I can’t seem to let go.
Oh sure, I seem really good at it. Go gluten-free after a lifetime of being the bestest friend in the world of bread? I used to walk to Macrina Bakery every afternoon, after school, to sample ham and cheese biscuits or thick molasses cookies or these apple tartlets that inspired me to write letters to friends in far-away places with apple-cinnamon-sugar drops on the blue paper. Every day, I went to that little bakery on the hill that smelled of sugar goodness. Go gluten-free? Of course. No problem. After all, I had been so sick, it made sense.
This has been a year of enormous change. Within one year (and three months), I met the love of my life – and knew it fairly immediately – signed with a literary agent, asked the love to move in, proposed to each other, got a book deal, lost my job, wrote a book, discovered more new foods than I had ever eaten, learned how to be a full-time writer, started teaching cooking classes, wrote my first freelance pieces, tried to learn how to market a book, had articles written about me in newspapers, moved to a new home, and got married. And that’s just the big changes. Most people are afraid of change. I just didn’t have time for fear. I said yes. I embrace life.
Or so they say.
Change the venue of our wedding two weeks before the day we had been planning for a year? You bet. We saved money, it felt right, and life just started leaning that way. Did it mean a lot of work, a complete shift in the images I had been forming in my head for months? Yes. Did our wedding turn out to be utterly different than I had ever imagined? Of course. But letting go of one place for our own backyard allows me to sit meditation on the spot where I said my love out loud, in front of a gathered crowd, to this man. Letting go worked out that time.
But the thing is? It took me until I was nearly thirty years old until I finally threw out my wardrobe from the seventh grade. And I didn’t even like those clothes. Photographs of me, with my enormous orange-rimmed glasses, and the high-collared polyester dresses, make me look like a middle-aged librarian. I look younger now in my forties than I did at twelve. (And this after the Albert Brooks phase.) Why did I keep all those clothes? I don’t know. Why do I still have all the journals I kept when I was sixteen and twenty and even thirty-two? Even though I peek inside one, once in a while, just to see what I was doing on this day, a decade ago, and I shudder to see the stumbling phrases. Sometimes, I am amazed at my former self’s capacity to wrestle an idea to the ground (over the span of twenty pages) like a dog with a bone. My god, I didn’t know how to let anything go, until I was well into my thirties.
There’s a reason I sit meditation on that spot in our backyard every day.
I always remember this line in Catcher in the Rye, when Holden accuses his roommate Stradlater of being “…a secret slob.” He looks neat on the outside, but his razor is all crumby with unwashed hairs. I’m not a secret slob (take a look at the state of our kitchen right now, and you would know it’s not a secret at all). But it seems, sometimes, I’m a secret clinger.
You see, I can’t seem to let go of our wedding.
Writing this enormous set of stories was a wonderful catharsis. Looking at the photographs, nearly every day, has been a wonderful release. Last week was the Chef’s birthday. For his present, I developed several dozen of our favorite images, our hands with the rings, the nieces and nephews, both sets of parents, the two of us laughing, and many more. And then I hung them up in the living room. When he returned home from the restaurant that night, he stood in front of those photos and cried.
It was such a beautiful day, you see.
Certainly, life goes on around here. Bills to be paid, pieces to be written, and always the dishes to be done. The Chef has started a new menu at the restaurant, as part of a three-month tour of the Tastes of the African Continent. One taste of the zatar-roasted leg of lamb or the coconut crème brulee, and you will never again decry having to live a gluten-free life. I have writing to do, and more last-minute proofreading of the book. (Always, there seems to be one more page to be checked.) A thousand details rush through my mind, and only a few of them are laid to rest at the end of each day.
We’re busy around here.
But still, I keep writing about the wedding.
Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve attended two other weddings in the last two weekends. I go years without sitting on a white chair, wiping away the tears from my eyes as two people declare their love for each other. But this summer, it has been wedding central.
Two weeks after our wedding, Molly and Brandon married each other. Actually, that’s not quite true. I was the person who married them. I felt more honored than words could convey that these two people I love asked me to stand before them and pronounce them husband and wife. (In case you’re wondering, I’m a Minister of the Internet, a preacher of life.) As I stood next to Brandon, under the tent, the sea behind us, and watched Molly walk down the aisle toward him, I grew more teary than I had at my own wedding. I looked over at the Chef, in the third aisle back, wearing his sky-blue shirt. We winked at each other. We were already married.
Of course, I could tell you so many details about Molly and Brandon’s wedding, of the lovely weekend in Bellingham. But that is her story. And I will let her tell it. Suffice it to say there were glasses of sparkling wine, jars of pickled carrots, hanging flowers in mason jars, fresh caprese salads, and a special plate of appetizers set aside for me. Gluten-free. Mostly, there was a beautiful bride, and an ebullient groom, and the loving people thronged around them to watch their first dance.
This past weekend, I drove up to Bellingham again for Nicole’s wedding. (Weddings mean serious miles on the car this summer.) I first met Nicole when she was fourteen years old. It was my first year of teaching. Or, to be more accurate, it was two days before the beginning of my first year of teaching. I was putting up postcards on the wall near the light switch when this kid came in. This fresh-faced, dancing eyes, mouth-full-of-braces kid. She said, “Are you the new teacher?” with so much enthusiasm that I immediately felt grateful. Oh, it is going to work, I thought. I loved her immediately.
After she graduated, and was no longer my student, we started being friends. Now, she is nearly thirty years old, and a married woman.
Their wedding took place in one of the more beautiful settings I have ever experienced. Every person there knew the bride and groom well. No distant relations or business acquaintances. Simply a community of people who loved them. It was the kind of wedding where an old family friend stands up to sing a John Denver song, a capella, and everyone sings softly along, their voices echoing off the hills filled with trees.
And when they stood in front of a Buddha statue, and said open-hearted vows to each other, I cried again.
It was also another wedding where I was able to eat successfully, and safely. Nicole and David had a potluck too (I think inspired by our original planning), and had little cards in front of each dish, with the ingredients listed. Such a joy. The millet salad with edible flowers was enough to make me swoon.
And they had even purchased a gluten-free cake for me, from the Bellingham Co-Op. Now that’s love. (Of course, there were other people who needed the cake as well. The awareness of this need seems to grow every day.)
And so, you see, I have been swathed in weddings, basking in the festivities of first toasts and slow dances, meaningful glances between bride and groom and a joyful throng of people wanting to dance along.
No wonder it has been hard to move on from our wedding.
And I can’t stop giggling when I introduce him: “This is my husband….”
But all things must come to an end, eventually. I find myself not writing here, because I just want to write about the wedding, and there is only so much that you poor people can take. Or I want to look at the set of photographs that Shuna took of our big day. On Sunday, my family came over for a day-early birthday celebration. My brother took one look at the wall of photos and said, “It seems you’ve been busy documenting the wedding.” Really, I have to stop.
After all, I have a honeymoon to finish planning.
But of course, I don’t really mean that I want to let go of the wedding. Thinking about it? That will go on my entire life. Our entire lives together. We still look at photographs every night, when the Chef is home from the restaurant. The wedding, the feeling, the love and laughter — those are still with me every day. I intend to keep every moment of it alive, in the way I love him.
But I want to put a cap on the public writing about, here, on this site. With all the posts before the wedding happened, I was still writing about the wedding. It feels like enough to me now.
I’ll never be able to stop talking about how much I love him.
But we miss so much when we think exclusively about what happened in the past.
There’s this gorgeous sunlight out my window right now, or the taste of the soy milk I had for a snack, the possibility soon of simply sitting on the porch and reading a magazine. I want to write about that. There are so many other moments, perhaps more mundane, that I would love to write, now. I feel like — in writing alone — I am a little backed up. There was the afternoon that Elliott was in our backyard and laughed so hard about the bubbles he made that we all started laughing. Or the summer creative writing camp I started teaching on Monday, with days full of stories and teenagers who are characters. I’ve made up corn puddings and apricot crisps and quinoa salads, and I want to share them with everyone.
I want to go back to the food.
And at some point, I have to answer my email!
So it seems to me that the best way to move on is to bow in gratitude, and thank the people who helped make our wedding what it was. (That way, if you are having a wedding in Seattle sometime in the future, you will know whom to thank as well.)
To Monica Frisell, who drove across the country with her Belgian friend with a mohawk to attend our wedding. She took brilliant photos with my Nikon (how weird it was to not have it in my hands, but I trusted her hands) and shoot many more with her Leica. We are blessed to know her. Monica, we have come a long way from the Sprinkler room at Northwest, idly vacuuming and talking about New York. Now you’re living there, and taking photographs full-time.
To Mark Eskenazai, who not only brought over his dj equipment and set it up on our back porch, but also took photographs, spontaneously. He’s a great photographer. Give him a call. Or, stop by Sosio’s, our favorite produce stand at Pike Place Market, and buy some peaches from him.
To Daniel, who provided all those beautiful flowers, even with his difficult decision.
To Coleen and Joe, who played so beautifully, and made “True Companion” their own song, enough so that I heard it new as I walked down the aisle.
To Francoise, Tita, Kathy, and Andy, for their stories, their companionable silences, and their love spoken aloud.
To Kaytlyn Sanders, who re-designed this website, designed our Save the Date cards and our wedding invitations, and gave us the food allergy cards for the potluck. All with a sweet smile and a warm chuckle. Kaytlyn, the next coffee at Fiorre is on me.
To the people at Alexander Party Rentals, who calmed a panicked-bride-to-be when she called and said, “We’re moving the wedding site. We need enough tables and chairs for everyone, in two weeks. Help!”
To Kathy at Ener-G Foods, who sweetly emailed early congratulations for the wedding, and wondered if we would need gluten-free crackers and pretzels for the party. Oh boy, did we. Everyone loved them. I’m munching on some as I type this.
To Don and Michelle, who roasted the lamb, brought it to our house in chafing dishes, piled more food onto the table that left people near tears with the taste, and stood in the receiving line to hug us. Don, your tears made us cry, and made us realize the day more fully.
To Kristin, who provided the boots.
To Sharon, Dana, Cindy, and Merida, the best bridesmaids I could have ever had (mostly because they understood I didn’t want them to do anything but stand by my side).
To Patti who started the “Worshipping the Shoes” dance.
To all you readers who sent us presents. My goodness, thank you.
To all the people who were in our backyard. Every time we sit outside now, we think of you, with us. Every day.
To our parents, who made it all possible by giving birth to us.
To the Chef, for marrying me, for loving me, for standing by my side.
I bow to you all.
There. That has to be it, for now.
Onward, onto the life beyond the wedding.
(Whew. Turns out that happened much faster than throwing out those rope-wedge heels from 1978. I guess now, at 41 — just turned yesterday — I am finally growing up.)