Birth, Marriage, and Death

Boy, is my brother giving me a hard time, “You write about the wedding for three months and then it happens and you don’t post about it? Do you want to lose every reader you have?!”


So, for those of you who weren’t there…

The wedding was the wedding of my dreams. Well, to be honest, I’ve never dreamed of weddings (only of children – three or four), but if I had dreamed of weddings, this would have been it. Nothing could have been a more perfect mix of family, unexpected close calls, laughter, and craziness. I am still recovering from it all.

The actual wedding day, the day of the ceremony, began with a strange kind of lull after a crazy Thursday (A Thursday in which my sister and the baby, my aunt, and I drove three hours to Beverly Hills where Sue got her hair done and we bought Sprinkles cupcakes; and then to Koreatown for wedding reception food shopping before heading home. And the Murdy family drove 2 1/2 hours to Laguna Beach for Sammie’s high school graduation and all the kids, Bella, Dawk, and Doug, went with Joss to Soak City. Our various adventures all intersected for brief crisis at midnight, when I got a call from Chad who was standing outside his own apartment in Laguna, unable to get in: his brother/roommate needed to get into their place for his wedding clothes and my aunt and uncle who were staying at their place had locked them out. Chad and his brother had been banging on the doorway for fifteen minutes without rousing my jet-lagged relatives… I had just arrived at my parents’ time share condo in Palm Springs to drop off Sue, and I ended up having to wake my father to get my aunt’s cell phone number. Luckily she answered immediately and let Chad and his brother into their own apartment. (I had been calling my uncle’s cell phone non-stop for the last twenty minutes – Chad said he could hear it ringing in the living room from outside the apartment) After that, Chad and his brother still had to drive the two hours back to Joshua Tree. I thought that would be the crisis for the day – and expected to be home in an hour, but because of an accident in the Morongo pass we were stuck in stopped traffic on the Morongo mountain pass for over an hour and we got home only minutes before Chad did at 2 am. To top things off, the carpet had been professionally cleaned that morning and so we arrived home to no furniture and damp carpets and had to set up beds before going to sleep. So, Thursday was productive, but exhausting for all of us – and nobody went to bed until the wee hours.)

The quiet lull the morning the next day was the result of being sleep-deprived and dazed – you know, the get-worn-out-before-the-party-even-begins kind of tired. The happy consequence was that Chad and I felt we thoroughly deserved sleeping in, after weeks of overbooking ourselves. We lay in bed, facing each other, telling each other things we loved about each other. I won’t tell you what we said, but we said the kinds of things you love to remember later.

Then we sat up, and started practicing our vows. We almost got into a fight. The vows, just the part we were going to say ourselves, were only three sentences long and I felt that we could both memorize them. Chad, on the other hand, felt very strongly that he needed a crib sheet. In the end, he made a very small cheat sheet that fit in his hand, and during the ceremony, I was the one who ended up needing them, because I was crying so hard.

I had wanted to spend some time alone with Bella as well, which we did, but only in a sideways sort of way. We went to town together to get our nails done later that morning: I brought along my Emo (my mother’s youngest sister) and Bella brought Dawkins, so we were not entirely alone. We spent a few moments hugging and whispering to each other a little later – and I think that was enough. As a teenager, Bella really only tolerates small doses of mother/ daughter time. I was glad to see that Bella, in spite of herself, had gotten infected with all the pre-wedding hustle and bustle, because after all, I did let her get fake fingernails (“tips”) with a French manicure (secretary nails, we call them).

Everywhere around the house there were people, family and close friends, involved in some part of the wedding preparations. My friend Ellen was taking care of my flower bouquets and showed up mid-morning with an array of beautiful blooms from Trader Joe’s, white ribbon, and pearl tipped pins. All day long, there was Ellen arranging the flowers in two simple bouquets for Bella and Dawkins and one bigger one for me. I was very touched by how much creative energy she poured into making sure the flowers were appropriate for the occasion – we even hung my dress out so she could hold the practice bouquets in front of them to see how they went together. (Bella saw what I had done, and ran back to her room to get her dress. She hung her dress next to mine, so all day the two dresses hung on display next to each other in my closet.) Ellen played with the bouquets, experimenting with color and shapes – most of the day my bouquet contained 3-4 lilies that filled the whole house with their scent. At the eleventh hour, Ellen pulled all the flowers except for the hot pink ones and my wedding bouquet was dramatic and lovely.

A few hours before the ceremony, I retired into my bedroom to get ready – it felt very ritualistic to be washing myself scrupulously clean and pulling out all my brand-new, unopened wedding make-up, alone and in my bedroom empty of furniture. Then, still in my room, sitting cross-legged in front of my closet mirror in my robe applying make-up, there was suddenly an avalanche of people: my family arriving and phone calls from people on their way – and I was still naked! Not ready, not ready! I had about twenty minutes of panic when I realized that I hadn’t made provisions for the people who were arriving at my house for the convoy up to the ceremony site. See, in my mind’s eye, all the cars had pulled up together in front of my house at 5:30, and we all pulled off together in a courtly procession… In reality, I had my brother on the phone who was stuck in traffic on the 10 freeway, and didn’t think he was going to make the ceremony and nearly thirty family members milling around in my practically empty living room without anywhere to sit down. I finally cloistered myself in my room, cuddled with the groom, and regained my wedding equilibrium.

Chad and I then accepted a beautiful engraved silver goblet from our officiant, Inge Davidson (who also happened to be the mother of one of my closest friends, hence the lovely gift), and decided at the last minute to have my father give us a blessing with a toast from our new goblet at the end of our ceremony.

Next, we began rounding up all our family and guests (minus my brother and his girlfriend) into eight cars. The road to the ceremony site was dirt and we anticipated that it would take about forty minutes for all of us to get there. There was still a small chance that my brother would make it – so I asked our friends, John and Joe, to text my brother the few, but critical directions to the site.
We drove. Slowly. In a stately procession.

Once we turned off the paved Yucca Trail, north onto La Contenta Road, the sun began to dip, the air began to cool, and the view just opened up to magnificence. The view was simply spectacular. Chad and I were in the front car with Inge, leading the procession. We startled a hawk, who burst up out of the underbrush to the left of us. Then, a large antlered deer appeared and ran ahead of us momentarily before suddenly veering to the right and disappearing with a leap. All this was magic, not just because neither Chad nor I had ever seen a wild deer in the desert before, but because everything was so right. It was right to be taking the time to bring everybody deep into the national park to an especially beautiful spot for our ceremony.

Then the procession halted.
One of the cars had a flat tire. After a little laughter, some photos, and improvised passenger rearrangement, we temporarily abandoned the car and got started again. Strangely, I didn’t even see it as an inconvenience, my first thought was, “Songbae, you just bought yourself ten more minutes to get here…” We knew at that point that Songbae was actually pretty close and had been receiving the texted directions, but now we were out of cell phone range and it was going to be more tricky.

We got to the final fork in the road and there was a sign pointing in two directions: “Pike’s Lookout” and “Backcountry Trailhead.” We were going to the backcountry trailhead, and it seemed like given the choice, anybody would choose the Lookout as a more likely marriage site – so we paused and brainstormed. Then, Corrina triumphantly pulled out a half sheet of white stickers out of her purse! I used them to make an arrow on the sign – it wasn’t too obvious, but it was the best we could do – considering that there were thirty-odd people waiting us. (Later we learned that our arrow had been improved with a large branch wedged into the side of the sign – and topped with a crunched up McDonald’s bag. Songbae also thought that we left the car, the one with the flat, as a directional hint!)

We finally arrived at the site. Just as the last person was getting out of their car and we were about to start the procession, a huge cloud of dust enveloped us, and another car skid into the cul-de-sac: my brother had arrived. Skid, I tell you. He was barely in control of the car! Amid shouts and hugs, Songbae and Donna joined the procession – Songbae pulling on his dress clothes as he walked.

Everything was perfect.

We arrived at the largest Joshua Tree. We said our vows. I cried. Chad cried. It was perfect. We ended with my father’s blessing and toast, and began passing the silver goblet around. Chad and I hugged and kissed each and every guest. We all cried.

Bella really, really cried – but I don’t think it was just an upset crying, as much as a cathartic emotional release and acceptance. Her face went into her flowers early on and never came back up.

It was a definite CEREMONY. In front of our family and dearest friends, Chad and I pledged our love to each other for life. At that moment, he and I, with Bella, created a new family.

When we had all dried our tears, we began to make our way back to the cars to head over to Ann and Al’s house for dinner. More magic. Between the amazing table decorations, the twinkling white lights, and strings of fluttering silver moons, the backyard had been completely transformed by the Murdy girls (Lisa, Corrina, and Asia!) A feast of Mexican food and pitchers of sangria awaited us. Really, it was beyond anything I had expected for a “rehearsal” dinner.

And now I know why marriage is grouped with birth and death, besides Bella’s birth, wedding Chad has been the single most intense, meaningful, and energy-generating thing I have ever done.

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