Tag Archives: marriage

The First Big Trip — Part Two

Can it even be called “Part Two” when “Part One” was two months ago?  I don’t want to think about it.

Let’s instead focus on the wedding of the year.  This wedding was spectacular for a myriad of reasons: it was the marriage of one of my best, closest friends I’ve known since I was 13, it took place at an extraordinary farm on the same road as the farm my parents lived on during their first year of marriage (I mean, seriously!), and it was on July 26 — the twins’ first birthday!  All of this just further reinforces our life-long friendship connection.

Plus it was gorgeous.  But when this lady is the star of the show, isn’t that obvious?


The ceremony was a Catholic mass, which was beautiful and solemn and celebratory all at once.  The bride’s brother sang, her sister served as maid of honor, and her parents radiated joy the entire day (that’s her happy mom Anne to the left in the photo).

Plus this was the jaw-dropping cathedral.


Amy married Brian, who you may remember from Italy, and he is one of the funniest and most generous people I know.  Now, he’s also one of the luckiest.


Side note: that dress.  I cannot even.  It is exquisite.

During the ceremony my family took care of the babies, one of whom fell fast asleep.  Hint: it wasn’t the one in the tiny tan suit, it was the one in the tiny Parisian dress.



Their bridal party was top-notch — entirely supportive, hugely fun, and, if I may say, uncommonly attractive — check us out just working it during the photo sesh:



They couldn’t have been more welcoming to this lone bridesmaid from the west, to the point that I’m keeping in touch with a few of them…this bride has great taste in friends.

Plus we really excelled at kicking back.


The reception site was a completely updated and renovated farm.  It had a gorgeous hundreds-year-old farmhouse where the ladies got ready, a refurbished barn for the dinner and dancing, and picture-perfect grounds with lush weeping willows and a peaceful pond.



I mean, look at that magazine-worthy barn.


Amy is probably the most thoughtful bride I’ve ever encountered.  She told her photographer in advance to take family photos of us because it was the twins’ birthday.  We couldn’t believe it and we’re so thrilled with these priceless memories we’ll always treasure.

A little back story: last year, the babies were scheduled for induction on July 25, and I was so wrapped up in that it didn’t even occur to me that the following day was the one-year-prior-to-the-wedding day.  Once the babies were born on that day instead, I think it took a full day afterward, in my drug-addled state, to turn to my mom and say, “Wait, what day is Amy’s wedding?  Is it today next year?  Were the babies born on her wedding day?”  And as I said it I knew.  And I felt a mix of new-mom joy and anxiety, with an exclamation-ridden thought train that looked like this:

“Oh my gosh Amy and Brian and the twins are going to share this day forever!!”

“Amy will be with the twins on their birthday!”

“I’m a bridesmaid so I will be busy the whole day…away from my babies on their first birthday…I had these children hours ago and I’m already feeling like the worst mom ever for missing their birthday!”

“It doesn’t matter, this is her WEDDING day!  FAR more important than a million birthdays!”

“We can just have their birthday party the week before!  This isn’t a big deal at all!”

“I can’t be away from them on their first birthday!  I am just going to pretend this isn’t happening until it is.”

“I hope this doesn’t occur to Amy so she doesn’t worry about it!  It’s NOT her problem, she’s the BRIDE!”

You can see I didn’t over-think it at all.

Well, I shouldn’t have given it any thought.  Amy humbled me to my knees with a mini-birthday party right in the middle of the reception.


Her parents announced that it was Henry and Arden’s birthday and out came custom cupcakes and the entire room of guests sang happy birthday.  I was so moved, so totally overwhelmed, I did a lot of the thrilled-while-half-crying face.  A lot.



Who’s the luckiest boy in the room?  Usually the groom.  In this moment, Henry.


In a moment I’ll always remember, Mike lifted Arden high in his arms and she did what she always does when he does that — she kicked her legs in unison and we yelled “swim swim swim!” while she went crazy with happiness.  To our surprise, everyone started yelling “swim swim swim!” and she just kicked her little heart out.




My heart was so full.  Standing next to the new Mrs. Fuga, surrounded by her wonderful family and mine, amazed that we’ve been friends since she was 12 and I was 13 — and here she was yielding the spotlight on her biggest day to celebrate my precious babies.  It was just overwhelming and so undeserved.


After dinner…the dancing, which was phenomenal.  It may be worth your time to inquire about this DJ.  He killed it.



(Bridal party entrances are key.)


Weddings with family are everything.

What a spectacular wedding filled with an enormous amount of love.


And I have this girl to thank.  Seventeen years and counting, my friend!  Cheers to you on marrying the love of your life.  Thank you for allowing us to share in your joy.



Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

A Life Well Lived

My grandmother, Charlotte Maxine Allison McMurtry, lived 89 years, two months and 9 days.

She was married to my grandfather for 67 years, three months and 13 days.

She had four children (one of whom is my mother), eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Those are the facts; remarkable, but still just facts.  Those words don’t have her life breathed into them.

Isn’t she a classic beauty?

The thing about my grandma is that she was very comfortable occupying two sides of the same coin.  She was relentlessly well-presented, but equally down-to-earth.  She didn’t like a lot of fuss, would actually scoff if one complimented her, but she also never missed her weekly salon appointment to have her hair professionally styled.  Even at 89.

This is a woman who, in the last weeks of her life, still insisted that her nails be filed and polished to a perfect rose red.  You just don’t find women of her caliber every day; she inhabited a personal standard that felt like it belonged to a bygone era, which is probably why it enchanted me so completely.

1985 with Grandpa holding my cousin Allie

I don’t mean to singularly emphasize external poise, but she was such an icon for me in my 27 years that it’s hard to gloss over her timeless style.  Of course she was everything a good grandmother should be: warm, funny, loving, generous.  But I am afraid if I highlight only those attributes — the virtuous, Godly, kind woman that she was — then the sparkling, unique part of her may be lost, and I couldn’t bear that.

We were very close, closer than many of the grandmother-grandchild relationships I see around me.  I think our relationship was so easily built because I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in my life.  When I was little, both of my parents worked, and my grandparents lived just a few miles away, so they would watch us during the day until my mom and dad got home.  It was only a couple of years, since eventually we started school, but through that precious time we came to know them intimately.

2010 seven of the grandkids celebrating Grandpa's 88th birthday

We had inside jokes, special traditions, and a bond that felt as reliable as the rising of the sun.  We had these things until the day she passed, and with my grandpa, we still have them.

That’s the other thing about my grandma: you can hardly begin a sentence about her without including my grandfather in the thought.  After an epic 67 year marriage, it’s easy to see why we all view them as one entity, one soul with two bodies.  They have always been the pillars of our family, quietly exhibiting their selfless love for one another and for us.  When I think about it now, I realize I’ve been a student in the greatest marriage class ever taught.

No one talks about the end of a marriage, do they?  The end is much quieter, much more private.  There aren’t invitations sent, locations booked, and dresses purchased like there is at the beginning.  There isn’t loud music and public proclamations of love.  Toasts aren’t given, presents are not sent.

Watching my grandfather care for my grandmother for the last couple of months, I learned that devotion isn’t proved on the wedding day, not at all.  Devotion is proved when the husband is staying up all night with his wife as she battles her weakening body.  It’s proved when he attends to her every need, sacrificing to make her as comfortable as possible.  It’s moving toward her, not away, when her mobility shrinks from just quick car trips, to just inside the house, to just the living room, to just this chair.  Devotion and love are being present, every day and every night, until the moment comes when the Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, I’ll take it from here.”

That’s exactly what my grandfather did: he cared for my grandmother every day for 67 years, and he was holding her hand when she passed.  It’s something untouchable, something so remarkable that everyone in my family is still standing in awe.  Because what more can you ask for, really?  What more can there be in life than to share another person’s entire existence, and then usher them into heaven?

2009 at my cousin Amy's wedding

The magnitude of her life and their love is what makes writing about it so complex.  No words can ever do it justice, no essay can capture all her days and the relationships she shared.  I feel especially inadequate when I consider that I’m only able to record one of her relationships, because it’s the only one I was a part of — her relationship with me.  Sitting down to write about that is like trying to write about what it feels like to have sight — how can you describe something if you’ve never not had it?  Since I’ve had my grandma from the beginning of my life, how can I explain what my life with her was like? 

I suppose the best I can do is explain how it feels not to have her now, which is like not having sight, I suppose, because everything is a little darker.  She’s only been gone a month, so I think of things I need to call and tell her, and then I remember that I can’t.  Her absence is incredibly surreal, and it pains me to think of the things I won’t get to experience with her: having kids, visiting her, and creating future memories.  Missing her creates a visceral ache that rises quickly to the surface at the slightest provocation, but it’s an ache that is always welcome because I’d rather miss her intensely than not think of her at all.

2010 all four of their children together: Deb, Beth, Alyson and Jimmy

So I will.  I will think of her, I will talk to her, and I will wait for the day when I’ll see her again.  I know for her it will pass in the blink of an eye, and that comforts me more than I can say.  For the rest of us, time will move much more slowly.  But that’s okay, because I know she wants me to live my life, and love my husband, and laugh out loud, and hug my future children, and wear pretty things, and spend time with my parents, and serve others, and drink a glass of rose, and travel the world and thank the Lord I get to do it at all.  She, along with my grandfather and parents, is the reason I have life in the first place, so the best way to honor her is to live it, and live it well. 

Meema, here’s to living a life that would make you proud.


Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

Blurring the Line Between Aunt-al and Parental

It’s not every day one gets to fully immerse oneself into the life of a parent.  OK, “fully immerse” might be a strong description for a 40 hour experience, but it was legitimate all the same.

Last weekend, Mike and I babysat for our nieces and nephew while their parents were attending a wedding in Los Angeles.  The three small fries live in Cheney, WA, so it wasn’t as if we meandered next door for a casual sleepover.  We left Friday after work and arrived at 8PM to relieve the babysitter who was minding the gap between the parents’ departure and our arrival.

The kids go to bed at 7PM, so we were expecting an evening of quiet, perhaps watching a movie and having a glass of wine.  But when we walked in the front door, we looked up the staircase and saw the oldest, Josiah, standing at full attention.

Mike and I have opposite instincts, of course.  I’m instantly like, “Let’s say hi to him and then guide him back to bed.”  Mike is like, “Look — he wants to be with his Uncle Mikey!  And Uncle Mikey breaks the rules!  Because Uncle Mikey rules!”  I rolled my eyes and pointed to the three page Word document Uncle Mikey’s sister had left us, which clearly states bedtime is 7PM.  Uncle Mikey just started looking for snacks.

We let seven-year-old Jo, as he’s called, stay up to the breaking-dawn hour of 9PM, and then he headed to bed without complaint.  Mike and I poured a glass of wine and watched “Touching the Void,” because 90% of the DVDs on their Netflix live-stream were about mountain climbing — a true testament to the mountain climbing man of the house.

This was not a smart movie choice for me, because it set me on edge and made me think of darkness and cold and ice and danger — not ideal for babysitting in the middle of a prairie.  I told Mike my concerns and he scoffed, “We’re in the middle of NOWHERE.  Who would come rob us in the night when we’re half a mile from a paved road?!”  It occurred to me this was the second time that evening that our logics left us in completely different places; to me, us being in the middle of a prairie only means that no one is around to hear my screams.

Dramatic, I know.

Uncle Mikey’s sister, Wendy, mentioned that it would be normal if their three-year-old, Ellie, woke up crying and came to sleep with us in the middle of the night.  I thought that was not a big deal at all, until I realized as I lay in bed that it would mean a door swinging open at any hour in the middle of my REM cycle.  Since the thought of this made my heart clench with anxiety, my body decided the best solution would be not to sleep at all.

Ergo, welcome to motherhood!

Come she did, like clockwork, and I was alert and ready for it.  She came to the side of the bed and seemed not at all alarmed that the mother she was expecting was, in fact, her aunt.  She just reached her arms out and climbed right in next to me, cuddling close.

The instantaneous feeling of being so completely necessary, so utterly comforting to this little girl made me wonder how I ever could have mistaken this event with something terrifying.  I was so overcome with the desire to make everything peaceful for her, that I dared not move even long after my arm had fallen completely asleep under the weight of her little blonde head.

We stayed that way, still, silent, sleeping (one of us, anyway) until I knew it would be five long hours to morning if I didn’t make a small adjustment.  I slipped my arm out from under her and rolled toward snoring Uncle Mikey, expecting that she would be really annoyed that I had ruined everything with my need to sleep.  Instead, as if we slept that way every night, she threw her tiny arm around my neck and spooned me, and I thought I would die of unknown causes relating to adoration of Ellie.

Ergo, welcome to motherhood!

(Editor’s note: I am not pregnant, but merely sharing the cracking of my black heart. End quote.)


Filed under One WORD (Current Events)