August Wedding~Potluck


I gave up my book and my health to the month of August, to my sister’s wedding, to my roots rising up from the sea and arriving in the mountains, en masse, consuming me, until I’d forgotten why I’d left, who I was, and where I’d been heading.

It’s been more than 3 weeks since they’ve retreated, and still I am combing bits and pieces out of my hair, like seaweed, after an August swim.

I loved it as a kid. Not to eat. Never. To lift up from where it had been drying in the sun and the sand and press between finger and thumb.

Too wet and it would squish.
Too dry and it would crumble.
Just right and it would, POP!

What seaweed remains on me has long gone brittle
or is so mushy as to be unworthy of an attempt at popping.

I could complain about the weather, beautiful from the depths of my feverish days on the couch, and now that I’m standing again, dark and dreary and so cold.

But there’s Houston. And friends with cancer. And the White House. So what does my weather matter.

Still, it’s Tuesday, the last Tuesday before school steals summer, so there are cookies at the Farm Stand up the road.

Chocolate chip.

~
If I was sick, say with the flu or maybe cancer, I would lie here, on the couch, like I did for a good long while this afternoon, and do nothing, except listen–to the sound of the breeze through the trees–like I once did for an entire summer of afternoons–the summer my mother lay dying, 300 miles away, my belly full with child, searching for my mother’s face in the leaves, for any sign of her wellbeing, and later, his mouth, on my breast–and instead of getting up and pushing through this hangover of family– an August wedding–too many hellos & goodbyes–in too short a time–instead of chasing away this deep fatigue, this ache in my bones, with food or caffeine or distraction, or even this here–these words I’m expressing–I would remain effortless, without choice, with only the rise and fall of my breath, and the sound of the leaves in the breeze, and my life, my living, and maybe even the world, would be better for it.

~

Except for my husband & son, I spend most every day alone on this hill, on 7 acres (a factor which puts me at risk for dementia, my grown son warns) which leads me to marvel at the number of visiting relatives that passed through these doors–between Thursday and Monday–just about 40!

~
Not only generations gather at a wedding, but ancestors too.
I brought my Nana’s bowl and filled it with garden kale.

(August 2017)

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August Wedding


Tie for best random one-liner from family wedding weekend:

“Have I told you my opinion of fortune tellers?” (age 12)

“Did you know that there are 3 ways to put on bikini underwear?” (age 71)

The Hidden Jewel

Stieler/detail, visipix.com

I’ve emptied myself of the riches from my sister’s wedding… or so I thought.

Four consecutive posts in 48 hours are followed by silence, so naturally, I think:  I am done.

I return to my every day life of posting about the weather and the dentist and my simple world in Vermont. But then like the Princess and the Pea, I feel something rubbing. Only it’s a good thing–a hidden jewel, waiting to be claimed.

And that jewel, my friends, is my niece Brielle.

18 years ago, Brielle was given for adoption.  I stood beside her laboring mother (my brave sister) and her adoptive mother (a gracious woman named Margaret) as Brielle came into the world.

I held this baby in my arms and marveled at her dimples (just like my sister’s), and then never saw her again.

Though Brielled didn’t join our family, she joined our hearts. Her kind adoptive family sent photos over the years and every March 8th, we’d celebrate her birthday by sending words of love to my sister.

With the advent of Facebook and live chatting, Brielle’s world grew closer to ours, especially as she came of age. Soon after, the miracles of miracles occurred when Brielle came to Vermont to meet her sister and her birth mother. Within months, she was introduced to the entire family at our younger sister’s wedding shower.

There were a few awkward moments as Brielle was descended upon by this large matriarchal clan–but she quickly held her own among its bold beauties–and we were one. So much so, that the precious gift of her presence at the wedding this past August could go unnoticed; as if she was always meant to be there among the smiling faces and good spirits of our treasured nieces and nephews.

And so she is. And we are blessed!

Kelly Salasin, 2010

Sleeping Beauty–Brielle surrounded by her birth aunts (and uncle, and cousin) while she napped at my sister’s baby shower the following year.

ps. In 2013, we all descended upon Brielle’s wedding.

The Dedication of Love

My sister and her new husband.

I’ve never “witnessed” marriage vows like I did this weekend at my sister’s wedding. I’ve never “felt” them in my heart like I did then.  And, I never realized just how vital they were to be spoken until I really heard them said.

Maybe it was because I had front row seats beside my stepmom and my father.  Maybe it was because the Bride was my baby sister.

It certainly wasn’t that this bride and groom were more in love or more committed than any others–though I was deeply moved by the earnestness I saw in the Groom’s tender brown eyes.  (I had to restrain myself from jumping over to the other side of the aisle to catch my sister’s gaze.)

Maybe it’s my age.  Maybe I’ve finally arrived at that sentimental stage.  Maybe because having been married 20 years, I know how much is at stake on that altar.

But my ten-year old son in the tux felt it too, as evidenced by what he had to say on the ride home from the reception just before he fell to sleep:

My ten-year old took his role very seriously 🙂

I kept thinking to myself, ‘Bonnie and Mark are getting married, right NOW.  Bonnie and Mark are getting married, right NOW.”

As the ring bearer, Aidan refused to dress down–even after the Groom himself had removed his suit.”I’m uncomfortable,” he said about the shoes and the tie and the suspenders, “But I’m dedicated to the look.”

Dedication.

That’s what I felt.

I felt the importance of those words being spoken in front of all those who support the union–and in the face of all those who hold doubt.

I felt the energy of commitment “touch” and unify us all.

I don’t know what will become of their marriage.  They’re old enough to make wise enough choices in a mate.  They know themselves.  But surely there is growth to be had–and growth isn’t always easy–and because of that, marriages don’t always last.

But I know this--there was an energy to those spoken vows, and that energy, should it be kept alive, will sustain them through thick and thin, richer or poorer, in sickness and health–even after death doth them part.

So be it.

Kelly Salasin, August 23, 2010.

Recommendation:  Here’s a movie that lives and breathes the dedication of love–in the face of everything:  Once Around.

The Inside-Out Family

“Build It and They Will Come.”

Some families are created from the top down, others from the inside out. Ours was both.

Years ago I wrote about the devastating loss of our family–set into motion when the matriarch, my grandmother, was killed in a tragic car accident; and receiving its final blow when my parents’ marriage disintegrated and they fell into relationships that didn’t honor the “whole.”

My seven siblings and I found ourselves in a no-man’s land, without parents, without a “family” home, without the ties that once defined and held us in place.Those were painful years of neglect, but over time we began to rebuild our family–from the inside out.

For years, we had been forced into separation--no more clearly illuminated than the day I collected my younger siblings from their separate homes for a rare afternoon together at my apartment.   Three-year old April asked 8 year-old Lauren if  she could sleep over her house.

“No that wouldn’t work,” Lauren answered with the worn-out resignation of one much older.  She didn’t even need to ask my stepmother and father, she just knew that they would never allow these new half-siblings in their home.   Three-year old April also “knew” not to question the response and never to ask again.

My stepmother had repeatedly questioned why I needed to bring the kids together at all, and she made it almost impossible to do so.  She emphasized that they were only “half” siblings, while I emphasized that we were once a “whole” family.

Ten years later, we claimed that “wholeness” as we publicly stood as “one”  at our mother’s funeral.  My “half” brother Danny and I both spoke, while my “half” sister April and two more sisters offered a reading, while others sisters danced or sang or prayed.

“That was the best funeral that I’ve ever attended,” my father said of his ex-wife’s service.  “It was better than most weddings.”

Surprising us all, our estranged father cried openly through the funeral requiring my stepmother to hand him a steady supply of tissues.  Looking back, that was the beginning of his attraction to what we had created without him.

That Christmas, on my mother’s birthday, we received unexpected presents in the mail. What made these gifts extra special was that they came from one of my stepmother’s closest friends–who in a act of great kindness and good will–included all of us in the gifting–even the half-siblings that my father and stepmother had rejected. Each year, I unwrap that glass candle snifter from it’s crimson bag and remember the healing and promise it gave.

Three years later, when my nephew graduated from highschool, my father surprised us again by flying down with our stepmom to join us–even after my sister clearly explained that our “half-siblings” would be a part of every gathering that took place.

Things went seamlessly well, until the last evening, on the occasion of my brother Danny’s birthday, when my father had too much to drink.  There were words and explosions and much, much grief.

My father didn’t talk to me for over a year after that which was a grievous loss of something newly gained, but I sustained myself in the strength of know that I had defined a line which he was never to cross again. “We are a family,” I told him, “It’s not our fault what happened between you and Mom.”

We siblings hobbled along in the absence of our shared mother and in the absence of a unifying father, for years, but we were blessed again when my step-grandmother moved back “home” and welcomed us–ALL–into her home.   Nana Judi offered us a place to gather around the table even when that table included her stepson (my father) and her good friend (my stepmother.)

Soon after, my sister and her husband also moved back “home” and built a house that would accommodate us all.  Now we could stay together on holidays and weekends without much ado.

Friday evening was our first family wedding since our mother’s passing ten years ago this summer.  Her namesake was the one to be wed, and each of us was in the wedding party, without question.

Sisters, half-sisters, nieces, step daughters, ALL.

Photos did not discriminate between my father’s and my stepfather’s children and neither did tables or smiles or hugs.

Even my stepmother was gracious and kind, as was my father when presented with my stepfather’s hand.

Our love, the love of siblings, was infectious, and quite attracting.  For so many years we did acrobatics for my father’s attention and approval, but now it was he, who was drawn to us, like a bee to sweet nectar.

As my sister and her fiance spoke their vows, it didn’t matter whether my dad and stepmom approved or didn’t approve.  It didn’t matter that my father almost missed the rehearsal or that my stepmother didn’t order the best wine.  What prevailed was the enduring quality of devotion and love–

20 years later, our "baby sister" April (right) can sleep over her "big sister" Lauren's house ANYtime she wants! 🙂

and that,

was something

that we had created

among ourselves.

Kelly Salasin, August 22, 2010

Sweet Spirit

I slip off my pumps and lift my swollen feet to the seat of an empty chair beside the head table as the wedding band begins its third set.

Earlier in the evening, the dance floor brimmed with middle-agers like myself, but as the night grows older, the crowd grows younger, and the music belongs to them.

The dining hall is gracefully adorned in soft oranges and tender greens–orchids and satin–but the beautiful tables sit are abandoned now.

A few onlookers like myself are sprinkled here and there–a grandmother, an aunt, a pregnant woman, a teenage girl, a guy in a cast.

Everyone else is at the bar, or in the lounge or outside under the moon.

Bright faces beckon me back to the dance floor, but I shake my head and point to my feet with the sudden realization that I appreciate the pause that comes with age.  It lets me take it all in.

This… is… my… baby… sister’s… wedding day.

The night before the ceremony, I stop at our mother’s house, where my stepfather lives.  Though he has remodeled the place in so many beautiful ways, the vacuum of her absence has never been filled.

It appears as if he only inhabits the new additions–the upstairs suite, the expanded kitchen, the bayside deck–while the original living space which she occupied, remains emptied–or cluttered with her belongings.

Over the years, signs of my mother’s life have gradually been extracted: The phone number is no longer hers.  The table where she sat and drank her coffee is gone.  The large gilded mirror that hung above it too.  The china cabinet stands emptied. Her bedroom is gutted.  There is no sign of the original kitchen where she cooked or the bathroom where she bathed.

Other things remain exactly as she left them–untouched–as if she was still there.

Each time I step into the house, I feel adrift, tossed between the shores of memory and loss; and the promise of something yet unseen.

The new deck off the kitchen has a gorgeous view of the bay less than a block away.  As I breathe in the luminescent greens of the marshlands, I am struck that I never noticed how close the water was before.

I feel the same surprise when I step into my mother’s empty dining room and notice the expanse of bay windows there, where once the family computers dominated the view.

But it is my mother’s desk to which I return each time I come–and it is always the same–as it was on the day she died, ten years ago this summer.

The glass enclosed case above her desk holds her favorite books including her sustaining reads:  The Twelve Steps, The Courage to Change, The Tarot.

Photos of my first born still line the doors.  He’s a baby in one, holding the 1996 Olympic torch as it passes through our town, and he is a preschooler in another, standing at the kitchen sink. Now he is in highschool.

Beside the photos is a pink embroidered book mark with my mother’s name.  I take it down and marvel at it again, as if for the first time:

Bonnie

“Sweet Spirit”

“How true,” I think, remembering her.

It is my mother’s namesake, my baby sister Bonnie, who asks me to stand up at her wedding to honor our Mother.  I am humbled and honored by the request and work to capture  the essence of her spirit in what I speak.

Just as I step down from the altar after this gift, a butterfly passes under the tent where 180 guests are gathered.  Among these guests are divorced relatives, divided families, diseased relationships and damaged souls–but this is not what rises to the surface when I look around.

Good will and grace abound.

I see the good will of my father as he greets the man who took his wife.

I see the good will of my stepmother as she returns with a glass of wine for the daughter who once caused her so much grief.

I see family members embrace and welcome those who have been estranged.

I see different faiths honoring each others ways.

I see children leaning into the bellies of new aunts and uncles, fully blending the families that have joined today.

Everywhere I look, I see love and the sweetness of spirit rising.  No doubt my mother is here.

Kelly Salasin, August 21, 2010

“My Bonnie”

(This was the honoring spoken for our late mother at my sister Bonnie’s wedding.)

“My Bonnie lies over the ocean

My Bonnie lies over the sea

My Bonnie lies over the ocean

So bring back my Bonnie to me”

Klimt, Island in Attersee (visipix.com)

As Bonnie’s oldest sister, I have the privilege of honoring our mother–who we lost 10 years ago this summer.

However before I do that, I’d like to honor all the other women who have loved on our Bon Bon over the years—from each of her sisters–Robin, Michelle, Stephanie, Lauren & April; to all the mothers of her friends, to our stepmom MaryAnne who raised Bonnie since she was a little girl; to the grandmothers here: our Nana Judi and MaryAnne’s mom Lorraine, to the grandmothers who have passed–Mildred, Loretta and Lila (for whom Bonnie has her middle name) to all the aunts, including my mom’s sister Chrissy who is here today.

I imagine my mom smiling down as Bonnie continues to receive your love today and in the future—and I can see her beaming at gift of a new mother in Suzanne Brown, the groom’s mother, whose deep affection for Bonnie is healing for us all.

As some of you know, Bonnie is my mother’s namesake.  Not only that, but they shared a passion for breakfast—particularly for Eggs Benedict—for which Bonnie and Mark have been known to travel great distances.

They also shared a passion for coffee.  In fact, on the September morning my mother died, it wasn’t until Bonnie left her side to put on the coffee that she finally let go.

Van Gogh

A few months back, I had a vivid dream about being with my mother again and I woke up and sent an email to my sisters and brother Danny, asking

How would you spend the gift of another hour with Mom?”

Bonnie’s response was no surprise. She would spend the time sitting at my mother’s table, drinking coffee, telling her about her new life—with Mark and Marlo. (There’d  probably be some talk about Facebook and i phones too 🙂

But then Bonnie offered a runner up for her hour with Mom.  She said she’d like to go back in time to the morning the two of them caught the bridge on their way to her dentist appointment.

Sisley/detail visipix.com

Instead of fretting over the minutes passing as they waited for the boat to approach and for the bridge to slowly open and close, they began making up songs—about bridges and dentists and boats.

Singing was always a part of our lives with Mom. In fact, most of us had on own special song, with our name in it–that served as our personal lullaby.

Robin’s was Rocking Robin, Michelle’s was Michelle my Belle, Steph’s Winnie the Pooh, Lauren’s was Tora Lora Lora, and Dan’s was of course, Danny Boy.

Can anyone guess which song might have been Bonnie’s?

(A cellist plays a few my bars of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”)

It’s a funny thing to be 15 years older than your sister.  It gives you a perspective that you wouldn’t have if you were closer in age.  I can clearly remember the day that we found out that Bonnie was coming.

It was a Sunday evening when my parents collected us in the livingroom to watch a Nova special on pregnancy and birth, after which my physician father—who surely orchestrated the whole evening—told us the news.

The four of us girls were ecstatic and begged my mother to hand over her address book so that we could call every relative and friend with the good news.

Just like today.

Happy Wedding Day Bon Bon.

Kelly, August 20, 2010

The Gift of Vanity

Morisot (visipix.com)

At the top of the hour, a good friend’s son will become a husband.  This friend is the first among my peers to cross this threshold, which makes her unexpected phone call this morning even more precious.

Upon hearing her voice, I expect a last minute request for earrings or chairs or something approaching crisis;  but she simply calls to tell me, “I get it.

She is speaking of the intangible, the subtle, the sublime gift of motherhood and aging and our rightful place as “Queen.”

In response, I feel like Moses.  It was I who had long ago promised this “Queenhood” to all my friends approaching middle age–while just glimpsing it myself.  Furthermore, I spent this morning fretting over how much I wasn’t “getting it” while packing for my own sister’s wedding.

Instead of steeping in meaning like my friend, I am driven to distraction by appearance. While I’m relieved of the painful preoccupation with looks that plagued my youth, certain events still trigger my feelings of “not good enough.”

Ironically, just before my friend’s call, I had been scolding myself for allowing my hair, my body, my weight, my skin spots, my imperfectly shaved legs, my crooked toenails, my misshapen eyebrows, my jiggly bits and my overall middle-aged inadequacy to take precedence over the importance of the sacred occasion of my sister’s betrothal.

I blamed my father, my family, my culture, my gender, but ultimately I felt alone in my inadequacy–until it occurred to me that “appearance” was a convenient distraction–for us all.

If we can give an inordinate amount of attention to our appearance, then there’s less time left over to face that which really matters. Given this perspective, I can see that most of life is lived in distraction–only we’re too distracted to notice–or too afraid.

What is it that I’m afraid to face when it comes to my baby sister’s wedding?

The absence of our mother.

When my sister asked me, months ago, to honor our Mom during the ceremony, I was certain of my place; But now, only a few days before the wedding, I’m tremulous.

How can I stand up and speak of love when I want to scream at the injustice of our mother’s passing?  How can words fill the vacuum of her space on this precious day?

Which brings me back to nail polish….burgundy or beige?

Kelly Salasin, August 2010

Wedding Artifact 1990

Itemized list. Wedding costs. 1990.
200+ people in attendance.

Engagement Ring: 2,500

Wedding Bands: 200

Engagement Party: 100

Invitations (printing, postage, mailing, other stationery):  340

Restaurant Reception:  6,700

Wedding Party gifts: 350

Florist: 1,166

DJ: 260

Wedding Gown: 476

Veil:  138

Shoes: 52

Fitting/seamstress: 245

Wedding Cake: 320

Other Bakery: 139

Trolley (transportation for wedding party): 380

Limousine: 215

Photographer:  400

Videographer: 300

Church fees/organist/cleaner/etc: 250

Hotel (before & after wedding): 398

Pre-Honeymoon 3 day Getaway: 600

Misc: 200

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