This morning my little butterfly asked: “Where are we going today Mommy? Africa, Europe, Asia?”
The day of the wedding finally arrived. I readied my little girl to her finest curled perfection and dressed her in the fall colored dress my mom made for the occasion. I left Parker with my husband and dad so the ladies could all hurry off to my sister’s cabin in the woods. Thank goodness she happened to pull up the country road behind us to follow her through the winding twists and turns we would never have found on our own.
Heather was radiating with bridal thrills and couldn’t wait to get the ceremony and celebration started. My sister-in-law immediately went to work on her hair spraying, twisting and pinning. Her soon to be sister-in-law prepared mimosas, because what bride prep wouldn’t be complete without some champagne? My sister’s NY family/friends had made amazing individual gift bags of products, I shamelessly would never be able to justify buying on my own. Although I had already gotten dolled up back at the hotel, I wanted to start over with my new colors… Instead I took pictures and waited by my sister as her cup holder.
Once hair was set and make-up applied, my mom assisted Heather with putting on her dress. While dress shopping I warned my sister not to find one too fast and to let Mom help with putting it on. I remembered back to my own dress shopping, my mom was loving trying on dresses more than me. Not just looking at them, the actual helping wrestle into them, lacing, zipping and adjusting. I felt like I was taking a favorite hobby from her when I decided on one dress. I knew that moment between my mom and sister was a special one, the final time she would be zipping up a daughter, I’m sure one or both of them had a tear. She emerged from the bedroom, adorn with her beautifully simple satin gown to admiration. Her soon to be mother-in-law helped with the finishing sentimental touches; jewelry from each of the grandmas who wouldn’t be physically present for the day. Upon final observation at herself in the mirror the bride reported “Damn, I’d marry that.”
All of the guests were present when we arrived at her fiancé’s uncles’ cabin. It was just the atmosphere they had planned, immediate family and a few close city friends on a cool fall day. The party was underway as many guests had already poured drinks and were enjoying each other’s company on the deck. Heather did a little touch-up in the bedroom before meeting our dad on the side of the house ready for her big entrance. Guests found their seats, Parker and her cousins were ready in their claimed row holding hands.
My sister was stunning and my dad proud as they walked through the row of pumpkins, up the steps and down the aisle towards her waiting groom. I wondered if he was as shocked as we all had been when she decided to wear a veil, if he was it was masked by the expression of pure happiness when he saw her. The ceremony was officiated by her fiancé’s uncle, and he spoke to how honored he was to be asked and to be able to share his cabin for the event.
Following the ceremony, traditional wedding pictures were taken. I acted as the photographer, keeping within the conditions they didn’t want strangers as part of the day at all. They report they love the pictures, however, it was crazy anxiety provoking to know the pictures they will look back on FOREVER from this day are
ones I am responsible for or responsible for messing up. And simultaneously with pictures the party began. A full bar, lawn games, socializing, adventures in the woods and crafts for kids, appetizers and dancing on the deck. Once pictures were taken, some suits were replaced with jeans. My husband also wanted to participate in dressing down, except his hodge podge of what he happened to bring must have been frightening to our company of high-class New Yorkers. Imagine dress shoes, funky dress socks, light blue shorts and a black college hoodie.
With my sister living half a country away, I was removed from all she had been doing with wedding details. Her attention to including grandparents into the day was thoughtful testament to how much they both appreciate their families. On her bouquet was a thread of small pictures of four sets of grandparents. Heather hand painted wine, martini and brewery glasses with trees and fall leaves especially for the day. Inside the cabin it was clear she spent a huge effort on exactly how she wanted the tables to appear with table cloths, runners, flower arrangements, and candle holders created the day before out of split logs and gourds. And just like there was no professional photographer, there was no professional caterer, although you would think the fajita dinner was professionally done.
Since Parker already adores her uncle and his family, I was thrilled she would be able to meet his other significant family there. It was a magical evening to watch her and her cousins interact with his family as if they had known each other their whole lives. Throughout the day and into the night laughter and happiness came from two people and their families, the pieces fit just as they were meant to. It was comfortable, intimate and personal just as they had been planning.
On Sunday, we figured since we had made our way to the Catskills of New York, we would need to visit Woodstock. Disappointed by the fact that the actual farm where the hippie festival took place is not even near Woodstock, we still enjoyed the town, the hippie shops, hippie restaurants and hippie signs warning to STOPFracking. My husband, parents and child found our way to the Woodstock Flea Market where we searched for an inexpensive replacement wedding band for my husband and settled for a hippie-toy guitar for Parker. What could be more fitting as a souvenir from Woodstock? We made one last rendezvous with the married couple before they headed back to New York City. It would only be a few more days before we’d see them again for more wedding celebrations back in Kansas City.
What do you mean you pack for him? The criticism was at the forefront of my mind as the cabin doors were closing and I stared at the vacant seat across the aisle from me. I had chuckled at the idea of my friend packing for her husband on their trips, believing a grown man should be doing this for himself. Except in the moment when my husband was still maneuvering TSA and our flight was securing its doors, I wished I had just packed his bag.
We arrived at the airport early, like the kind of early I will only wake for travel. We were traveling as a family with my parents to my sister’s wedding in the Catskills of New York. To say I was eager to get there is minimizing the feeling, I was ecstatic, the wedding celebrations were all I had been thinking about for weeks. The anticipation of a year and a half engagement, ten-year relationship and all the suspense in sharing details for where in the world the ceremony would be had amounted to the peak of mania. Who would have known the airport would have been buzzing with business before six o’clock AM, lines seemed longer than I’ve seen them in years for our convenient Midwestern airport. My parents and I adjusted baggage, ensured my four year-old Parker was holding a hand and prepared to find our way to the terminal. My husband slowed with a look of confused concern, “I have to check my bag.” He borrowed a garment bag for the trip so that he could carry his suit neatly for the wedding. My mom stepped in to reassure him the bag can be a carry-on and will fit in the overhead bin. The concerned expression continued as he realized even if the size would fit he made packing errors which would make it impossible to bring it as a carry-on and began making his trek to the airline counter.
Security agents and airline personnel were as pleasant and accommodating as a box of hungry hedgehogs. We watched him through the glass standing in the TSA line making slow progress to get closer to where we were. I boarded the plane with Parker and my parents knowing my husband had not yet taken his shoes off but was literally a few sprints from where I sat. The stewardess ignored my attention seeking as if it was impossible to stop checking seat belts to address a customer. When she finally returned to my panic, she frankly reported “The plane is finished boarding.” On the phone, my husband’s irritation was growing as he explained how they had only one line to accommodate security screens and chose him for a random search. He added he was one of six people getting slowed down by processes who were meant to board the same flight.
By the time the flight was in the air I was fighting tears, all the excitement I had building about this amazing weekend were starting with a major absence. I didn’t know what to be more mad about: TSA for only having one line to screen people, the airline for not ushering people who needed to get to flights, the fact that more than 2 oz of body wash is treated like gun powder to carry onto the plane, my perfectly-planned-for-travel pixie pants creating a sad muffin top or that I should have just packed the damn bag and avoided this. By the time we got to flying over Washington DC (our connecting airport) and circling over for twenty minutes, then landing only to taxi for an additional 15 minutes; I decided my aggression was focused on US Airlines for insisting we had an on-time departure from Kansas City and leaving behind 6 passengers the 35 wasted minutes could have helped.
There was nothing I could do to remedy the situation so I focused on making sure Parker was comfortable with the flying experience, thankfully she laid her head in my lap and caught up on the early morning missed sleep. One more quick flight and we landed in Albany for the long anticipated weekend. We drove south down the interstate and then west to our destination in the Catskills. I don’t think I had clearly envisioned what it would be like in upstate New York, though I would have been wrong in a lot of ways. The rolling hills of bright autumn leaves, picture perfect streams and creeks in the valleys all seemed familiar and foreign at the same time. And even though my searches on maps and for rental properties showed limited occupied area, I guess I still imagined New York as a heavily populated land mass and was shocked at how rural living looked in the state. The rich fall colors still clung to some trees when we arrived and by the end of the weekend most seemed to have fallen.
We checked into our hotel and waited for my sister and her fiancé to meet us after their wedding prep errands. She was radiating energy to see us, screams of excitement and long tight-squeezing hugs. Even her fiancé, with a typical all about business demeanor, showed a glowing smile of enthusiasm which stayed joyfully plastered throughout the weekend. We followed them into Phoenicia, the nearest town where the main street consisted of a few restaurants, some gift shops and one pitiful grocery store. My sister pointed out where we would be eating for dinner on Friday night at Brio’s. I quickly realized the Brio in the Catskills is nothing like the Brio in Kansas City and I seriously overestimated the formality of my wardrobe.
The infinitely happy couple had dreamed of having their wedding ceremony in this outdoorsy romantic location. They wanted their vows to be spoken in front of immediate family on the deck of his uncles’ resort like cabin retreat from city life. All of the planning and organizing was finally coming to fruition, they were busy with final arrangements and checking into their own secluded cabin to meet up with us later.
In the haze of fatigue and frustration from the missed flight fiasco I omitted the discussion of plans for the evening and focused on the relief of knowing my husband would be flying out on the next available flight in the morning. (This was paid for by the airline for recognizing their error in abandoning six passengers.) Finally when I clued in that dinner plans needed to be created a quick search lead me to finding a restaurant my sister and fiancé had never tried in their trips to the upstate getaway.
We met up with them for dinner at Peekamoose, an adorable spot further up 28. The restaurant had a dining room, a playroom, a tavern and a patio off the side where you could enjoy a complimentary s’more after a meal. We sat in the tavern where unique furniture, an eclectic grouping of artwork and tree trunks tastefully strung with white lights made for cozy gathering spaces. The food exceeded expectations
starting with appetizers, bread and spreads. I even took a picture of my meal, uncharacteristic of me, in the pleasure of the restaurant, the trip and the pending event. Topping of the décor and the food was the entertainment of the night. My daughter, deliriously excited and tired, interacting with her equally excited uncle. At some points it was difficult to tell who was laughing more and by the end it was contagious to other tables at Peekamoose.
Parker and I went directly to bed after dinner and both slept a solid twelve hours. In the morning when we were nearly ready my parents came into the hotel room talking on speaker phone with my sister. She added her fiancé’s uncle to the conversation to provide directions to the cabin where we would help them with wedding set-up. He described turns, streets, crossing bridges, up hills, down hills and crossing back bridges. Between mascara brushes I watched my parents listening intently as the directions continued to mount. Our morning chore was to pick up pumpkins before going to the cabin. We found a market on the side of the highway to buy pumpkins and have a photo-op with a bear. Then fearing my parents didn’t write a thing down in addition to no cell phone reception in these remote parts of New York, I didn’t think we would make it to the cabin. To my surprise, like a comedic skit about two people who have been married for forty years, they bantered about the directions all the way up the mountain following my mom’s lead until we pulled into the driveway of the cabin – not making a single mistake.
Sister, fiancé and uncle were outdoors and dirty to greet us in the middle of potting flowers for the deck. Not long after we arrived the fiancé’s family, also traveled the day before from Kansas City, got to the cabin. After all the greeting and explaining why my hubby was not present, everyone jumped into tasks of moving, mowing, and decorating. The cabin in the woods had a stunning kitchen, a magazine quality bathroom with soaker tub and the deck opened to views of a pond complete with a fountain. My dad took my husband’s travel delay as an opportunity to escape the wedding prep and we left for lunch at the Phoenicia Diner and then a trip back to Albany with Parker. At the Peekamoose I was impressed by the emphasis on local foods, then at the diner I realized this was just the norm in the area.
There was no chain restaurants and no franchise locations near the Catskills, it was a refreshing reprieve from my normal. Except on the way back from Albany, after being reunited with my husband, I needed to kill my chai craving and made my dad stop at Starbucks. I guess others felt the same withdrawal from franchise addictions because it was the longest lines and wait of any Starbucks I have been to.
By the time we made it back to the cabin, wedding preparations were complete for the day and there wasn’t anything to do except wait for dinner. My sister was proposed to on her fiancé’s birthday and together they thought it would be fitting to get married on her birthday. Since there wouldn’t be an opportunity on Saturday for the birthday celebration, we all planned to gather for a thirtieth birthday dinner in town on Friday night. I left the dress I had brought hanging in the closet and opted for a more casual “weekend in the woods,” attire. At Brio, our long table of family enjoyed beer and pizza. Parker plopped herself down in the chair by her cousins where she colored and played contently throughout the meal. My sister opened gifts and blew out candles. It was clear her thirtieth birthday would be an unforgettable celebration and it was barely getting started.
I met T. Jay and Crystal, also students from K-State when we entered the study abroad program and all chose to attend James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. Despite being nearly strangers, we figured it would be fun to travel together to get there and make our journey there an adventure. In order to get from Kansas City to Townsville, this required six flights, so we decided to take a break for a few days to explore Fiji and then another quick sight seeing tour of Sydney.
8 February 2003:
We have finally arrived in Fiji after 18 hours of traveling. The flight to Fiji was the most uncomfortable ride I have ever been on where I was sandwiched between two guys for eleven hours straight. The plane was huge and completely jam packed. Every seat was taken and mostly by college students on their way to study abroad in Australia. Our flight arrived in Fiji at 5:30am and we finally left the airport a little after 7:00.
A short drive took us to turn at the McDonalds, down a long eroded street and then dirt road to the Club Fiji Resort. We checked in and were lead to one of the furthest cabins on the land (room 24). It’s small, no air conditioning, no phone and no TV – it’s the most rustic we’ve ever been and it’s perfect.
Crystal and I showered the plane off and sat down near the beach to write in our journals. A guy raking the sand stopped to talk to us, his name is Neeko and it turned out he is the activities everything person. He talked us into snorkeling today after breakfast (which really didn’t seem like breakfast since we have been awake for so long).
We met up with Neeko at 10 and he took us on a boat straight from the bay our cabin is on out to a reef. The boat had water in the bottom and a fish swam around inside of the boat, Neeko said he caught it yesterday. The reef, coral and fish were all beautiful, it makes me look forward to learning to scuba dive when we get to Australia. The schools of teal and silver fish that shimmer in the light were my favorite.
After snorkling we showered, yet again, and headed to the center of Nadi for some shopping. The stores are pretty much the same as many islands I have been to, and sellers follow shoppers harassing for a sale. One guy stopped me on the sidewalk and started a conversation. Initially I believed him to be another shopper until he insisted we go with him to a particular store. I dunno if T. Jay wanted to or if he didn’t know any better because he followed him, and we followed T. Jay.
The guy lead us straight to the end of the store and instructed us to take off our shoes and sit on the mat. We then participated in a kava ceremony in preparation for trying the drink. Kava is made from dried and ground kava root, then mixed with water in a ritual fashion. Everyone in the circle took turns sipping the drink, it really didn’t taste like much – water with a powdered substance in it. It made my tongue numb for a minute and I supposed if you drink more it causes a high effect.
From where I am sitting, looking out across the bay I can see the sleeping giant. Another traveler, Canadian named Murry, pointed it out to us. It really appears like the ridges of the hills are an outline of a man from head to toe. So far, I love Fiji. The people are friendly and the environment is beautiful. It is fun observing the birds, their calls and the unique vegitation. I don’t know what’s planned for tomorrow, I do know as long as we are in Fiji it will be wonderful.