Four weddings & a funeral

29 Oct

No, not a movie review.  It’s just that my life is so much like a movie sometimes it’s scary.  You already know that I don’t do weddings, unless they’re pretty darn important.  Fortunately, most of my friends are already married, so it’s not normally an issue.  But coming out of the summer I faced three weddings in one month.  There seems to be an epidemic of love and happiness or something.

The first wedding I couldn’t attend because of work, but I had fun roaming Target for the right registry gift for them.  I confess I was a little shocked to see that days after the wedding, only two or three items on their registry had been purchased for the couple.  I guess nothin’ says lovin’ like a regifted picture frame.

The second wedding was a blast.  A glorious reunion with former co-workers who always make me laugh.  I wouldn’t have missed the joy they bring me for the world.  We caught up over a delicious buffet, toasted the happy couple, and laughed ourselves silly at the folks dancing to classic ‘80’s tunes…until we joined them ourselves.  Good times.

The third was the biggest and bestest of the lot — my cousin’s wedding.  He and his bride planned a huge shindig south of the border (in Oklahoma that means south of the Red River).  So I packed up the peachiest party clothes I could find and boarded a Southwest flight for Austin on a Thursday night.

Travel didn’t start off well at all.  I left straight from work for the airport.  But after getting up to speed and driving all of two miles on the highway, the remainder of my trek to the airport was bumper to bumper.  I couldn’t tell if I was on I-44 or on the 405.  By the time I’d pulled into the Airport Road exit lane and saw another pile up of cars on that highway, I’d lost my cool entirely and started yelling at God.  Not my finest moment.  My punishment was pretty severe, though: I was stuck with me all the way to Austin…and forever.  Perhaps the silver lining here is that I was yelling at Him instead of other drivers, and that my belief in His sovereignty is so certain that I don’t have to think before blaming Him for everything.

I raced into airport parking like Cruella De Vil on crack and took off running for my flight.  Thank God (this time) that I had printed out my boarding pass.  But even though I didn’t have to stop to print it out, I still had to stop to dig through everything to find it before lunging crazy-hair first into airport security.  Shoes.  Plastic quart-size baggie with tiny lotion bottles.  Purse.  Gift.  Other purse.  This is getting ridiculous.  Made it to my gate ten minutes before boarding, but it took much longer to get my feathers unruffled.

I was wearing a basic tee, jeans and cardi, which meant I had to face another hard truth on the full flight:  If you ever stood any chance with the cute guy in the seat next to you, you don’t after your whole tummy jiggles with jet engine force during take-off.  Memo to Southwest: It’s great to know how to strap on an oxygen mask, but use of proper undergarments during take-off really should be advised.  Airlines just don’t understand the pressure we’re under.  Cabin pressure?  I wish.  It couldn’t compare to my mother’s last words to me before I left — “Get lucky on the airplane!”

Knowing my family was enjoying BBQ on solid ground, I popped in my ear pods and took a look below.  We followed the true Mother Road (I-35/I-45) all the way to Houston Hobby where I grabbed a Wendy’s combo and a comfy club chair before making my connecting flight.  The next thing on my list of things to worry about — because getting mad at God isn’t the only thing I do well — is transportation from the airport to the hotel in Austin.  Family transport was too limited, so I was looking forward to a taxi ride, at night.  My enthusiasm underwhelmed me.  The hotel wanted $43 and 24 hours notice for a shuttle — so I outsmarted them and paid $50 for a taxi.  I expect Dave Ramsey’s phone call any day.

When your taxi driver asks you for directions, you know you’re in trouble.  But I knew I was safe in the civilized arms of Austin when we passed a Walmart, a Chick-fil-A, and a Hobby Lobby in the dark.  It took the cab driver an eternity to navigate his credit card system while the good-looking hotel valet stood waiting for me with my one carry-on slung over his shoulder.  He told me he was impressed I was traveling light.  I said, “Thanks,” but didn’t mention two other bags had come ahead of me.  Why disappoint him?

Breakfast came entirely too soon.  My eyes felt swollen shut.  My aunt (the M.O.G.) looked like a million — but her cuteness was all I could see before I stumbled my way to the omelet bar.  After getting dressed, my mom and I met my aunt to go prep the rehearsal dinner location.  What I hadn’t seen the night before was how beautiful the whole place was.  And by whole place, I mean all of it.  Hill country in Central Texas is just breathtaking, and if you haven’t been, you need to go.  The Barton Creek Resort was huge and lots of fun to navigate.  “When you hit a wood floor, turn left” were the directions I was given.  Boutique!  They had a boutique!  And a sort-of Starbucks closer to the front door than Registration.  These people understand priorities.  Beautiful neighborhoods, lots of shopping and dining, and of course, historic downtown Austin.  We took care of the restaurant and headed back to the hotel for the awesome bridal luncheon.

The bridal luncheon was on the patio of the hotel.  It was so peaceful and quiet and private you would never have known we were at a hotel.  The bride’s family and bridesmaids were all gathered, and we shared one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever eaten.  The world’s best tomato bisque, gourmet chicken salad with fresh fruit, and cinnamon cheesecake with some kind of butter-rum sauce — yum!  Just as we finished licking our plates the groom’s golfing expedition arrived, and I finally got to say hello to my cousins and uncle.

We don’t do anything small in Texas.  The Habana Bar was decked out in banners and overflowing with flowers and colorful lights on the patio.  From the mojitos to the meal to the music to the company, it was all fantastic.  I was especially blessed to be reunited with old friends and extended family.  OSU fans found common ground with Texas fans.  My brother serenaded us in espanol at the karaoke machine.  The groomsmen serenaded the bride.  And the M.O.G. and F.O.G. burned up the dance floor when the groom picked up his guitar and took the stage himself.  That’s when the party really got started.  Man, that boy can play.  His rock star super powers must come from the fluorescent orange cowboy hat he was wearing.  The food was a Cuban feast of pork and shrimp and chicken with black beans and rice and fried plantains.  Tres leches cake, flan, and 10,000 “Kate & Steve” butter mints for dessert.  By 10:30pm I was pooped and ready to crash.  Hey — I turned 29 again in August.  I’m not as young as I used to be.

Saturday was uncharacteristically quiet.  By “uncharacteristically” I don’t mean anything was wrong — I just mean it’s so strange to be on the guest side of an event like this.  I knew the bride was doing her thing somewhere, but not having any responsibilities was…weird.  So I rested and read, and once I got too restless, my mom and I went for a stroll around the hotel, found the hospitality room and the rocking chairs and rocked out.  Until my uncle pulled up and needed someone to ride shotgun on an errand into town.  He treated us to lunch on the patio of the sports bar when we got back.  And that’s where the quiet ended.  We discovered we had to be ready for the wedding two hours earlier than planned, so it was off to the races.  Into my Cache green satin, copper-beaded shoes, and the shuttle bus I dived, and it was off to the main event.

The venue was on an outdoor terrace overlooking the sunset in hill country.  Warm-colored hanging lanterns were strung above us.  Everyone looked amazing.  Contrary to most weddings I’ve ever attended, the pictures and ceremony took far less time than the reception.  After cocktails, we enjoyed a fabulous feast of tilapia, steak tenderloin, fresh veggies and lemon tarragon muffins, followed by the champagne toasts and a rousing New Orleans style party upstairs.  Hurricanes with glowing stir sticks and wedding cake were passed out while a big brass band kicked off the entertainment on the dance floor.  After all that food, it took a while for me to develop the heart for dancing.  But I’m pleased to acknowledge that my one contribution to the reception was to get the F.O.G. out on the dance floor just in time for the conga.

The bride and groom had a unique send off — guests followed the band out the door as they played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Cow bells were handed out, and an old car awaited the grand departure.  Aside from the chauffeur nearly driving them off a cliff as they drove away, it went off without a hitch.  Man and wife.  Hard to believe my little cousin who once sucked his thumb while he twirled dog hair and entered a Cheerios photo contest in a diaper is now all grown-up and married.  As much fun as we all had, I’m looking forward to when his brother ties the knot.  But a little time to recuperate might be nice.  Especially for us old folk.  Just two days in Austin, and it took me a week to get my head back into the game at work.  Maybe it was the mojito.

Or maybe it was the sobering news I got the day after I got home.  A friend of mine from school only a year younger than I am had died on Sunday from complications with pneumonia.  Though I wasn’t particularly close to him, it was a great loss, and I found myself really troubled that such a strong, warm, generous, Christ-like person would be taken from us.  My heart ached for his family who faced such a sudden loss, and not their first, and I counted the days until I could be there with them to honor his life at the funeral.  That day was so gray and rainy and…appropriate.  It was like God was sad.  I’d never been to Blanchard before, but found my way with ease and enjoyed the solitude of the gray drive through such a lovely little town.  The service would have pleased Travis — his mother must be a woman of great courage and fortitude because she opened it herself with a song for him.  Though I couldn’t make it to the burial, I hope that the family found comfort and peace in the ritual and in the arms of their mighty God.

Still pondering all this, a good friend called to say she’d become engaged and is planning a December wedding.  When I say, “They’re dropping like flies,” I hope you’ll understand and forgive.  I don’t believe that big things happen in threes, but when it rains, it does pour.

Travis’ passing certainly added perspective to the wedding onslaught.  There is no registry or dress or open bar that can replace the gift of time and joy with those we love.  It has reminded me of the person I want to be, that I need to cherish opportunities to give.  I don’t want you to get the idea that my view on weddings has changed.  It hasn’t.  Marriage is just as sacred to me as it ever was before.  But perhaps the pain of the past isn’t as overwhelming as it used to be.  Perhaps God is at work mending me and rebirthing hope in my heart.  Or perhaps I just love it that I have friends who want me to help them celebrate their new life together.  Looks like I won’t be putting away my green satin dress and copper-beaded dancing shoes anytime soon.

Wedding #4, bring it.

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One Response to “Four weddings & a funeral”

  1. cindy October 30, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    mmm, those food descriptions are making me hungry! you’ve been busy lately! your life really does sound like a movie. I think Julia Roberts would be a perfect fit to play you in that movie. Well, the younger Julia Roberts.
    So sorry about your friend passing. Funerals are so sobering, but they do help remind us of whats important in life. Love you sweet friend. Keep the blogs comin’!

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