Last Thursday, FD and I packed our bags and loaded up the truck for yet another trip to Nebraska. But this time, we would be dropping our three dogs off at our veterinarian’s office for boarding, as this trip to Nebraska would be keeping us much too busy to give them the attention they needed – especially miss Lollipop, who is still trying to understand the concept of “house training”. I must admit, it felt a bit strange leaving them behind as they have always traveled with us.
As we motored up the interstate, I couldn’t help but wonder about the coming weekend. How on earth could the recent warm weather turn back to winter so suddenly? Our trees in Oklahoma were leafing out and I had already mowed some areas of the property a couple of times. Baby Bewick’s Wrens hatched recently in a little bird house on the back porch and the parents were busy feeding them. I worked in the orchard in sleeveless shirts for almost two weeks, and my arms are already tanned a deep brown. As we headed north to Nebraska, the temperatures dropped slightly, but it was still pleasantly warm. Friday would be a good weather day too. But the weather forecasters called for possible blizzard conditions and several inches of snow for Saturday – the day of my niece Rachel’s wedding. I packed a spring dress and peep-toe shoes, hoping for the best. But I also brought a wool coat and boots, just in case.
While wildfires raged back in Oklahoma, FD kept busy on his phone and work laptop all day Friday. Being in the electrical generation and transmission business, he was concerned with fire damage to structures and keeping people safe. With all that going on, he opted to stay back at our accommodations at my sister Juli’s house while Juli and I drove an hour away to Lincoln to the wedding venue. We had volunteered to steam and press table cloths for the reception and help set up for the wedding. As family and friends arrived to help with the setup, it was evident that Rachel was visibly disappointed. The plan for an outdoor wedding had to be discarded due to the predicted weather, and options for squeezing the nuptials ceremony into the reception and dance area were the topic of conversation. After much talk about how to keep things simple, yet elegant, Rachel decided she would not be content unless her guests were comfortable. She opted for casual guest seating around the tables during the wedding, and changing the entry of the wedding party so that the vows could be exchanged within earshot of everyone, where floor space would still allow for a nice flow of dinner traffic to the buffet area, and still allow room for the cake table, the DJ’s setup, and a small dance area. Rachel would not enjoy the wide open space of an outdoor ceremony, or the long walk to meet her groom. Instead, everything would be set up in tighter quarters but, at the end of the day Friday, the setup looked beautiful and Rachel seemed more relaxed.
Saturday morning greeted us with cloudy skies and wind gusting mightily out of the north. By noon, a heavy drizzle moved in and, soon after, falling temperatures brought snow and sleet. The weather forecast had actually improved though, and the blizzard watch had been dropped. Snow accumulation predictions were also lessened for the area. Most of the terrible weather was to the west, where Interstate 80 had been closed down west of Grand Island. The drive east to Roca Ridge in the Lincoln area was blustery, with sleet and snow pelting down. Fortunately, ice had not yet begun to form on the roads. Pulling up to the venue, we were surprised to see the parking area already full of vehicles. I knew Nebraska people were tough and the weather often did not deter folks from getting out, but somehow I figured the threat of continued stormy weather might keep many people away this evening.
As we made our way towards the barn where the wedding would take place, we kept our heads down, forging forth in the stinging sleet and gusting wind. I remembered why I hated this part of the country so much. These weather conditions were uncomfortable, and the cold and damp always chilled me to the bone. I could never seem to keep warm, no matter how many layers of clothing I donned. But the truth is, each trip back for the last twenty-eight years has been uncomfortable – not always a discomfort from the weather, but in facing old wounds and hurts, and even anger that seemed to well up in me with each return trip. My thoughts jerked to present as FD hooked his left arm in my right to keep me from slipping on the slick sleet and ice as we scurried up the path to the venue. Just as the doors were opened by a couple of the ushers, a bridesmaid came running out without a coat! She squealed as she ran off to her car, sleet pelting her and wind tearing away at the thin material of her dress. We chuckled a little at her haste! I understood her reasoning for a quick dash out to the car without the burden of putting a heavy, wool coat on.
As we entered the barn, I was taken aback by a feeling… actually more of a vibe and positive energy. The soft glow of light, sweet classical music, and gentle warmth enveloped us. Happy faces of gathering groomsmen and bridesmaids greeted us as we moved to the main room. The photographer and videographer were just finishing up their work with Rachel and Mike. We found the table reserved for our family. I looked around the room and saw extended family and faces of friends and their families I knew from long ago. Everyone appeared happy and joyful. It was a magical feeling – these lights and soft music, smiles and happy chatter, while just outside the windows a blur of white created a bright, but soft, ambient light.
The wedding ceremony was perhaps one of the most beautiful I have ever attended. Even as the sound of sleet pelted down on the roof, and the torrent of white blurred on the other side of the windows, we were safe and warm inside the barn. It felt like being in a bubble of love and comfort. The minister set the tone of the gathering – we were there not only to witness the joining of Mike and Rachel as a couple, but to offer love and support that night, and always. His message was of love and honor, but also of humor and lightheartedness. Just as in nature, life is unpredictable. We must be open and willing to weather the storm. We must bask in the moments of calm and loveliness. And we must find joy and laughter, delighting in life. There were moments that evening that I found myself tearful. Of course we expect women to show emotion, but there were many times I saw the groomsmen and men in the crowd wiping their eyes. This gathering of folks was one of the most loving and caring that I have ever experienced. But I think the moment that tugged at my heart more than anything, was watching the father/daughter dance. My brother had the worst time trying to hold back his emotion while he danced with his daughter. All of the walls of protection and toughness and manliness just melted away. Rachel patiently held the moment, dancing slowly, while allowing her dad to work through his emotions. She needed to see this side of him, we all did, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. We were witnessing something special and real – something we could all relate to, yet often avoid – releasing a flood of emotion and energy, and going to a place within ourselves that we rarely let others see. Dale and Rachel hugged tightly and longingly as the song ended.
The night seemed to drift into eternity. We danced and laughed and enjoyed good conversation. I visited with people I had not seen in decades, and I enjoyed meeting Mike and Rachel’s friends. I was happy to be a part of this celebration, of this gathering. I watched young people line dancing to the Wobble, and a few other newer line dances I didn’t know. I thought of my own days of youth and wondered how it had all flown by so quickly. And yet, I felt exhilaration about the understanding in my own life, and it pleased me to know that I am where I am now – an auntie to these young people, to be there for them, with a listening ear and a loving heart. My role had changed over the years, and I liked it.
In the days that have followed our return, I continue to be filled with a vibe and energy from that night. What a gift it was to be so touched by a gathering of loving people. And the storm that might have kept people from not attending, ended up being the force that enveloped us all in a tight cocoon that night, celebrating love, joy, friendship and a new beginning.
© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…