Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Wedding of the Century

Part the Third: The End of the Beginning and the Beginning of a New Experience, and Finally the End of this Story
The sights were then set on the Elks Lodge, and the reception train headed downtown. Everybody else went in through the front door, but we, the wedding party got to come in through the stage door, and the DJ announced us. I haven’t been announced before, and let me tell you, it was a thrill.

After everyone got in, the party started. There was a dinner of brisket and chicken along with green beans and a potato salad that had “more” written all over it. Family and friends broke bread with us on this momentous occasion. Although excited and full of emotion, surprisingly I still ate well. And at the very back was a big cake that we were not allowed to eat right away for some reason. The candy table was well-stocked, however, with Jelly Belly and blueberry sours. The blueberry candies were fairly popular, judging by the number of people walking around smiling with blue lips parted to show blue teeth.

Soon, the time came for the big show; the Father Daughter dance. Not being much of a dancer since college (and not really that good at cutting a rug even then), I was a little apprehensive of my performance on the floor. I had prepared in advance for this moment however, but it had nothing to do with footwork. I had heard a Jonathan Edwards song when Desiree was but 4 or 5 years old, and it was tattooed on my brain as such a powerful and beautiful song. It’s titled “Little Hands”, and it describes a man looking at his young daughter’s little hands, imagining what they would do in the future. Thanks to the internet, I found it, bought it and it was played at the biggest moment a dad can have.

As the first notes flowed, my eyes, once again blurred over, and the emotion was just about too much for me. There I was, with a young woman in my arms that only a short time ago, I was holding for the very first time. I recalled her little eyes looking around and my feelings of wonder at this little life. As we turned on the floor, I realized too late that I had forgotten to turn off my brain beforehand. Every word of that song brought a flood of memories to me and each of those memories pushed more water to my eyes. At one point, in a failed attempt to stifle a sob, I snorted into my girl’s ear. She was crying a little, too, and I think she thought the snort was laughter. It elicited the same response as the well-placed “You stink” comment had done earlier. I am not sure how tightly I held that girl, but I know that she may have had trouble breathing. She didn’t complain, though, and as the song ended, my eyes dried and I handed her to her husband. As I sat down, I noticed my arms were kinda sore. Sorry about your ribs, darlin’!

After a time, there was the Grand March dance, which I had never heard of before October. What I did hear was that the bride and groom were to be at the front of the line of as many guests as could be had on a dance floor. They would then be led around by an experienced Grand March couple, doing intricate moves, snaking the entire procession of participants all over the dance floor in a serpentine trail of fun. Little MiMi, my mother-in-law was even a participant. The dance got so wild, MiMi got separated from us when we turned a corner; she zigged and the rest of us zagged. Fortunately, an alert groomsman picked up on what happened and he took her with his group. Chaos is a strong word as a description of the Grand March, and it in no way conveys the absolute enjoyment that we had. At the end of the Grand March, the Chicken Dance was played, and following that, everyone formed a huge circle and the DJ played the Aggie War Hymn. If you aren’t from Texas, or if you are and just don’t like Aggies, I apologize for this part, but not really. There were some T-sippers there and they had as good a time as everyone else, so you can butch up for a sentence or two. A more rabid and loyal bunch of people were never put together. It puts chills on me every time I hear 10 or 10,000 Aggies singing the War Hymn in perfect unison. We all stood singing and sawing varsity’s horns off….SHORT!

At some point, I forget the exact chronology, the cakes were cut
and toasts were toasted to the newlyweds. The wedding cake was beautiful, and gotten for a good price (geezer plug); if you’re ever in New Braunfels and need a nice cake, my daughter can hook you up. One really cute thing was what my daughter did with the groom’s cake. Traditionally, the groom’s cake is chocolate or some variant, and this time it was German Chocolate. Baron thought that the decoration was going to be the seal of Texas A&M. Instead, his beloved tricked him by having a picture of John Wayne, Baron’s favorite actor, on top with the quote, “Whoa, Slow Down There, Pilgrim!” The expression on his face when he saw it was worth the deceit, according to my girl.

After a few more hours of mingling and watching people dance, and eating cake, and looking at the people with the blue teeth, the evening wound down to the Bride and Groom’s exit. The remaining friends and family stood outside with the bubble bottles and showered the happy pair with little puffs of air surrounded by a shimmering skin of soap all the way to the waiting chariot. A big, dark F250 diesel idling to whisk them away to begin their journey as man and wife.

Thus ended the day that I will never forget. I found that after the wedding and reception, I was totally exhausted. Mostly I think from holding my stomach in for 5 hours. Some aspects will grow more dim as time passes, but other memories will stick with me for my lifetime. From my “little hands” to the strong, beautiful bride, the time slips by so quickly so as to boggle the mind.

And that’s what a geezer lives for.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Wedding of the Century

Part the Second: The Longest Aisle
The next day dawned like nothing epic was due to happen that afternoon and we all ate breakfast, then the females took off for the obligatory hair/nail/whatever appointments, and I got my marching orders to go to Walmart for some last-minute items. The whirlwind that hit New Braunfels that clear December day had “Söderberg” written all over it. The wedding was at 4 p.m., and seeing the girls with all of their hair done was getting pretty real to me. Then I saw my firstborn, wearing a blue striped shirt, jeans, immaculate makeup and hair, with her wedding veil. For some reason, my eyes stopped focusing clearly again for a little bit. I need to get these glasses checked.

Everybody got back to the hotel and showered, foofed and changed, and shaved again. We brought our nice clothes to change into, so we blasted off to Cross Lutheran Church in the Silver Bullet so we could be there an hour early. I went and greeted the photography crew, my friend Roy and his wife Lynette of Lone Star Photography. They were ready for action, and I directed them to where the bride was getting ready, the girly inner sanctum. Lynette deployed in that location, and Roy was scoping out the sanctuary. Some more of the groomsmen arrived and were in the men’s room changing into their tuxedo apparel. I, on the other hand, was blessed with being able to wear my best black suit, my new ivory shirt and silver tie that my girl had given me for my birthday a couple of months previous.

The guys were taking the tuxes out of their packaging, sorting out the various bits, and one exclaimed, “We have to wear these suspenders? Dang, that’s lame…” to which I smiled quietly to myself. I had my OWN suit, shirt, shiny black boots and a brand new black Nocona Texas Ranger style bel–… I went pale. My brand new black belt was in the drawer in the hotel room, where I had placed it the day before. So sly, I fooled myself. It was too late to borrow the hated suspenders from the groaning groomsmen, and I couldn’t wear the brown belt I had on. I had to race back to the hotel.

I tried to hurry in the most nonchalant way I could, seeing that the panic level was increasing as every second passed. I saw my Dad on the way in as I was on the way out… “Hey, Dad, howzitgoingIgottagoIleftmybeltintheroomandI gotta get back fast!” He graciously sent me on my way and I leapt into the van and sped away, praying that no Comal County Protect and Servers were between the church and the hotel.

To make a harrowing story of masterful driving and narrowly avoided traffic lights short, I made it there and back in a mere 21 minutes. I timed it. As I was walk/hop/running into the church, I nearly ran over my mother-in-law. “You’d better get dressed!” she said, incredulous that I was still in jeans. “Yeah, I’m thinkin’ about it…” as I slid sideways into the men’s room. The time was approximately 3:42:17 p.m..

Fully decked out as I should be, I emerged with only a slight sweat going. The evening sun streaming in through the glass foyer was not much of a help to my temperature situation. I settled down enough to mingle with my Dad, Roy, the groom and the groomsmen and find an air conditioning vent to stand under. We horsed around a bit as people came in to the auditorium in a steady stream. It was nearing zero hour 4 p.m., and the grandmothers got seated. Of course the stream of people kept rising and falling, and so to keep the timing correct, the grandmothers got seated a couple more times to try to set the schedule for the ceremony and get everybody in the pews.

Finally, the service was under way. The bridal party was neatly lined up in the foyer waiting for their cue. My middle daughter and youngest looked so beautiful in their dresses, hair done and cradling their flowers. As I got down to the end where my littlest girl was, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes, and asked me, “Daddy, are you going to cry?” She glanced over to her right where a vision of beauty was standing in the hallway awaiting her moment.

I caught my breath. Oh. My. Gosh. This was it, and that was her. She stood so tall and graceful, like a wonderfully crafted porcelain doll in satin and pearls, holding flowers that paled in comparison to her perfection. That was all I could see before my chin quivered and she went blurry. I made my way to her side somehow, and looked into her bright blue eyes. They were welling up with tears of emotion, just over half-full, and as I leaned in to gently hug my baby, I said softly and lovingly, “You stink.”

The desired effect was attained and she smiled; the water returned from whence it came. The next few minutes, however, are not as clearly remembered as these. I recall that we chatted and laughed a little for the last time as a guy and his single daughter. Then I recall something about trailing a cute little girl with a basket of flower petals down a sloping floor leading to where a guy was standing. There was some kind of vaguely familiar music playing, though I don’t consciously remember following the strains. I didn’t see anything to either side of me. We stopped and the guy on the top step said something to me and I think I said something like, “Her mother and I…” and I don’t think my voice cracked or anything. Then I stepped back a couple of steps and stood next to a crying woman in a silver dress. After that, I was fine.

When the service was over, we had to take pictures, so everybody kept their seats. The pastor that performed the ceremony prohibited photos made during the service proper; he felt that it would detract from the serious spiritual nature of the event. I am with him on that. Also, as a photographer, it gives you a better chance to get great shots when the key parts are reenacted. So we did that and it did make for better shots; everyone was very relaxed-looking and the tears were all wiped away.

As the shots were being made, Roy asked if I had any ideas, since we have shot several weddings together. “Nope, you’re doing great!” was my reply. As a matter of fact, at no time during the weekend did I officially wield any sort of recording device in an official documentary capacity. People that know me think that odd, but they don’t know the whole story.

My reasoning is simple. I was the Father-of-the-Bride that weekend, not a photographer, not an art director, not a designer or stylist. Just Dad. I wasn’t looking for angles, compositions, perfect expressions and special lighting effects. If I had gone into any of the aforementioned modes, I would have missed an event that will never be repeated.

That was not on my list of things to do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Wedding of the Century

Part the First: Ready, Set...,
As of today, I have had a son for over a month and a half. He was born to me at a little after 4 p.m. on December 4, 2010. His name is Baron and at about 6’2” and about 240 pounds; he is a big one. He’s also 23 years old. Someone else had the job of raising him and feeding him up to this point, and now he is in the care of my daughter.

Let me back up for a bit. My girl met him at school a couple of years ago. They hit it off, and decided to get married. That decision set into motion a whole series of events that can only be compared to a force of nature.

A woman (women) with a wedding in her (their) sights can be formidable. Intense. Frightening. If weddings were up to guys, they would be a lot different; quick, easy and not really a big visual or symbolical deal. I will just leave it at that. I have another reason for this piece, and it is not to start an argument about what is important in a wedding.

We caravanned up to New Braunfels in the Silver Bullet from Hades and Katie’s Saturn and the trip was very nice that first Friday of December. We got to one of the most beautiful little towns in Central Texas and met up at a barbeque joint for lunch with the bride-and-groom-to-be, along with much of the bridal party and their dates.

After a nice barbeque lunch, we adjourned to the Elks Lodge in downtown NB for a decoration party, readying the venue for the reception. That was when the tension became palpable. There was much to do in the hall; setting up and decorations for all the tables, the cake and candy and punch tables had to be made up, set up and decorated, and there were countless other tiny details that made everyone realize that we had one shot at this, and that the wedding of the year was happening in just about 26 hours.

Still, being a guy, I took most of it in stride. Although the principal women involved were showing signs of stress, I was, as usual, going with the flow. I was charged with setting up the framed portrait of the happy couple, the lattice screens for the cake table, the cake stand and the sign-in table. Baron’s family, our family and the young people that came along with the wedding party were all pitching in and doing a fantastic job. The transformation from a 60 year-old small-town lodge for old German guys to wedding reception setting was complete.

With that formidable task dispatched, it was time to retire to the hotel room and prepare everyone for the rehearsal. Showers were taken, hairs were foofed/straightened, and faces shaved. OK, just my face was shaved, since once again, I was the only male in my clan.

Everyone dressed the second best that they would look that weekend, and all converged on Cross Lutheran Church. A beautiful new structure, this was the first wedding to be held therein. Open and airy, the limestone, glass and steel edifice was impressive. The sanctuary was a wide amphitheater with a sloping floor that led down to the raised altar. I’m not sure when construction was finished, but it can’t have been long. See, as a guy, I’m noticing the structure of the place where my very first child is about to marry a guy who will be her protector for the rest of her life. Lots of nice woodwork, too.

The pastor gathered us all together in the sanctuary and began to instruct us in the finer points of getting through a wedding. Y’all stand there till this song then this will happen then the wedding party will start to commence down the aisle then you’ll be here and I’ll say this then he says that and then he sits down and then we come up here and I’ll say this then this song will play then you’ll kneel here then…

So we all huddle up and head to the back of the church for the big dry run. The groomsmen and the girls sashayed down the aisle, and then it was time for the flower girl. GULP…this is the second before the big moment…When that music started for the Bridal March, the big, pretty room got a little blurry, and a little sound escaped the lips of my daughter. OH NO, she’s gonna cry! Why can’t I see the preacher in focus? Like he’s a mirage…My girl said under her breath, “Oh no, Mom is crying…” and that cranked up the waterworks on the bride-elect. I saw her mother over on the left and sure enough, her face was contorted in a vain attempt to stem the flow of tears. I lumbered down the aisle on half-blind auto-pilot.


Well, we got past all that without too many casualties, thankfully, and even did another dry run, which went all light-hearted and fun. Gone was the gravity of the situation. For now.

The rehearsal dinner was held at the historic Forke Store at the New Braunfels Conservation Society plaza. Built in 1865, it had all sorts of great stuff from the days before the internet. And prior to electricity, for that matter. Our dinner was a generous fajita spread catered by the Adobe Café, and was excellent. The company was great, the food was good and we all had a grand time.

Back to the hotel to ready ourselves for the biggest day of our lives, so far.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hold On, Kids!

For the two of you who care, I have a post in the works about my oldest daughter's recent nuptials.

It has just taken an unusually long time to digest all of the events and distill them into a coherent (unusual for me, right) group of words.

So hang on, I promise it's coming.