When my husband Todd and I got married, we viewed it as a celebration. We invited 225 of our closest family and friends, people who helped us become the people who we are, the ones who loved us and guided us, shared our life’s moments, etc. We created the reception on a budget. I sewed the men’s shirts who were in the wedding party- blue linen Missouri River boatmen shirts with handmade lace. The girls’ dresses were blue flowered prairie dresses with lace. We made our own flower bouquets but the most fun part- we cooked all our food for 225 people, with help of course. We baked 60 loaves of homemade bread- recipes from around the world and froze them. We roasted a pig. We made huge pots of chicken corn noodle soup for our Pennsylvania German relatives…a salad bar- an ice cream sundae bar. We wanted all our favorite foods there for all our favorite people. We had a bluegrass band and our dear friend called some square dances like the Virginia Reel. It cost about $2,000. We had plenty of money left over in our accounts to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail. People still say it was the best wedding they ever attended- the most fun. Todd and I say it was the best wedding we ever attended too! The great part was that all our favorite people in the world were there that day to help us celebrate what has become a fantastic marriage and life together.
BUT, the most impacting part was at the wedding itself, not the reception. When our dear priest made Todd and I turn around and look at those who were present in the church. He said, “These loved ones are here today, not just to celebrate with you but to stand as a reminder that they are there for you, now and throughout your entire marriage, for support, advice, all kinds of help should you need it. Use them. Marriage is hard. You can’t do this alone.” That made a big impression on us.
So when my daughter Sierra announced that her and her fiancé Eben Yonetti were thinking they were going to hold their wedding at a Buddhist stupa in a remote state park in New York, I was taken back. This religious monument normally houses relics and devotees walk the kora around it…moving through prayer beads and spinning prayer wheels as your prayers rise up to Buddha. Eben is a Buddhist (Sierra is not) but the stupa means a lot to both of them. They met in Nepal during a study abroad program and lived in a Tibetan exile neighborhood where a very big and beautiful stupa was the central focus of the community.
Okay. I get that. But how are we going to stage a wedding reception up there? Where will anyone sleep? How will we get the food up there? (in the back of our pick-up, she tells me- her father and I will drive it up) Who will make that trip? Whoever wants to, she tells me. Whoever feels it’s important to be at her wedding. It IS her and Eben’s wedding.
So I have been thinking about this. As she and her fiancé hike the Colorado Trail, amazing things have been happening to her- people have been coming out of the woodwork to help them on their journey. People whose lives she touched growing up. There is Wally & Laura White in Durango- who were responsible for getting our family onto llamas in the first place 21 years ago. Wally saw that little pee wee Sierra as a three year old ride her llama up the Colorado Trail. They hosted Sierra & Eben when they flew into Colorado and got them started on the trail. Next was Stacy & Grriz Boone- old friends from our long distance hiking association (ALHDA) who watched Sierra grow up at the Gatherings. They made a long drive up to a remote Colorado Pass and helped them resupply. Then there was Carolyn & Bill Schwartz, my travel writing friend who joined us on cycling the Camino de Santiago about ten years ago. They welcomed them into their home while they resupplied in town and treated them like family. But what takes the cake is Gail Story and her husband Porter. Gail wrote an award-winning book about her Pacific Crest Trail adventure, “I Promise Not to Suffer.” She is a huge supporter of me and has commented on my blog more than any other follower. She is Sierra & Eben’s support in Boulder, where they will be moving now that the Colorado Trail is over as they attend the university for graduate school.
Gail and her husband, Porter welcomed them when they arrived, allowed them to park their loaded cars in her driveway for a month while they hiked, had a welcome dinner for them when they completed the trail and insisted on buying them a huge hotel room for three days to sort out their gear and get ready to move into their apartment. At the hotel front desk, Sierra was arguing with Gail to pay but Gail would have no parts of it. The front desk clerk said, “She must be family or a lifelong friends to be taking care of you like this. “
Sierra said no, actually, we had never met before this. HER MOTHER never even met this wonderful friend who was taking care of my child as if she were her own. It makes your heart swell with gratitude that there are such wonderful, loving, supportive people in your life.
Well, Gail and her husband Porter won’t be coming to Sierra & Eben’s wedding across the country and neither will Wally & Laura nor Stacy & Griz nor Carolyn & Bill. But I bet they would like to. But there are friends right here who would absolutely love to be present as this most fantastic celebration of Sierra & Eben’s new life together, friends who played such a big part in raising this child of mine. And they won’t be making that trip to the New York Buddhist stupa, either. And that makes me sad.
Sierra tells me that this is her and Eben’s wedding and that it is. But I can’t help feeling like they will be missing out for they won’t be able to turn around and look out over all those smiling, teary-eyed faces whose hearts are just brimming over with love and support, who will be saying “We are here for you. Use us.”
But it’s not my wedding. I had my wedding.
..maybe we can have another wedding reception here later ……