This past weekend, my husband and I drove up to Pennsylvania for my cousin’s wedding. It’s still a novelty, you know, hopping in the car and jetting off by ourselves. After returning home, I commented to my husband that travel doesn’t feel like such a big deal now that we don’t have to haul kids and all their attitudes and paraphernalia. We can stop for coffee and doughnuts, if we want. Stay out late, if we want. Pop in to visit other friends, if we want. With the kids mostly grown, we have margins: financial, emotional, etc. It’s nice.
We stayed both nights at my girlfriend’s house. When we arrived, they had a fire going, and mint tea and ginger cookies waiting. And candles everywhere, lighting up the dark.
It was magical, an excellent start to the wedding weekend.
Soon after my son’s wedding back in December (at which my aunt had walked in the barn door and I’d immediately thrust a tub of greenery into her hands and ordered her decorate NOW), I’d texted my aunt that we could come up early to help prep, if they wanted. Now that I knew how much work a wedding was, my compassion was in full swing.
She’d have me help with the rolls, she said.
When we showed up Saturday morning, my aunt was zipping around the kitchen and two of the four (double) batches of dough were already started. For the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, I (along with some others) spent the next few hours stirring in the flour, stretching and folding the dough, shaping buns, brushing buns with egg wash, and baking buns.
All the while, the screen door opened and banged closed as people trooped in and out with question after question for my aunt. Do we have more roasters? Where are the ladles? We only have half the dishes! How do you spell so-and-so’s name? Can we have these chairs? What do you want me to do with that? Where do I put this?
But for all the activity, there really wasn’t much to do. I mean, there was a ton of stuff to do (clearly), but they had so many people helping that it didn’t feel too terribly busy.
Weirdly enough, I didn’t spy a single list. Think about it, people — no lists. All those volunteers, all those tasks, and they just . . . happened. As a consummate list-maker, I do not understand this. Sorcery, perhaps?
All the excitement and energy gave the whole place a wonderful buzzy feel. So much family. So many friends. So much beauty. So much joy. My aunt and uncle are makers and doers — they are made for this type of thing — and while I knew they were stressed and tired, it was also clear that they were having fun. Loads of fun.
Take, for example, frog and toad.
My aunt had the stuffed animals somewhere and then at one point she got the idea to turn them into a bride and groom and so she sewed them some outfits and stuck them in amongst the flowers.
And my uncle was in his glory, tending the pig he’d raised for the event.
It was some pig.
Pork butt, anyone?
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and every time I walked from the house kitchen to the up-on-the-hill kitchen, I’d feast my eyes on the beauty. The baskets of pies. The stone patio. All the little nooks and crannies crammed with potted plants and decked out with twinkle lights and jars of candles.
The ceremony was held down by the creek.
At one point, the bride and groom worked together to split a log using a hand-held saw — an example of the push and pull of a relationship and working together. Afterward, guests got to try it out for themselves.
I didn’t take many photos of the evening. Just of my girlfriend and me…
And of the grandmother of the groom because I thought she bore an uncanny resemblance to Queen Elizabeth.
For the most part, I was too busy having fun, visiting and eating — I had seconds of the pulled pork, slaw, gourmet potatoes, and baked beans, and slivers of four different kinds of pie (the pecan made my eyes roll back in my head) — and then there was the dancing. I’m not much of a dancer (at all), but I’ve reached the point where it’s not worth it to let my inabilities and inhibitions prevent me from having fun so I danced by myself and I danced with my son, the groom, some random dude, and even, for a few minutes, with my husband.
At one point I dipped out of the tent to go to the bathroom but then they played Sweet Caroline and I had to come running back to snatch a little video clip so I could send it to my Caroline.
This same time, years previous: cottage cheese, saag (sort of) paneer, family night, the unraveling, black bean and veggie salad, historical fun, the big bad wolf and our children, in defense of battered utensils, candid camera.