With my vehicle in the shop, I borrowed John's car (with the crumb-covered kids' seats), and drove away from our little old house with the broken shower. I was off to celebrate the wedding of a friend from college. It felt freeing as the distance grew, as John and I were both worn down from days with a sick child that had eventually spent a night in the hospital before getting well. Responsibility feels like an anchor weighing us down sometimes, and the only way to feel free is to cut the chain for a little while.
Driving up into the mountains of South Carolina, my mood lifted as I reached the appropriately named "Pretty Place Chapel".
The ceremony was lovely...the words, the vows, the emotional tears, the music, and the panoramic view into forever. It took me back to the first of many best days of my life, to a sparse seminary quad surrounded by academic buildings, a scattering of a few chairs, and the sound of guitar as John and I walked together into our future. We were young and naïve, but so in love we could barely think straight. As poor students, we couldn't afford more than this--30 rented chairs, the borrowed space, and our closest friends and family to serve as readers, musicians, and witnesses. There was no reception, and we waved our goodbyes as we walked as husband and wife from our sacred spot, back to our apartment down the sidewalk.
As simple as it was, there is nothing I would change about that day...hanging out with our friends before the ceremony, painting pottery and visiting the art museum; having breakfast with my mom and nana and John's parents and grandparents; getting dressed in John's apartment as my friends made our marriage bed with clean new sheets; the summer air so hot that my "bridesmaids" fanned me with my dress; flopping on the bed in that same dress after the ceremony while John ordered a Chinese food dinner that we shared the apartment that now was "ours" instead of his; our friends decorating our car unknown to us until we went to leave for the airport the next morning for a few nights at Martha's Vineyard, a gift from John's parents.
As I looked at my friend, the bride, I thought of how she had been there for my day, and so many days in between. We have been friends for 18 years now, a time that seems unfathomable, and yet just right. We have grown and changed, and yet we have found ways to be present to one another even with the distance. I couldn't help comparing our lives as I rode back down the mountain.
We entered a reception that looked like something from one of those wedding planner shows on TV. It was cool jazz club theme with the live music to match. The colors, ambiance, and the food all had an artistic touch. It was a glimpse of a life I might have if I actually got out more. And yet, as perfect as it all was, the best part of the evening for me was catching up with another friend from college and trading stories about how our lives had diverged from our college dreams, and how parenthood had changed us. We laughed and compared stories, not competitively as sometimes happens when moms gather, but instead we bonded again over how similar our lives are, even as we are in different places.
I was dressed up and out on the town, up late for me, but found myself wondering what John and the kids had been up to, and looking forward to pulling off the Spanx and uncomfortable shoes and getting into my pjs and bed.
The next morning, I dropped my present off in the virtual storeroom of gifts they had received, and wished for them continued happiness in their new adventure as a married couple. Surrounded by all the stuff, I knew, as I'm sure they do as well, that greatest gifts of all were the relationships and love realized in the gathering of friends and family from so many different phases of their lives. I understood that as I thought about my own web of connection and how many of the small group assembled for our wedding are still an integral part of our lives, regardless of how much time passes between when we see them. Over the years, bonds have grown outward and inward, deepened and strengthened. Those two naive kids in love that promised to "dedicate our lives to each other's happiness, to be faithful and honest in every circumstance, to respect, trust, help, love, and cherish each other forever; to love each other in all faith and tenderness as we walk through the rest of our lives" have done just that and found that love to be even more precious and sacred over the years. They're not so young or naive anymore, and the freedom of being (poor, working) students has been replaced by the blessings (and responsibilities) of a mortgage, full-time jobs, two kids, a dog, and aging and ailing family members. There are times when the anchor sinks us to the bottom, and times when we're able to float, buoyed by all the love that surrounds us.
Driving away the next morning, I left behind the hospitality of my friend's parents and their beautiful home. On the trip back, I didn't notice the crumbs so much, or worry (much) about the expensive repairs my car will need. Instead, I was anxious to get back to the broken in (and not broken down) comfort of our cozy home, to be hugged and needed and welcomed just as I am.