Friday, November 18, 2011

The Bride in the Watermelon Dress

I went to the most wonderful wedding last week.  It was on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of this eleventh year at the eleventh hour when the music began.  Each member of the wedding party came into the room dancing, including the bride's eighty-something-year-old grandfather who had been given the honor of accompanying  his granddaughter down the aisle at the eleventh minute.  There she was, her hand on his arm moving to the beat.  And the groom, who had just finished his own dance down the aisle, turned just in time to see his bride in the gown that had been kept hidden from him.  His smile said it all.  She was dressed in a lovely shade of watermelon pink.

I've been to lots of weddings.  It's one of those things that comes with being married to a pastor.  I suppose being a pianist has something to do with it as well,  I've played the Bridal March more times than I can count.   Most of them I've pretty much forgotten, especially the ones that went off without a hitch or the ten-minute ceremonies followed by a reception in the basement of a church where one gets to eat cake, mixed nuts and mints.

But there have been some unforgettables as well.  For example, the time the bridesmaid fainted is pretty memorable, and the fact that she was close to six-feet tall made the fall all the more dramatic.  Nor will I forget singing "Endless Love" while one particular bride shook uncontrollably and then couldn't stop giggling during her vows.  But I've seen men and boys shake from nerves too, grooms with their knees knocking together and a ring bearer who threw up just as the service was about to begin.  I was playing for a wedding in Montgomery, Alabama when the bride could not get down the aisle because of her hoop skirt, inspired no doubt by the lovely Scarlet O'Hara herself.  She finally had to tilt it upwards with one hand while clutching her father's arm with the other,  obviously not having taken the width of her dress into consideration when she booked the church.  I've also seen a veil catch on fire and a new bride grab and kiss her groom so long and hard that even the guests began to squirm a bit uncomfortably.  So when it comes to weddings, I've learned to expect anything.

Well maybe not everything.  There is a Hallmark commercial that features the brother of the bride who continually puts his foot in his mouth.  When he stands to toast his sister,  everyone suddenly becomes quite nervous, concerned at what he might say.  But he wisely pulls a greeting card from his lapel, reads the beautiful prose that Hallmark has already penned and everyone breathes a great sigh of relief and applauds.  Sigh.  I so wish a particular relative of ours had pulled a greeting card out of his lapel while toasting his brother at a wedding we attended this past summer.  But unlike the commercial, it was obvious from the first sentence that the best man was going to wing it.  Thus when he said,  "I probably shouldn't say this," he shouldn't have.  In retrospect, someone should have politely pulled him to the side and encouraged him to rethink what he was about to say, perhaps even better yet,  tackled him to the ground.  For as the video rolled,  he proceeded to tell all assembled there in that lovely setting that when his brother, the groom,  was especially nervous, he would go into the bathroom and....are you ready?....take a really big dump.  Oh my.  I was sitting across from my sister-in-law whose big brown eyes grew considerably larger.  The laughter he was anticipating never came, not even a ripple.  No one spoke or even cleared their throat.  Just silence.  Thud.

So back to the wedding with the bride in the watermelon dress.  Her name is Amie, and the decision to get married hadn't come easily for her.  Her parents had a troubled marriage, and she and her brother ended up being raised by their grandparents.  She had thought long and hard before agreeing to marry Jeremy, the man who would have waited forever if necessary.  She had told him she would marry when she was eighty.  "Then I will wait for you until you're eighty," he had said.  Now who wouldn't want to marry a man like that?   

Amie planned her wedding for two years, and it was clear from the moment the first of her wedding party danced down the center aisle, she was going to do it her way no matter what anyone else might think.  From the candy-filled centerpieces to the carnival-style photo booth complete with props,  it was clear how much she wanted everyone to enjoy this day with her. Food was plentiful with a breakfast bar in one corner and a dinner buffet in the other, and  I finished off my meal with a smoothie served in a fine china goblet.  She had simply thought of everything.

There was more of course.  The day had started with music and dance and it would end with it as well.  And though I've no doubt Amie enjoyed every part of her wedding on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of this eleventh year, I suspect her favorite part of all was the moment she stepped onto the dance floor.  You see, she had come prepared.  For poking out from under that lovely watermelon gown, she had worn the most comfortable of dancing shoes complete with laces, a pair of plaid sneakers.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

It Started With A Name

Matthew Woodfin along with Zac
His name is Matt, he's just recently had his thirteenth birthday and his last name is Woodfin.  Nope, no relation to my son-in-law or the other Woodfins from the South land as far as I know.  He lives near Detroit with his mom and dad and maybe some siblings.  I'm not really sure about that part.  He also happens to be a huge Packer fan.

It was Saturday morning and Fawn wanted to take us to Kavarna, the coffee house that she had discovered right after moving to Green Bay.  Zac had gone on ahead as he'd made arrangements to meet someone there.  It turns out it was birthday boy Matt and a few of his family members.  They'd all come in for the game, Matt's first, and a great way to celebrate this milestone birthday.  After all, turning thirteen is a big deal.

I'm not all that sure how the family had made contact with Zac in the first place.  I imagine they probably follow the Packers pretty religiously and saw that the team had hired a new strength coach whose last name just happened to be the same as theirs.  Who made the initial contact isn't all that important to the story anyways.  The thing that does matter is that a young assistant coach was making time to meet a kid who loves a certain football team and had traveled 300 miles to see them play.

As we pushed through the front door, we immediately saw Zac near the entrance sitting across from a kid in a Packer's sweatshirt and a middle-aged guy, obviously his dad.  An older cousin and uncle were seated at the end of the table. We ordered our drinks then pulled up some chairs to listen as he talked with them about the team and answered what questions he could.  They weren't missing a word.  To commemorate the occasion Fawn ordered a brownie and set it down in front of Matthew as we sang to him.  The whole experience must have been a bit overwhelming,  he asked his dad if he could save it for later.

Fawn and I were the first to leave.  She had dinner guests coming later and we had a couple of errands to run.  I'd also promised her that I'd make some sauce out of the apples we'd brought from New York to add to the meal.  So we said our goodbyes, not expecting to see any of them again of course. The stadium holds almost eighty-thousand people.  The chances of running into them the next day was highly unlikely.

We'd only planned to stop at the Pro Shop at Lambeau just long enough to pick out a couple of shirts to wear to the game the next day.  The place was crowded, wall-to-wall with excited Packer fans who had come in from all over the country.  Between checking out the racks and waiting in line for a dressing room, we had already spent more time there than expected.  Also mingled there among the crowd of shoppers were several families of players and staff members who had traveled in for the game just like we had. Every few minutes we were being introduced to another mom or cousin or grandparent and it was during one of those chance meetings that we were told the training area was going to be open to family members that afternoon.  All we needed was a player or staff member to take us through.  And for us, that would be Zac.

We hadn't expected to see where he worked.  We were cool with it, but now that I knew we were going to see the facility, I was stoked.  The applesauce could wait. As we congregated outside the Pro Shop,  I was surprised to see that someone else had joined us.  Zac had received permission to invite a few extras to come along, three men and a thirteen-year-old boy who had come from Detroit to see his first Packer game.  I would have loved to have been there when those guys got that call.

After the elevator had descended into the belly of Lambeau,  I had a sense of anticipation as we stepped off and followed behind our newly-appointed guide.  I enjoyed the sense of privilege I felt while checking out the rooms full of exercise equipment, seeing the team dining hall, visiting the locker room, taking in names like Woodson, Matthews, Rodgers and standing just feet away from their gear.  It was fun trying out the recliners in the theater and standing just feet away from Bart Starr as he passed us in one of the hallways.  Finally, walking through the tunnel, imagining the roar of the home crowd as we approached the  field, looking up and seeing the size and beauty of the place from that vantage point, it was all very cool.

Larry, Matthew, Nathan, Me, Steve and Bob in the theater

But of everything I remember about that afternoon, the thing that stands out most for me were the smiles that never left the faces of Matthew and his family.  This special tour, being in that part of Lambeau that many never get to see, this was something they hadn't anticipated a few hours earlier.  When I saw a player out of uniform, I didn't usually know who it was.  People look a lot different without helmets on their heads and don't usually wear names on their backs so people like me can identify them.   But it was obvious that these three men and a boy seemed to know just about everything and everybody connected to the Green Bay team.

Matthew and Steve Woodfin in the locker room

That was the last we saw Matthew and his three companions though a couple weeks later his dad sent me the pictures of their trip.  He also wrote a letter to Zac, thanking him for his part in making his son's birthday so special.  Actually, I think the whole story is pretty special.   And just think, it all started with a name.

Cousin Nathan, Uncle Bob, Matthew, Dad Steve and Zac at Lambeau Field