October 23, 2012 by Julia
Will is one of our oldest mutual friends, part of a group of people Dennis and I worked with at a movie theater that no longer exists, because it never got any customers. It was the perfect college job – we could do homework, eat popcorn, drink soda, see free movies, play scrabble, hang out and get paid. Not paid much, but still. By the time we were all friends I would’ve hung out at that movie theater for free.
Will, along with our other dear friends Dan and Jessica (now married), moved out to L.A. to seek his fame and fortune in filmmaking. It was there that he met Tracy. We had yet to meet her in person before their wedding, but we’d heard about how she supported him through tough health issues, about how they traveled Europe together; we saw the video of his surprise proposal in front of friends. She sounded like a lovely and good person. We couldn’t have been happier for Will.
He was one of our groomsmen almost 9 years ago, and in the case of his own wedding, our attendance has always been non-negotiable. He’s on the short list of friends whom we’d pay airfare to go see get hitched. So we up and flew to L.A. sans kids, which made it our first time since having kids that Dennis and I have actually flown somewhere together. We tag-team travel often enough, and have taken two short getaways together, but nothing like this. Four days on our own…with an old group of friends…in California. The prospect was both thrilling and worrying.
Really, the worst part was the two days of packing while children whined and guilt-tripped me and hung from any body part of mine they could get a good grip on. That was bad, really bad. One of the worst times packing I’ve ever had, which is saying a lot for me, because I hate no motherly chore more than packing up the family for a trip. To clarify – I was packing up myself for L.A., and them for the grandparents’ houses. There was lots of list-making and tying up of random loose ends, too, and a last-minute personalized wedding gift that I decided was a MUST, which meant five more trips to various frame stores and Kinko’s, and have you ever been on one of the computers there, charged by the minute, trying to print stuff, and it won’t work, and a kid has to pee, and the baby/kid is yelling in his stroller? No? Well, then, I ask you not to judge me for feeding baby Jack torn-up Sour Patch Kids bits, while Fiona had unlimited access to the entire bag. Panic will make you do things you never thought you’d do.
BUT. It was all worth it. The kids did mostly great with my parents and Dennis’ parents, who live ten minutes apart and split up the time between them (thanks again, grandparents!!). And once Dennis and I were on that plane out, we were all good. I’d forgotten how nice it is to travel with a husband. Someone to take a nap on, leave your luggage with, complain to.
Anyway, I keep getting off track. The wedding. The wedding! WHAT a wedding. It was so beautiful I felt like I was in one of those slow-mo montages set to meaningful music at the end of a primetime drama. I was literally slow dancing under the stars with Dennis to Iron and Wine music. LITERALLY. I mean, who knew that these things happened in real life?
Okay, enough with the caps. Let me start from the beginning. Dan and Jessica picked us up from the airport and we spent the night at their place before driving up the mountains to Big Bear Lake, where the wedding was going to be held. The drive alone was the kind of thing I live for. The contrast between L.A. and San Bernardino National Park was jarring in the best way. I kept trying to get good shots of the rolling mountains; I loved that it got colder and foggier the further we went.
We arrived at the lodge, which was rustic and had funny touches like this bear lamp and actual bear skin rug, which we tried to pet until it started to freak us out. I think the disrespect factor felt too high.
Dennis and I stayed at a cottage a couple of miles away, and the day of the wedding we had the most relaxing morning ever – again, something that we try to provide for each other sometimes, but hardly ever get to enjoy together. I’m talking coffee and oatmeal and Law and Order reruns and Kindle and Ipod in bed for three hours relaxing. Oh man, I’m getting nostalgic as I write this; moving on.
We went into the Big Bear Lake village with Dan and Jessica to get our second round of coffee, were thoroughly charmed, and I wished for an afternoon there with my sister and mom. Quick stop at the lake itself, and then it was time to get prettified for the wedding. The lodge had undergone a spectacular transformation into Martha Stewart-worthy weddingland, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the centerpieces and garden. I’m way past the wedding phase of my life, and yet I couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of it all. This rustic romantic stuff is so up my freaking alley I nearly had a heart attack, and the wedding hadn’t even begun yet.
A quick note about Will. He does not care about convention, and this can come across as hostility under certain circumstances. But he has a soulfulness and vulnerability buried not too far beneath the prickly-mountain-man, film-snob exterior, and when the rest of us in our old circle of friends make fun of him, it is with an abiding affection for all of his annoying quirks. We need him. Things would be too balanced and normal without him, not as funny. He gets under your skin, like a family member, and before you know it, you love the guy.
So, the three things that made me cry:
When his good friend Jesse read this from The Velveteen Rabbit:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I was also a blithering idiot while Will danced with his mom.
She is legendary. Everyone who knows her loves her; her sons adore her. Will lost his dad as a teenager, and she somehow held their family together through their terrible loss. She strikes me as being strong and accepting and kind and real. How could I not cry?
And then I cried during the aforementioned moments of slow dancing with Dennis under the stars. It was a moment. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for him, and for our lives. I felt rich.
Other Highlights That Didn’t Induce My Tears:
The Nacho Wagon. Will told us the day before that he was very excited about this nacho wagon idea of his for the hors d’oeuvres hour, and we were all like, okay, Will. You’re having italian pasta for dinner and nachos before that? But it was great. The chips themselves were so delectable I could’ve eaten them plain. Everyone kept going back for seconds and thirds. Plus, it’s just really fun to say “Nacho Wagon.” I’m guessing that was part of the plan. Will and Tracy, wedding trendsetters. You read it here first.
Another highlight was obviously the gorgeous setting, which I could not stop talking about, as if the people around me couldn’t see it, too. The air was so clean, with an invigorating chill, and the trees were tall, and the sun was setting everything aglow, and the strung-up lights just got me. It was the perfect meeting of people and nature. It was wonderful.
And the last major highlight for me was the dancing outside. Our playlist was made up of a few standards, some White Stripes (which Dan and I finally figured out how to dance to. Just stand alone, scowling with your eyes closed, bobbing your head, and every time the guitar pops in, do some fierce air-guitar moves), some Black Keys, and a bunch of Iron and Wine. I actually got Dennis to dance, with me, too – fast dancing! It was so exciting. I think at some point (after we both took shots of whiskey) I invented two new moves: the “crab” and the “shrug.” Also, Jessica and I were the backup dancers to Adele on “Rumor Has It.” The whole thing was good ridiculous dramatic fun, fun, fun. We tore it up.
The morning after, we all had breakfast together, and then it was time for Dan and Jessica to drive us back to LAX – a trip of a couple of hours. We listened to Abbey Road on the way down, out of the hills, talking occasionally, just taking in the scenery. They are the kind of friends that we are totally comfortable with, as a couple. There is a sense that we can pick up right where we left off.
Dennis and I didn’t get home until the middle of the night, after a delayed flight and layover and driving ourselves to his parents’ house, where the kids were. I only got three hours of sleep, but still had to see the kids right away when they awoke. Jack started crying the moment he saw me, as if he just then realized what that nagging problem in the back of his mind had been for the past four days. Mommy and Daddy were missing. He continued to cry so much that day we took him to the doctor – he checked out fine.
Congratulations and so much love to Tracy and Will as you begin your own family.