselves and others. Fervency can be a pro or con here but at least we have passion.

I have written of my family before, most recently of the aforementioned brother on Veteran’s Day. What could possibly interest you further? I’ve told a few tales about five children growing up in a two-story bungalow in a small Michigan city. Our father was a music educator and administrator, a conductor and musician. Our mother, an elementary school teacher. For some years she was a stay-at-home mom, which translates into being the CEO of a home-based business: a large family with drive, wide-ranging goals and assorted needs and deeds. We were (and are) a slew of “doers”. That meant keeping track of intricate schedules for each one, not to mention my father, who was so busy his recalled presence is at times like a blur except for dinner and Sunday mornings. Then he slowed down, sat (often with a symphony score at hand), talked with us. Quizzed us on various topics. It was like school at home and we all had something to say.


(Birthday brother and our father and a shared appreciation of cameras)

W. is much like my father, with his passion for history and music and his artistic eye, a genial way with people and generous laugh. Today I got a text message from my sister-in-law: they were on their way to perform with a small choir at a White House holiday reception. It doesn’t surprise me; they remain professional singers (not their actual vocations) though they are retired. W. plays viola well but his voice is lovely. We all used to gather together around the baby grand at my parents’ house, five kids singing and/or playing an instrument, a mini-orchestral experience. Our father accompanied us on piano and directed; my mother watched from the kitchen door.

You can see where this has gone: family reunions unlock the door to memories and it is an experience that recalls sounds and smells, feelings, specific slices of life. The way my father’s eyes warmed (yes, twinkled), his laugh when sharing a new pun. The way my mother touched the side of her nose with an index finger while regaling us with a story. It might have been what happened as she walked to the store yet it was somehow funny and fascinating.

I am the youngest of the bunch. My two brothers and two sisters were off to college when I was barely thirteen. W. is more a known entity today, despite the miles. One of the sweet pleasures of being an adult is getting to know your siblings as co-adults. I feel fortunate; there is not one I am not proud to know, and I look forward to being in their company.

If holidays triggers nostalgia, then family reunions bring reality into sharper focus. No one is without flaws or quirks; we are all creative types and strong-willed, but were taught to be kind and civilized. Laughter will embellish conversations. Debate will be commonplace. I am sure there will be discussion of our diminishing extended family, events we recall from our youth, the passing of pictures to exclaim over. There will be feasting around tables. Music: it goes without saying, whether we sing, attend a concert or listen to the stereo. And since W. is a professional photographer, as well, his cameras will be recording details. The schedule for five days will be orderly with some room for spontaneity. My brother’s house will accommodate us, people wall-to-wall. I look forward to the “side-by-side” composition of our meeting, rubbing shoulders, exchanging hugs.


(Childhood home)

When all seven of us, our friends and father’s music students were present in the house it was cramped. Often it felt lacking in privacy, was noisy and action-packed. I would climb the backyard maple tree with notebook and pen, breathe and think, plan faraway jaunts and dreams. After my siblings departed for the next stage of life there was such gaping space, a swell of silence that at times unnerved me. Then I’d sit on my bed and marvel at finally having my very own huge (so it seemed) room. I felt suddenly like an only child for the next several years, with the high and low points that came with it.

We can’t go back to the house on Ashman Street–no one wants to return to childhood, really, and my parents are long gone. But this is even better. Each of us grew up, became individuated beyond the group as everyone does with good fortune. Our lives have at times been challenged, even fragmented, then stitched together and made whole again. We have many interesting years between us, voluminous talk to share. We will develop new snapshots while tending and savoring each moment. Age has sculpted our faces and no one knows just what lies ahead. So now we make space and time enough to celebrate my brother and, too, these enduring and deepened family ties.


(My brother and me)

Under a Summer Spell

Maisie initially felt just a bit put off by the thought of being in the thick of a crowd, even her relatives. Maybe especially her relatives, who were more full of commotion than a whole major city. She hid out on the second stone step; all six led to a narrow path alongside the house, the front yard and potential freedom. She considered the path, then turned back. Between yellow rose bushes and the willow branches she could make out various people. They gravitated to the barbecue or settled into chairs, murmuring over potato and bean salads, comparing the wiles of chicken breasts to burgers.  Maisie was trying to be vegetarian. Her mother said she was misinformed and in an experimental mode, so gave her a side of meat, regardless. So far she hadn’t hunted her down with bleeding steak in hand, but Maisie was getting hungry.

The head count was sixteen so far. They were moving, talking splashes of color.  She could see her cousins, Ricky and his brother Artie, and when they spotted her they whispered to each other, guffawing as though they could barely stand how funny they were. Next to them were their loud (her mom said theatrical) parents, leaning toward Maisie’s dad as he turned the hot dogs. His tall, lanky body was mostly covered by a big red and white checked apron mom had made for him.

Twos and threes clumped together at the long table with the umbrella, heads bent over plates and frosty glasses. Some were in circled chairs. They were gossiping but tastefully and in code, the way her family did most things. Every now and then someone would call out her name and Maisie would wave. They knew she would come around eventually. It was her way to sit back awhile. Or, as she favorite cousin Cammy said, “You take your time when everyone else is throwing it away.” Cammy had been in Europe with her band and was supposed to be in Canada  now. That had made Maisie want to skip the whole barbecue but, in fact, she wouldn’t miss it for anything. Cammy had missed two, now.

It was the actual beginning of summer to Maisie,  the fourth of July, and her mom and dad held this gathering every year to celebrate. School had been out for a week and temperatures were finally running higher, accented by the brilliant blue skies they had all longed for during the rain-soaked months. Maisie took a long, fresh breath and let the smells reach into her. She read a poem once where smells were colors and sounds were tastes and she almost felt that way today, like everything was bursting and she was about to do the same.  But she didn’t let on. She watched and sucked on a piece of long grass plucked from the shadows near the lilies of the valley. She could taste the tiny bell flowers, strong and sweet.

Uncle Jon was showing everyone his new girlfriend, somebody with a name Maisie couldn’t recall or pronounce and a head of hair that blinded her, it was so red. She might be interesting to listen to later. And there was Aunt Nina coming down the other stairs with a big bowl of her best fruit salad. As she danced her way to Maisie’s mother, long skirt swaying, bowl held high, she sang out, “Here’s the best fruit salad in the Northwest, the whole beautiful Northwest!” She really sang, like it was a pop song, her rich voice carrying out over the  neighborhood. But it was true. It had won some award last year at a cook-off. Uncle Frederik, trusty straw hat tilted back on his head, was right behind her with cake and mega-camera. He spotted Maisie right away and shouted at her, pointing to the cake. Maisie almost got up for that, to see whether it was german chocolate or a velvet cake or maybe, like last year’s, a yellow and white icing cake with a bunch of tiny flags that made up a large flag on top. That was a sight. He baked good cakes.

“Maisie! Get more iced tea!” her mother yelled, so she got up and went in the side door, through the dining room, and into the kitchen. There were two big glass pitchers in the ‘fridg and she reached for one when Ricky bounced in from the living room.

“I’ll carry one.” He took a big jug into both hands and gingerly followed her outdoors. “I’m playing soccer all summer if I can help it. Just started soccer camp. What about you?”

Maisie held open the door for him. “I don’t know yet. Maybe a trip to the Pyrenees.”

“Huh?” he asked, frowning up at her. “You don’t make any sense.”

“Either that or a long visit to Capri with my best friend, Marie. But you can’t come along.”

“Capri? Isn’t that in France? Is that where Cammy went?” He slowly walked down the stairs. “Artie’s learning how to build derby cars this summer.”

Maisie sighed. This was the problem with her male cousins. They were younger and less well-read, and they had a different sort of imagination. “No, she’s in Canada now.”

“Well, she’s lucky. So what are you doing this summer?”

“I’m laying in the sun and reading as many mediocre paperbacks as I can get my hands on. I’m going on thirteen and have to get started on my worldly education.”

He laughed. “You’re just nutso!”

She ruffled his hair and he loudly protested.

The afternoon unspooled, sun merrily beating down, then shadows coolly lengthening, the family still talking, milling about and complaining of summery heat and work  tomorrow and how could they manage to get together a couple more times, at least, this summer? The white raspberry-filled cake–blueberries and raspberries on top in a sort of flag–was accompanied by dripping ice cream.

Uncle Frederick brought Maisie a desert plate. “No flags. But we do have to shoot off a few fireworks later.”

“You got them in Washington as usual?”

“Have to do it. Without all the noise and pomp it wouldn’t be fourth of July, would it? It is Independence Day, right? ” He pumped his fist in the air like the goofy, good-hearted uncle he was.

Maisie took her cake and sat at the wooden table near Miss Flame Hair. The big green umbrella that spread over them gave relief from the last of the sun’s radiance.

“Hi, kid,” she smiled. She was putting on fresh lipstick, a sparkly pink gloss. “Who do you belong to?”

“The chef and chief bottle washer and his gracious wife.” She licked ice cream off her lower lip. “I’m Maisie.”

“Oh, this is your house! Well, I’m Antoinette. You can call me Toni if you like.”

“I like Antoinette.”

The woman held out her hand, silvery long nails adorned with little fake diamonds on the tips. Maisie shook it and wondered how she could put on eye cream without poking one out. The woman wasn’t as young as she’d thought. She seemed sweet but faintly dangerous, if those two could work together. Maisie liked her just because of that. Uncle Jon winked at Maisie from under his bushy blond brows and kept talking about the politics of performance art with her parents and aunts. This could go on all night, she wanted to warn Antoinette.

Maisie took a sip of iced tea.”How do you like my family so far? All these relatives crammed together?”

Antoinette smiled, head tilted to one side. “They’re pretty nice. They really like to talk about deep things, all about the arts and things like that. Smart people, right? I hear everyone is musical or something. You?”

Maisie considered what she was asking her. Did she like to talk? Sometimes, like now. Did one agree one was smart if that was true? What did she mean by “something”? Maisie thought Antoinette was something with those nails and hair, and that could be considered sort of artistic, too, she wanted to tell her.

“Well, I like to sing and play violin. It’s definitely true we all like the arts. I mean, I could go around the circle and tell you a couple of creative things each person does. It’s in the blood, mom says, for better or worse. Dad says it can be a curse, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He plays bass, jazz.” She shrugged. “It’s just how we are, that’s all.”

“I think that’s great.” Antoinette sounded wistful. “My family…not too many of them left. Ranchers in Idaho, mostly.”

“You can borrow some of mine from time to time. But ranching sounds pretty exotic. And I like your jeweled fingernails.”

Antoinette laughed heartily and Maisie like the way she did, head thrown back and her earrings jingling. She was glad Uncle Jon had brought her; she liked rough edges.

Twilight was getting ready to creep up on them as the instruments were brought out. Chairs were pushed back or folded up. The food was taken inside. Then the deck became a stage as everyone roused from their after-dinner drowsiness. There were three guitars, a banjo, a clarinet, flute and trumpet. There was a giant African drum and maracas, a tambourine and harmonica. A viola and keyboard. Nearly everyone had something in their hands; they started to tune up.

“Gotta go, Antoinette. Nice meeting you.”

Maisie slipped into the back of the group and got out a violin, then tuned it up along with all the others amid a cacophony of sound. After some mild arguing, they all agreed on the first tune.

The sun was setting and above the treeline Maisie could see the tender rose and apricot in a sky illuminated from deep within, the stars heralding night. The little lanterns were turned on and candles on the table were lit. They raised their instruments to play.

“Hey, please wait for me!”

And there was Cammy running down the stone steps, her crazy curly hair flying, her band mates trailing behind her. Maisie put down her violin and raced across the deck and into her cousin’s arms.

“Hey, small stuff,” she said as she pulled her close. “Let’s make music.”

It was a concert like no other, so the neighbors said as they drifted toward the house and stepped into the back yard. But, really, it was just a family get together, it was summertime, and Maisie was stepping out of the shadows. She put aside the violin and wormed her way up front. This time she sang out, and Cammy harmonized beside her, and all those notes wove their beauty into one wild crescendo of love.