Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Charming Country Wedding

We had been hearing rumors about our niece’s upcoming wedding for some time. She didn’t want a traditional wedding. She didn’t want to spend a lot of money. She didn’t want a wedding dress, fancy invitations, catered food. What would this wedding be like?

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law live out in the country, near Fayette, Missouri. Their house is situated high on a hill, overlooking rolling fields and green trees. This is where the wedding would be held.

The weather in the week leading up to the wedding was wet and miserable. Day after day it rained and drizzled, thundered and stormed. Gloomy clouds hung over Mid-Missouri. But Saturday dawned sunny, breezy and warm. It was perfect weather for an outdoor wedding.

The ceremony was held in their front yard. Chairs for the guests faced the view, and the wedding party came out the front door and down the front walk to a small clearing. The bridesmaids wore green flowered sun dresses. The groom and his twin brother wore simple shirts and jackets, no ties. The bride wore a simple white sundress. The mother of the bride had on a long simple blue dress. She was glowing; the bride was smiling. A friendly beagle wandered among the wedding party. Babies gurgled and the guests beamed as the bride and groom said their vows. As usual I felt tears come to my eyes. My little niece! How could this be?

After the ceremony we walked into the backyard, where tables and chairs had been set up under tents. We enjoyed refreshments while waiting for dinner to be served. Music played from a computer hooked up to large speakers, a combination of country and rock and roll from the past 4 decades. Lemonade, water and iced tea were served in ball jars and jelly jars. They had bought the perforated tin lids for the jars that are normally used for potpourri, but are actually perfect for sticking a straw in and sipping lemonade.

The mother of the bride confided in me that you couldn’t really have a wedding like this unless you had an old barn filled with stuff. They hauled an old claw-footed bathtub out of said barn, painted the outside of it blue and turned it into a perfect container for beer. There was wine, both red and white, out of boxes but not bad at all.

The tables were set with clear colored glass plates in a variety of colors. The tablecloths were white. The centerpieces were pink and white peonies, set in large white and blue vases. The napkins were yellow and green and handmade (my mother in law was very proud of the 25 napkins that she had made). Each place setting had a tin can next to it. The cans were painted a variety of colors – pink, yellow, green and purple, with a ribbon tied around each. Each can contained little herb plants – basil, thyme, rosemary, chives. Those that traveled locally to the wedding could take a can home with them. We had a lot of fun smelling the different plants and figuring out what they were. In addition, each place setting had a packet of seeds, either flowers or vegetables. I managed to trade for a couple of packets that I wanted, so I ended up with broccoli, pumpkin and poppies to add to my garden when I get home!

Dinner was barbeque – both pulled pork and brisket from their own cows. There were roasted potatoes and a wonderful salad that included fresh strawberries. It was really delicious! For dessert there was no wedding cake (maybe my only disappointment; I do love a good wedding cake), but one of the bridesmaids had made two amazing cakes. One was carrot and one was lemon. Of course I had to try them both! There were also a variety of cookies and the fixings for ice cream sundaes.

After dinner they set up games. There was a bean bag toss, which was rather hypnotizing to watch. There was badminton and a zip line for the little kids. There was croquet, and a trampoline. Soon the dance floor was cleared off and music was playing once again. The bride and groom danced together, as did my sister and brother in law and the groom’s parents. Soon the bride danced with her father and the groom with his mother. Eventually the dance floor was taken over by crawling babies, puppies and sleeping dogs.

We left around 9:30pm, but heard that later there was line dancing and that the fun continued late into the night.

I just loved this wedding. The bride got the wedding she wanted at the price she could afford and I am a firm believer in weddings that make people happy and fulfill at least some of their dreams without breaking their budget.

We have had two weddings now among my nieces and nephews. Both of these marriages were from the country cousins; the city cousins may take a bit longer to decide to settle down. There are seven more cousins to go; I wonder who will be next?

Sailing Sailing

My husband loves to sail and it’s my fault. Once upon a time a long time ago I took basic sailing lessons with him on a lake. It was fun and I liked it all right, but he loved it.

It took a number of years before we owned our first boat, a Compac 16:

A small, trailer-able day-sailor, this was the perfect boat for beginner sailors in mid Missouri. We drove the boat from one Missouri Lake to another. It wasn’t fast, but it was portable and safe and a good boat for a couple with small children and not much money. We had fun with that boat!

But Lee had bigger boat dreams. Our next boat was a Hunter 240. This was our first (and only) new boat. The Hunter had something called water ballast, and a moveable keel, so even though it was 24 feet, it was still trailer-able.

It was a very pretty boat, but it was tippy. A larger or slower boat, when it leans into the wind, goes over slowly, but the Hunter, because it was lighter, goes WHUMP! It was with the Hunter that I developed my first apprehensions about sailing. Sailing was fun, but it could be scary too. We had the Hunter out in some really windy conditions a few times and it wasn’t very fun. In a way that’s how we learned more about sailing, but it’s also when I started to be a more reluctant sailor. Yes, call me chicken, go right ahead.

Sometime around this point our niece and nephew came to stay with us during the summer. The little boy was a sweet kid but didn’t always listen and he was still pretty young. I was afraid that he might not be safe on a sailboat so I told him sternly that while we were on the boat he needed to pay attention and do whatever we told him to do. Unfortunately I forgot to mention that sailboats ride at an angle in the wind. At the first good puff, the boat tipped to one side and poor Cody started screaming “it’s TIPPING! IT’S TIPPING!” Although this later became a family joke I could sympathize with Cody. There were plenty of times when I wanted to yell ITS TIPPING myself.

The next boat on our horizon was a really good boat. It was an older boat, an S2 27. Larger again, this was a beautiful boat, great for sailing or racing, fast and safe.

Lee loved that boat. This was not a trailer-able boat, but by then we had found our Missouri Lake. Stockton Lake, in southwest Missouri, is perfect for sailing. Unlike most Missouri lakes it’s flat, with a large open body of water, so there are relatively steady winds. We had quite a few years of happy times on the waters of Lake Stockton. When we had pre-teens and young teenagers it was easy to convince them that a weekend on Lake Stockton was just the ticket. We’d go down there, maybe rent a cabin or sleep on the boat, grill hotdogs, sail, and have fun.

Older teenagers required more bribery, but the purchase of a jet ski was sufficient to entice them, at least for awhile. We’d sail, the kids would ride the Jet Ski in circles around us. We’d anchor in a cove and the Jet Ski could be used for water skiing and other adventures. Everyone was content.

But kids get older and adults get busier. Stockton was 3 hours away from Columbia, and it grew increasingly difficult to get away for an entire weekend. Teenagers were reluctant to spend the weekend away from town and their friends. It was hard for both parents to go and leave the kids by themselves. Lee ended up spending weekends at the boat by himself. It wasn’t much fun anymore.

When we moved to Texas we thought it would revive our sailing lifestyle. Lake Travis was only thirty minutes from our house. We paid lots of money to get the S2 down to Texas, only to find out that Texas in the summer is hot and miserable on a non-air-conditioned sailboat, and that Travis isn’t a good sailing lake anyway.

Then we moved overseas to Hong Kong. There was no question of sailing there; the Hong Kong yacht clubs cost a fortune and were way out of our league. We had one sailing vacation in Thailand which was great except for the total lack of wind. I didn’t miss sailing that much, but Lee pined for the breezes on the water, jibs and genoas, tack and rudders and decks.

Now that we are in New England we’re getting back to sailing. Rather than spend the money to buy another boat and rent a slip we’ve joined the Boston Sailing Club and Lee is certified to day sail in the harbor on their boats. We took a 22” boat out the last weekend Daniel was in town. It was very windy, but when I wasn’t terrified it was pretty fun! And the views were spectacular.

Lee is going to take the coastal cruising class in September and I’m taking basic sailing at the end of June. He wants to be able to take a boat out along the coast; I want to be able to sail without being afraid that we’re going to tip right over into the water. I’m tired of my engineer husband explaining to me how that isn’t logically possible; I want the confidence to have that knowledge to myself. Lee jokes that once I’ve taken a class I’ll start bossing him around and telling him what to do on the boat. Well, you really can only have one skipper on a boat at a time. Most of the time I’ll probably be content to let him do the sailing, but he’ll have a more confident and knowledgeable crew member that isn’t silently muttering “it’s tipping” to herself.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Parkway Central Class of 1970 Reunion Happy Hour

I drove down Olive toward Creve Coeur Lake Road. After almost a week at my mother’s helping to get her new carpeting installed, I was heading to a happy hour organized as a run-up to the 40th reunion of my high school class this September. It was just coincidence that I happened to be in St. Louis for this event and on a whim I decided “why not”?

But as I drove there all I could think was “WHY”? I seriously considered just driving around for an hour and lying to anyone that asked about where I had been…”why yes, the happy hour? It was great fun! Saw lots of old friends!”.

But my mother’s car turned on to Creve Coeur Lake Road and continued to head toward The Lake House, where we were all supposed to meet. This wasn’t going to be a large group, maybe 10 people at the most. I recognized most of the names, but only truly remembered a few of the people that were going to attend.
I pulled into the parking lot and parked the car. I sat there and took a deep breath. GET OVER YOURSELF! I admonished. “My God, you’re 57 years old!” Ah, but high school, oh high school. Insecure, lonely, horny, pimply….as my mother so aptly put it, “you weren’t very happy in high school, were you”.

I walked into the restaurant and saw no one that looked remotely like a Parkway Reunion group, so I walked out onto the patio. As I looked around a smiling man stood up and said, “Are you looking for the Parkway group? So am I. I’m Tom Stobie”.

We started talking and laughing. No we didn’t remember each other at all. He was a wrestler, I was in choir. Our paths in our class of 600 probably never crossed. But we put those long ago kids to rest and the adults started talking.

He was a minister and had lived in New Zealand. We talked about Asia. Eventually we found the rest of the people in the group. I said hello to the few I remembered, and was only embarrassed once by someone that remembered me that I really couldn’t place (I’ll never tell!). There were several people there that took Russian with me and we tried to see how much we remembered – most of them remembered much more than I did, but then languages never were my forte.

I ended up talking to Meredith quite a lot. Her husband designs sound systems and they’ve traveled all over the world. Once again I remember her name, but not her, but what did it matter? We were all grownups that had grown up. St. Louis and Parkway Central were a common ground and a jumping off point for new friends.

Oh if I only could go back and talk to that teenager, tell her to smile at other people as she walks down the hall. Tell her not to worry so much about what other people are thinking, because they are all thinking the same things as her. They are all worried about how they appear to the world and what their place in it might be, and it’s all going to work out. But of course, being a teenager she wouldn’t have listened to me anyway.

I tried to get a picture of our happy reunion group, but realized that my camera was on movie mode when I handed it to someone to take a picture. So, I serendipitously ended up with a short video of us all laughing, which somehow is even better. For some reason the video won't upload but here is an image from the video:

Now I’m actually looking forward to this September. I think that kid might finally be over herself. So what if it took her 40 years!


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