Moments At An Alabama Wedding

*** Warning:  This is sappy; I can’t help it; sappy is occasionally necessary.

A – Alabama. Yes, just Alabama. I love everything about this place on God’s earth. The slant of evening sunset tucking under the beams of the Festhalle, mimosa misting all the green with its garnet brushes, the solemn vesper hush of the ceremony, magnolias on the long banquet tables, Billy Atchison greeting our out-of-town guests with a heart-felt desire that they all feel welcome, Round 2 playing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man, the evening feel of cool sweat and a party dress. When I walk home, this is where my feet go.

B – Beth Ann’s Box. My friend Beth Ann sent a box that would serve as assistant to Adrienne and to me since Beth Ann herself could not be here. It contained bobby pins, safety pins, tissue packs, bandaids, sewing kit, a kit “to occupy that difficult relative with a decorate-the-mason-jar task”, gum, chapstick, tea, little notes of encouragement, and a letter that contained the lyrics to Sunrise, Sunset which undid me.

C – Cocktail napkins. We ran out of water bottles, but by golly we had cocktail napkins. 1000 dove gray cocktail napkins. We’ll be chipping away at those for some time to come.

D – Dinner Plates. We were glad we bought 9-inch ones instead of 10. I think we eked out 30 more plates of food. Win!

E – Estrogen. Our house was bridesmaid-central and estrogen soaked . Every maid needed loving on through cramps, hunger, sore feet, pink eye, torn dress, nerves, bouquet making, chalkboard painting, singing, laughing, dress steaming, brow plucking, nail painting, cross-cultural experiences, accessorizing, dancing, crashing, and sleeping. They brought so much joy to the house.

F – Friends!!! I could not have done this without my friends. Jessi, Nancy, Denise, and Janice, take a bow!

G – Grandmothers. The best toasts of the rehearsal dinner came from the four grandmothers. Love, humor, wisdom, scripture, their words showed the heritage of faith and deep rich soil this couple came from and now carries.

H – Happy Groom. His face as he said his vows was one of those primary life moments I had to both look at and look away from in respect.

I – Invitations. Thinking we were cleverly saving money, we had the RSVP information printed on the back of the invitation. No one looks at the back of an invitation. Which meant we were flying on a wing and a prayer when we gave the reception caterer the number of plates we needed. Lesson: Spring for the cost of the separate RSVP card. 🙂

J – Jet Lag. Four days after the wedding I am suffering from jet lag and postpartum (not exactly) depression (but definitely a re-living of all of mothering this child in one big flood). “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2.

K – Kittens. The best parlor trick ever. We have two, and at the after-party, they were the hit. From groomsmen to toddlers to patriarchs to dear sisters to college roommates, we never knew who would stroll through with a kitten in the crook of the arm. The kittens were the common denominator that held the party together. Update: One kitten has gone walkabout. Will is trying to forgive us for being ironclad outdoor pet people.

L – Laughter.  My siblings and I gathered at my dad’s gravesite on Father’s Day, the day after the wedding, and placed Eliza’s maid-of-honor bouquet on his grave.  And we laughed together. As my sister-in-law said, when the grave holds no fear, there is joy in being together.

M – Mom. She put her hand on my back while Adrienne walked down the aisle and I cried.

N – Nieces and Nephews. These awesome people, young and younger, fill all the gaps. Calling it the wedding in cullmanalabama, they danced with skirt-swirling abandon and visions of sugar plums; they brought their smiles, hugs, and eagerness (Evelyn!); they ran impossible errands like the nephew who forever claimed my heart by bravely entering the seething world of the bridesmaids’ room to unearth a particular purse needed desperately and to present it within two minutes. That, my friends, is impressive. #michaelduboseismyhero

O – Odds and Ends. Cake knife, candle lighter, airport run, cups, ice, thank yous, half and half. These things kept me up at night and these were the very things God provided in the sweetest of ways and with His palpable smile.

P – Parenting That Never Ends. Our newly-married daughter dashed with her man through rows of sparklers and cheering family to the car chauffeured by her brother that would whisk them off to this new thing called husband and wife. Adults, they were. As she got into the back of the car Andrew and I simultaneously leaned forward because the train of her gown was about to get caught in the door: here, let me help, I’ll just go with you and hold it, OK??

Q – Quiet Moment. After the reception dancing and the cleanup, I limped home barefoot, sweaty, still in the party dress. Knowing I probably shouldn’t, I walked down to her bedroom and saw her dress flung across the bed and her gray suede sandals tipped over in a hasty, hand-holding run toward the honeymoon. I realized that this thing really happened. And it will be good – it already is, judging by the new family I inherit by virtue of her vows – but, like taking them to kindergarten or summer camp, it does take getting used to.

R – Red Pick-Up Truck. A serendipitous addition to the reception decor, the bed of Rachael and Kent’s 1971 Ford became our drink station. Alabama married New York, after all.

S – Social Media. On social media today, I see the word ‘wife’ and I see a different last name, like a whole different person, which in a way I guess it is. Once again, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, what exactly has happened here? Life is a big deal. Marrying off a daughter is as heart-squeezing as having her in the first place.

T – Trains. Small town life at its finest is the moment when the train roars through and everyone celebrating in the Festhalle alongside the old depot cheers the conductor on his northbound way. (Maybe it’s all computers now, but I like to think a conductor was waving back.)

U – Ushers and Groomsmen. The backbone of the wedding, these young men set up and took down and in between they were gentlemen. Yes, I do too know them, and I still say gentlemen.

V – Vases of Flowers. Oh, the flowers. I never knew. Curly willow, larkspur, orchids, seeded eucalyptus, the names themselves begin the enchanting thing that flowers do. Kim and Kelly guided the whole flower endeavor and taught us all how to let the flowers tell us where they need to go. I am a believer.

W – Water. Well, we ran out. Lesson: For outdoor receptions, however much water you think you need, triple it. And then throw in two more cases for good measure. Thank you, Jay, for a mid-reception Walmart run.

X – Xavier.  High school the groom and his brother graduated from. I needed an X. They captioned their picture: “On the bus going to Jonathan’s graduation.” The ceremony took place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue in NYC.  Much as I love cullmanalabama, I have to admit, that reaches a level of cool we just don’t have. A bus to graduation?!? A bus, period?!?

Y – Yonder.  Where everyone came from, where the bride and groom went on honeymoon, where they might live, where I need to return borrowed cake plates, coolers, candles, and cloths.

Z – BelZes, BelZes everywhere. In desperation I Googled ‘Max Belz Family Tree.’ While there was much mention of him, I was on my own in terms of filling in all the branches and leaves and sprouting sprouts of this flourishing tree. I am reading Jean Belz’s Tell Someone Your Story and am finding in her a friend and kindred spirit in every essay. So it was meaningful to me to meet so many of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and if my mental tree-chart is accurate, perhaps even a great-great or two.

To God be the glory!

~

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Getting Merried

In June, our daughter and her love will be
Merried! We attendants will merry them as they
Promise to
Merry each other
‘Til death does them part.

As busy as I’ve been, working toward the merry day,
It wasn’t real to me until my friends
Gave a tea and
Made it so –

Sabbath afternoon, when mind and body
Long only for green pastures and still waters,
My church sisters,
In high heels,
Decorated and celebrated my daughter’s
Merriment.
With me. For us.

I’ve been to teas and showers, and the
Stuff on the tables is fascinating
In the abstract.
Oh, what a beautiful painting by Anna.

But these things, this painting,
This towel, were for my daughter
(six-weeks-old in her pink onesie, surely)
In her St. Elmo home.
With her husband. Her husband.

It’s very different.

The groom’s grandmother Mary,
While carrying a table, asked
‘Could I be part of the second load going home?’
Adding even more muscle and sacrifice.

There is nothing fragile about tea-givers;
They are giving life
More than I ever understood
Until my own child was the merried one.

My friends. They make me merry.  ~

           
Tea-givers                                                             A guest of honor

              
Lovely touches

 

 

Milk Chocolate

Rest my head on the knee
Of the One I kneel before,

Say Lord, look at that ‘fridge,
A collage of invitations –
Weddings, teas, baby showers –
Pastel hint of life’s
Naked, raw, and fervent moments,
Bloody shouts and the heart’s vows.

Jennifer called today and said
Martha died.
Oh. Remember her laughter at the
Candy-making parties?

Then again, the Lunsfords are in
Ethiopia
Getting Jake, their
Covenant child!
A five year faith-wait.

But it’s also Sean’s
Cross-the-Jordan anniversary.

And then some sweet friends who
Love Jesus share chips and salsa with us and
Ache over their
Church because they had
Invested, Lord, invested, in that
Little flock of sheep, who
Rode them hard
And hurt them.
Now they are peeking over
At Grace! And, oh, they need healing.

And tonight we sang happy birthday to
My little Mama.

This life, Lord, this life,
Is a bittersweet tale where the
Sweet carries the bitter and the bitter
Tempers the sweet, and the end is as
Perfect as milk chocolate on the tongue.

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Caroline and Jake, January 14, 2017
~

How I Love Him!

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One day
Long ago
On a one-lane
Wooden bridge over
Railroad tracks,
Near McGriff Tire,
We sat in our
Plymouth Voyager,
White with wood panels.

Will was a baby and when the
Train came underneath us
And the world tottered with the
Roar and fumes and horn blast,
He screamed the terror of the
Helpless.
Instead of unbuckling him, I crouched
Over him and he clutched me in a
Grip and buried his face
(How I love him!) in my
Neck.
His breath condensed on my blue
Shirt into a big wet spill.
And he hung on.

When I do that to
My Heavenly Father,
Who is also the God of this whole Universe,
He always answers with
More
Comfort,
Protection,
Affection,
Than I asked for.

How I love Him!

To Honk Or Not To Honk: A Parenting Victory

Looking back over the years, as I am doing right now from a newly empty nest, I had one intuitive parenting victory that I want to share with you who still have your kids at home so that down the road you too can rejoice and not kick yourself:

I did not honk my horn at my children. 

I get that some people are honkers; for them an aggressive laying on the horn is just a great communication tool, and they’d be surprised anyone thought any deeper about it. But for the rest of us . . .

Sunday morning. The girls were off to college, only the boy was at home, and because his bones grew an inch a month, or so it seemed, he slept like the dead. And even deader on Sundays. He seemed to understand it was the day of Sabbath rest.

He didn’t really ‘wake up’ as much as slowly surface, like a log released from a river bottom. All that rapid bone growth required hot abundant protein in the morning – like eggs and cheese and bacon. But he only had time to grab a granola bar along with his tie, belt, socks, and shoes, all to be put on in the car.

Six feet, three inches plus his hair, folded in half, and accessorizing in a Fiat.  I rode to church with Mr. Bean.

I assume he grabbed the granola bar; I never saw him do so because I was always sitting in the car by that time waiting, and that is the point of my story. I like to get to church early, especially if I am teaching a Sunday school class. I talk to a lot of people on Sundays, and my nerves just need my ducks in a row.

Anyway, I waited, chomping at the bit, and every Sunday I had to make a choice while sitting in the Fiat. To honk or not to honk, that was the question. He was inside feeling no sense of urgency whatsoever, and my legs were both cramped from holding down the clutch and the brake in first gear, ready to go. And I waited, and the back door never opened. Whether t’was nobler in mind to wait it out or honk the heck out of the horn, aye, there’s the rub.

Preaching to myself, I would say, “Just be patient. Honking is rude and dehumanizing. Civilized people get out, go in, and say mildly, ‘Are you coming?’” But once buckled in to the AC’d car, I wasn’t getting back out, civilized or no, so I would decide I had every good reason to honk and reach my hand to do it, and then decide not to, and Civilized and Uncivilized would war for awhile before the back door would finally slam and he would appear, grinning and at peace with the world. And I was always glad I hadn’t honked.

But I was never so glad I hadn’t honked as I was the first Sunday he was off to college and I walked out the door, got in the car, backed out, and drove to church. Oh the sad, sad, convenience of it all. Oh, the untethered, unwanted earliness. Woohoo, I didn’t have to wait! Boohoo, I wished I had to wait! And as I mourned freely all the way to church I comforted myself knowing that I had not honked my horn at him. At least I had that.

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DSCN6082Sincerely,
A Mom In Transition

P.S. (One week later – wearing huge photo-booth party glasses and popping a confetti cannon) Empty nest is fun!!  “Limbo, limbo, limbo, cha-cha, limbo . . .”

P.P.S. I read a recent good article urging us to be careful writing about our children.  I used care with this and meant to spotlight my retrospective relief rather than the college boy’s foibles.  Some context was necessary.

There Is A Rose In Spanish Harlem (Me!)

We have always said that the day we take our youngest child to college we will not come right home that first night. Awash in nostalgia, we would wipe our tears, turn north to New York City, and drown our sorrows in exotic cuisine and art exhibits and parks and architecture and layers of history until we find that we are perfectly fine and content being Siegenthaler, party of 2, once again.

Well, two things about that.

In His goodness, the Lord ordained that our nest won’t be empty after all. My niece Erica is going to live with us for a while and work and study here.  And we are most glad. We weren’t really ready for empty nest anyway.  And, second, my new business dictates that I be home for a class early the next morning after I make Will’s dorm bed in Belz Hall and leave him under his own recognizance.

So, as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, and the NYC transition plan seemed to be ganging agley.

But by God’s grace it is going to happen, just a little early – today! Hooray for an early-August lull before the school year starts.  And for an Airbnb “third floor walk-up. Will that be a problem?”  Not at all, I scoff from my one-level rancher. And hooray that our lair is in Spanish Harlem on a street called Tito Puente. Allow me to romanticize it.  And for the Manhattos Indians and the early Dutch settlers and every homeless, tempest-toss’d immigrant yearning to breathe free! Right now, my children are really glad they aren’t going with us.  I’m unbearable when it comes to the grand human story.

Our plans include the following, quite out of order:

*Walking our feet to bloody nubs
*A walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and a tenement-appreciation moment; that chapter of NY history slays me
*Biking through Central Park
*Dining in Queens with Ben and Kim Kaufmann, true food connoisseurs
*Amateur Night At The Apollo in Harlem – you’re jealous over this one, aren’t you?
*Freedom Tower and the Memorial Pools of the World Trade Center
*The Museum of the City of New York
*MoMA- photography exhibit
*Shopping at Century 21; Andrew for sunglasses and me for a new school bag (CCS co-workers, I finally threw out the tattered pink polka-dot one with no rubber left on the wheels)
*Browsing some antique shops and finding a little piece of the city to take home
*The Highline – thanks to Will Hogue for this pearl!
*Columbia University, St. John the Divine, Riverside Church and its tall tower and view
*Greenwich Village literary hotspots and Washington Square
*Abyssinian Baptist, Harlem YMCA, The Cotton Club
*Pizza in Staten Island with the Baldinis – Hey, y’all!  DeNino’s for “The Garbage Can”?
*Book stores, ethnic food, and coffee better than we can make at home which is saying something
*Subway and bus lines
*People-watching, picture-taking, blogging it all in
*Post cards from the bodega
*Another week of Andrew’s beard growth for the general amusement of Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church
*Time to talk and laugh and read and think and sleep a little
*Return quenched with cool urban cultures and glad to be back in time to take Will to college and to welcome Erica to our favorite little town

In short, a leisurely, knockabout week.  🙂
And if you don’t think we can accomplish all this, 
then you don’t know Andrew.

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Johnny Clamps

Happiness Is . . .

~ Thinking you are done forever with making boxed lunches, then realizing on day one of summer that not only are you now making them for the recent-grad-turned-summer-construction-worker, but the lunches must be bigger (think meatloaf), and must be poised at the back door by 6:15 am because work starts early in the Alabama summer, and finally that the lunch must be in a manly cooler that has been banged up and seen its day. The Wonder Woman lunch box he used with pride through high school will not do on the work site, no, not at all. For those of you thinking, hey, he is 18, he can make his own lunch, I can only respond with laughter. I’ve been saying that for years and then when I see what he throws into a limp Walmart sack and calls lunch, I just. can’t. do. it. And for all your big talk, you know you can’t either.

~ Johnny clamps. The same new-minted construction worker reported after his first day on the job that he went with a site-boss to a supply site and the boss told him to look for the johnny clamps! Rather than ask the needed question – what is a johnny clamp? is it big or small? will it be labelled ‘johnny clamp’? – he moved forward with a look of determined where-the-heck-are-those-johnny-clamps? and took cues from the other guy’s manner of searching. Someone found them, I guess.

~ Three weeks with my Little Mama who is an unflagging cheerleader and fan for all her children and grandchildren. She sees the good and tells you. She rises early to read her Bible and devotional book, pen in hand underlining particularly moving phrases or thoughts. I smile though because, no joke, the whole book is underlined. 🙂

~ A smiling picture of the out-of-the-country daughter with the caption, “Just had Baba Ganoush that CHANGED MY LIFE.”

~ The first shower after the water is turned back on in your house. It started, as these things often do, with Andrew checking the mail. Perusing the power bill he grew grave and meditative. Comparing last year’s numbers for March and April, as the bill conveniently does, with this year’s, there was a clear, inexplicable uptick. The game was on. Bill in hand, he visited the power company and a clerk’s offhand comment lead him to determine that the hemorrhage, if you will, was with the old water heater. In head lamp and knee pads, he crawled under the house, confirmed his hypothesis, and proceeded to reroute the pipes in another mysterious direction to the smell of that purple sealant.
Declaring success, he turned the water back on with a flourish; the newly fitted pipe burst forth from the wall and Niagara visited our laundry room. It needed mopping anyway. I was able to look on the sunny side because this was just the first explosion. There were two more to come, as the clock ticked, mom’s flight time crept nearer and nearer, and no showers had been had by all. Suddenly, all you can think of is a shower and a glass of water. Blessedly, local plumber John Dunn, yes, just like that John Donne, came calmly to the rescue. We easily made the flight, showered and fresh. My five foot tall mother, smiling and pulling her rolling backpack through the Shuttlesworth Airport doors, made the whole flood in the laundry room and drought in the bathrooms something to remember and laugh about.

~ Barre class with Rachel Eidson. If football players can push themselves, so can I.

~ A husband’s birthday. A friend told him this morning that he was ‘playing on the back 9’ now. Well.

These things are happiness today.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118:24