(Oops, accidentally turned this into a "draft" and unpublished it for a few hours for no reason. It's back!)
When my dad met and fell in love with my mom, he took her to Maine. Specifically, he took her to Cliff Island for his 10 year college reunion. He wanted her to meet his college buddies and get to know his background, what he was really about.
There are some things you cannot know about a man until you meet his best friends.
My mom loved everything about that trip. She told me she'd never met so many smart, funny and fun people who instantly "got" her before in her life.
My mom and dad returned to Cliff many times over the course of their lives, often with their three girls in tow.
There is a group of people who are associated with Cliff Island, who I do not know how to write about because they are a part of my DNA. How would you write about your favorite childhood blanket? You can say it's warm and fuzzy, but that wouldn't come close to describing what it actually felt like to you. And as you grow up, you may only pull out that blanket every few years, just for a few moments...but every time you touch it, it's as familiar to you as your own skin.
Roger was my dad's best friend from college, and the one who introduced us all to Cliff. Roger was married to Maura, and they had two kids, Liz and Christian. Their family still spends countless weeks on the island every year. My dad's sister, Kathy, discovered the charms of the island when she was in college. A few years after she married George, the two of them moved to the island to live year-round, without electricity or running water but with two young boys -- my cousins, Matt and Nate. Eventually Kathy and George divorced and moved back to the mainland, but everyone's summers still involve the time they'll spend on the island. Including Matt and his wife and their two kids. In a funny twist of fate, Nate currently lives in San Francisco with his girlfriend, Liz. Liz, Roger and Maura's daughter. Nate and Liz had their first kiss -- 29 years in the making -- on Cliff Island just last summer.
And it goes on. There are layers and stories and stories. But the point, really, is that Cliff Island has literally and figuratively been a place of and for love and family.
It is where my mother and father are buried. They overlook the part of the Atlantic Ocean that is Casco Bay.
This is why my sister, Sam, and her now-husband, Mike, decided to get married in Maine. On a ferry, on Casco Bay. Not only that, but Roger and Maura performed the ceremony. And Matt and Nate walked Sam down the aisle.
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On Thursday, Ish and I flew into Boston to spend the night at Healy and Brian's in Marshfield, Massachusetts. We had dinner with them and my three-year-old nephew, Charlie.
Charlie got a little excited about the menu.
Friday morning, we drove the two-ish hours to Maine, and checked into our hotel.
Wow. Two hours of sitting in a car can really take it out of you.
We met up with Sam and Mike and a bunch of others. We went to the reception site and met with the event planner there.
Please note that the hot pink favors with the black chairs is someone else's wedding aesthetic, not mine or my sisters. We do not endorse hot pink, teal, and black as an acceptable wedding motif.
Side note: I did a very, very good job of keeping my mouth SHUT when the site event planner spoke to me as though I were in kindergarten and couldn't possibly understand all the details involved in putting on a few-hour reception for a hundred people. OH IT'S HARD IS IT? HERE, LET ME FEEL SORRY FOR YOU.
We had dinner with a random assortment of folks, and it was maybe one of the best moments of the weekend. It was still before all the wedding madness kicked in, when you're having dinner with a group of people who would never otherwise be together except for the excuse of a wedding.
We then hung out at a hotel bar, where we met up with even more of the Random Wedding Crowd. My aunt and twin cousins from my mom's side of the family from Minnesota. Sam and Mike's friends from high school. My best friend from childhood, Emily (whose husband, Nick, and two girls were in bed) -- plus her mom, her mom's husband, her brother, and his wife. Hail, hail!
Sam had three bridesmaids: her Maid of Honor was her best friend, Sonia, and then there was me and Healy. After Ish and I got a healthy breakfast on Saturday --
(the last healthy meal I ate all weekend, I should add)
-- the three of us spent Saturday morning at the salon getting our nails done.
The adorable salon.
This is Sonia. She's due in December. :)
Healy and Sam.
Before: Here is Katie. I explain to her that my heels are super tough, and that getting them smooth is no easy feat, and I'm sorry. Look how cute she thinks I'm being. She has no idea what she's in for.
After: Notice the smile is gone from Katie's face and she is working up a visible sweat trying to make my heels not look like the Mojave Desert. I tried to warn her.
We then spent the rest of the afternoon putting favors together and attending to last-minute details. Except for Healy, who spent Saturday afternoon in the ER with Brian and Charlie, because Charlie's face had suddenly started swelling up. Yikes.
While we were waiting for a diagnosis, my friend Emily and Nick and their girls stopped by.
Annie decides to put on Aunt Kiki's shoes.
While wearing one high-heel and one slipper, Annie then began jumping on the bed. Thus making her more adept at wearing heels than I am.
Saturday night was the rehearsal...
My cousins, Nate (left) and Matt.
Sonia and her son, Makai.
Maura and Roger, going over their notes for the ceremony.
The groom's father.
...and then the rehearsal dinner. It was a great deal of fun. Mike's family had arrived by then, and gave a fantastic toast by singing a traditional German toast-song. A few speeches later, we were all just drinking and carrying on.
The bride and groom.
A few "toasts" later.
It was wonderful to see everyone. Not just my actual relations, but friends from high school, Jane (my dad's fiancee) and her daughter, our neighbors from growing up, friends who may as well be family...
Everyone except for Charlie was having a great time. He'd been released from the ER with Benadryl, told to come back the next day if it got worse -- but they assumed it was an allergic reaction.
Three-year-olds on Benadryl do not make good party-goers. Poor kid.
Even the life-sized lobster wasn't making Charlie happy. Although the life-size lobster made Ish very happy when Ish happened to spot him out back on a smoke break. He snapped this photo through the window:
Here is a headless Lobby the Lobster, catchin' 10 with a cigarette and a cell phone.
One of my personal favorite moments of the rehearsal dinner was coming out of the bathroom with Emily, and noting that she had all kinds of toilet paper stuck to her flip-flop.
Folks, there is a very good reason we are lifelong friends.
Also, at one point some dude came up to me and was like, "You're Kristy!" And I was clueless. Turns out, he was Sam's friend from middle school, who was 11 the last time I saw him. He remembered me fondly because I hosted the first keg party he'd ever attended. Ahem. He'd ridden his BIKE there.
Ah, weddings. They bring out the memories.
Sunday morning the girls returned to the salon for hair and makeup. Unfortunately, Charlie awoke looking worse than ever, so Brian had to bring him back to the ER. We spent the entire morning on pins and needles. Would Charlie make it to the wedding? Would Healy have to be with him? Or Brian? And what was wrong? We simply had to hope for the best, and carry on like good bridesmaid soldiers.
That's me on top, looking into the mirror, with Healy's legs below.
Sam gets her hair done, and has a very serious conversation with the groom, who has probably forgotten to do something, simply because he is a groom.
Mirror, mirror on the wall: Who's the textiest one of all?
Sam's now done and looks on...
...as Healy is worked on.
Eventually, Charlie was diagnosed as having a tooth infection and given a special prescription for antibiotics, which involved Brian driving all over Maine and back to try and find a pharmacy that carried them. And then had to get Charlie in his tux and to the boat on time. Healy found this out at about 12:45. We were to board the boat at 2:30.
Healy gets the update from Brian the moment we step out of the salon.
We headed back to the hotel, to gather our makeup and dresses and bring everything to the ferry.
The brushing bride.
First we got dressed at the wharf house next to the ferry.
It is never easy getting into a wedding gown, especially not in close quarters.
We then boarded the boat early, to avoid being seen by everyone, and tried to hide Sam in a makeshift "dressing room."
It's not fancy, but it works.
And it's better than sticking the bride in the galley, where it was a million degrees.
Everyone started boarding right on time.
Ish, looking dapper.
Healy, waiting to see if Brian and Charlie make it on time.
And they do! Charlie's not feeling very well, but at least he's on-board!
Ish, looking dapper.
Healy, waiting to see if Brian and Charlie make it on time.
And they do! Charlie's not feeling very well, but at least he's on-board!
By 3 o'clock, the boat pulled out of the harbor, and we were on our way. Sam, Healy, Sonia and I had to stay downstairs until the boat was far enough out that we could anchor and have the ceremony.
Here is a picture of my shoe. The button holding the strap down has popped off. This will mean that I'll be spending the entire wedding ceremony with my shoe strap flapping in the wind. Because I am classy like that.
(Hey, at least there isn't toilet paper attached.)
We discovered that if we stuck our heads out the little window, we could see up...right at the same time that Em's mom and Ella and Annie were looking down.
Back inside, we call this, "Dance of the pregnant bridesmaid." Hot!
More pre-wedding toasts! Hurrah!
About a half-hour later, we anchored and started the ceremony. It was windy, but it was stunning. The skies were clear, the sun was shining, it was breathtaking.
Afterwards, we delighted in cocktails and each other's company. We had a DJ on board, who was playing perfect cocktail-hour music, and all was right with the world. (Except for poor Charlie, whose antibiotics had not yet kicked in.)
Whereas Annie took to climbing on everything.
All along, the ferry captain had explained that Cliff Island was simply too far for the ferry to go in time. (We had the boat for 3 hours.) And Sam and Mike and Healy and I were okay with that -- the point was to be on the Bay, in Maine. The plan was simply to be on the water.
But Roger wouldn't have it. He absolutely insisted that the captain go out there, and so we did.
Unplanned, unexpectedly, the ferry -- along with all of us in our finery, with the wind and sunshine and the perfect music accompanying us -- glided alongside the coast, along the exact place where my parents lay.
And we waved. :)
It was the kind of perfect moment you cannot plan. Not that the wedding was about my parents, of course, but it was so meaningful to be able to incorporate them in a visceral way. Generations of love and all that.
And so we waved and cried and hugged and took a big, collective breath. It was almost meditative to be able to take some quiet moments in the middle of wedding hoopla. I can't wait to see the photos.
And then we partied.
The boat docked at about 6:30 and everyone walked the two blocks to the reception site, stopping traffic. Cars honked and cheered and waved and it felt, for a few minutes, very much like a village wedding.
This photo doesn't do the impromptu procession justice.
I snapped this picture as we arrived at the reception site. I think it's hilarious. Sam and Mike were ALL smiles ALL day, and I managed to take one where both of them look like they hate me and my stupid, stupid camera.
The reception was perfect. After dinner there was dancing --
along with maybe the most embarrassing slideshow of all time. (I will be posting it to YouTube eventually. You have not lived until you have seen Samantha lip-synching "I Will Survive." Trust me on this. Healy and I conspired to put it together and show the wedding guests. Totally out of love, of course.)
And THEN AND THEN.
The best moment for me of the wedding--
The DUMBEST BOY moment of the wedding came first. I specifically requested the Alison Krauss version of "I Will" to be played, because it was a song from Emily and Nick's wedding and one that has meant a lot to me and Ish. So when it DID come on, I looked over at Ish, who was engrossed in a conversation with other men, probably about football. I gave him a VERY MEANINGFUL smile. And you know what he did?
That's right. He smiled back, nodded at me with his chin, and then went back to discussing pre-season stats.
(Of course, me being me, I stomped over to him and grabbed his hand and said, "I'm sorry, but we are supposed to be DANCING to this song."
Okay. NOW for the best part of the reception.
Mike's family is German, and he is actually in a polka band with is father, brother and aunt. And they played a couple traditional German pieces during the reception, which was SO COOL.
I don't know exactly how I used my flash in such a way as to make Mike's family look like zombies, but I did.
Note: Mike's family are not zombies.
We loved it (even if some of us had no idea what we were doing).
That's Mike on the right doing some sort of traditional German dance, like the one Clark Griswold does in National Lampoon's European Vacation. Sam is twirling, as she's supposed to be doing.
But then, Mike specifically sang a song to Samantha. ("Can't Help Falling In Love.") And in lieu of a father-daughter dance, our cousin, Matt accompanied Sam on the dance floor. All of which was darling, and sweet, and touching.
Mike is the sweetest guy ever.
Except just a few minutes into the dance, one of my father's closest friends asked to cut in.
Sam is dancing with Tom, looking at Mike.
And that started it all. One by one, the men in Sam's life -- the ones who love her, who are looking out for her, who will be there for her even if our dad can't be -- took turns dancing with her. Roger, Nate, Brian, her best friend's dad, our beloved neighbor, even Ish.
Nope. You just can't plan these things. (And goodness, there was not a dry eye in the house.)
The reception wound down, and we left to go hang out in a few hotel rooms to finish off the night.
The next day, Sam and Mike made the rounds. Ish and I had lunch with Healy and Brian and a much relieved Charlie, along with my friend Emily's whole gang.
Here is Ella, using the lobster cracker things on her hair, thinking it's like a curling iron.
It was just too cute to stop her, even though her hair probably ended up rather buttery.
And then we spent some time at Maura's house, recapping the events. And then Sam and Mike left for their brief honeymoon on Cliff Island (followed by a few nights in New York City).
We drove back to Massachusetts with Healy, Brian, and a much happier Charlie.
Charlie is ooohing and ahhhing because we are going to go over a very big bridge.
On Tuesday, we spent a little time in Marshfield...
...before returning to San Francisco.
* * * * * * * * *
I cannot stress how important and life-affirming it is, was, to go back to the East Coast. I got to see so many people I love, and so many people I haven't seen in so long. Everyone is growing up and getting older and living their lives, and you know? Things are going pretty well overall. There was more joy and smiling than we've had in too many years.