Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hey, it's been a while.

We’ve just returned from an almost three week adventure across the Midwest to visit friends and family. Our first stop was in Illinois to see my brother’s firstborn be married. It’s okay since child weddings are legal in this state. Actually he’s 23. The one to whom my mom and I brought his first footie jammies grew up without anyone’s express permission.

It hit me while sitting in the pew that Loompa was about to become someone’s husband. Impossible. My brother Andy’s son. He started as Lump of Sugar which evolved to Lumpa which lent itself quite readily to Loompa, which stuck. The child’s given name is Adam, but when choosing between a moniker that means “Son of Man” or “Tiny Green-faced munchkin” the contest is over. Loompa it was. I know it’s not wildly flattering and I don’t call him this anymore (at least outside of my head).

But there are just so many memories fresh as rain in my mind of his Loompa-ness, his baby-ness. He was my first nephew, the first grandchild to my parents, and an easy happy baby with squishy cheeks and cheery giggles.

But at the front of the church he wasn’t Loompa anymore. His shoulders never so broad and strong. His skin was never so smooth, his hair more shiny. Boy, love does look good on a person, doesn’t it? And so my tears started to flow. I heard my sister behind me ask her daughter for a Kleenex and then later ask for the whole box. Well dang it then I was crying even harder. But it really wasn’t until the wedding was over that I became completely unglued. He and Brianna led the recessional to dismiss their guests. My mom was seated in the front row of the church where Adam bent down to kiss her. She reached for his face with her hand which was remarkably tremor-free. In that moment she was strong and vital, present and joy filled. It was as though a movie reel was set to motion. Every diaper she changed, t-ball game she attended, encouragement she uttered, guitar lesson she paid for, letter jacket she splurged on, sleepover she hosted... all of them were right there in that moment. Her first grandchild was married and she was there to witness it, to celebrate it.

Bausch and Lomb was free to shut down for the season. I was emitting enough saline to stock the shelves of every CVS in town for months to come. I couldn’t contain it. The emotion of the moment. And in honesty, the tears were not entirely selfless – maybe not selfless at all. Because I know. I know that my mom isn’t likely to be present for my daughters’ weddings. And even if she is present she will not have the memories to share, to celebrate. Dopamine shortages and synapse failures have seen to that. It was a moment of grief for me truth be told. And yet I celebrated readily. I celebrated that on this day she was back and with us again. She looked beautiful and alive and celebratory. The connection she’d forged with this young man 23 years ago wasn’t lost and forgotten. It was alive and well and celebrated. Praise be to God.

A snap of me, Hannah, and Claire taken before I started producing abundant contact solution.

The girls loved the idea of blowing bubbles at the newlyweds as they made a pretend getaway out of of the church. Their little stripey summer dresses make me so happy.

There were plenty of celebratory moments to follow. Not the least of which was learning how to bust some moves from my little Emerson and my youngest nephew Jacob at the reception. They can shake their hips in ways not fitting for ladies and gentleman. Yet watching them was somehow inspiring to me and made me want to shake my brick house right with them. I did what I could and found myself both burning calories and pride as my cheeks ached from smiling so big and laughing so hard on the dance floor. And through it all I learned a few things. First, the Charlie Brown is a dance and it's not for blockheads. Second, my only chance at avoiding a fate of osteoarthritis and all manner of genetically inherited maladies is to keep shaking my groove thing as long as I can. Done. I mean done because I did it there that night. Actually I'd really like to do it again. I’m sure Emie and Jacob will be super excited about this at the next family wedding when they are old enough to be mortified by their aging mama and auntie (as if that day hasn't already come and gone).

And in these shoes people. Yes indeed.

My niece Sarah's best friend Sam accompanied her to the wedding and we all loved him. He fit right in and found a soul mate in Jacob. I had a picture of this but it's not available anymore :(

I love cousins. Love to see my girls play with my sister’s kids with a familiarity like no other. Love to see Emie and Hannah holding hands or Jacob and Emie dancing like it’s 1999. My cousin John and I have been together forever, too. We’d have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary by now had we all lived just a little further south and had laws not prohibited marriage between first cousins. I’m told we had a wedding every summer for years when we were kids. I'm ashamed to say I have exactly zero memory of any of it. So, there’s that.

Pictured above is my first husband, John

Maybe one of the sweetest parts of the weekend was the time spent with Andy, his wife Tammy, my sister, cousin, and aunt Judy in the lobby of their hotel.

Melissa and Judy

Andy and Tammy had been hosting all weekend and were busy greeting and entertaining guests. We were eager to have them to ourselves. We picked up some fine libations from Villa de Walgreens and drank out of paper cups. The six of us sat around a big farm style table in the hotel's lobby and I felt rich as a queen. Not for the fine vintage wines or the glorious glassware but for the company. My family. I love them so much. My aunt just celebrated her 80th birthday and is as fit as a fiddle. My cousin Melissa is lovely. Wise and elegant. Fun and energetic. And Andy and Tammy are just a prized treasure to me. They dated for a few years before they were married and recently celebrated their 25th, which means Tammy’s been a sister to me for nearly as long as Andy’s been my brother. She’s witnessed all of my awkward stages and has been a champion of encouragement and love throughout.I am crazy about her. And my own sister, well she’s lived through even more of my awkward phases and still calls me friend. Money can’t buy that kind of love but it can buy chocolate which is quite similar. I don’t know why I said that but I had to break up my string of sap. Anyway… Andy can make me laugh like no one else. His insider family stories in all of the right voices for the characters we call our own and had us all choking on our Cabernet that night. Joy. Abundant, unmatched, perfect joy.

He thanked us all so profusely and generously for being there with them for the wedding. We would not have missed it. But I get it. I really do get the overwhelming gratitude we all feel toward those who are willing to give of themselves to share in your big events. The absolute honor that the gift of someone’s time is to you is of great worth the older we get. I am all for full lives. Abundant lives. But may we never, ever get so busy that we don’t make time to celebrate the big moments with those we love.

Another sweet moment was when “All the Single Ladies” went out to the dance floor in the hopes of catching the bouquet. Hey, you didn’t hear this from me but my little lovie caught the thing fair and square. A lady who celebrated her 40th birthday quite some time ago bent all the way over the Ainsley love and snatched those flowers out of her hands like so many winning lottery tickets. It was shocking. Not really – I mean, who cares and what were we going to do with a bouquet on the airplane? But it was pretty entertaining. We all decided that the flower-fetcher in question may have needed it a wee more than the Ainsley love did. After all, Ainsley is four years old and was just kind of excited to have some flowers but this lady was pretty sure she just put her hands on two tickets to paradise. And far be it from me to take that dream away from her. I hope she’ll be very happy today and ever after.

Ainsley kind of looks like she knows trouble's brewing. It would be just a few minutes later when the lady in blue would snatch some petals from the lovie's hands like the last cup of water on a desert island.

Well , there’s plenty more to share about the next leg of our journey which took us to the Twin Cities of Minnesota, but I’ve already spent over 1400 words telling you about the first stop. Just one small notch above a torturous slide show of vacation pictures and ain't nobody got time for that. Thanks for hanging in there.

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