Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 133: Lavinia, Chapter 9

It was a few days later that Charles caught up to her as she was walking down the tree lined streets that led into town. He seemed a little breathless as he fell into step, and smiled down at her with sparkling brown eyes. She didn't allow herself to linger on his gaze, but turned her eyes forward, setting her jaw determinedly, as she greeted him coolly. As the walked, she continued listening to Milena as she babbled in her perfectly nine year old way, trying to act oblivious to the man next to her.

Charles ignored Lavinia's aloof greeting and teased Milena until both of them were laughing, and then told her that if she wanted to run to his uncle's bakery, that she could have a treat of a fresh, warm bun. With a squeal of delight, Milena raced ahead of them, while they continued on in silence.

Lavinia waited for an apology, or an explanation, for his absence three nights before, but Charles seemed content to be silent, lost in his own thoughts. Irritated that she cared what he was thinking, she walked a little faster, but he kept up without even seeming to notice.

"Did you have a good party, the other night?" he finally offered.
"Yes." she practically snapped back.
"I'm sorry that I wasn't there. I had every intention of coming." he said cheerfully.
"Oh well, I'm sure that it must have been something very important. James and I spent hours talking--the time just flew" she lied, glancing sidelong to see his face. This last remark had finally bothered him, she noted with satisfaction. Good.
"Don't you want to know where I was?"
"I hardly see how it's any of my concern, Charles. If you couldn't be there, you couldn't be there. It wasn't as if I invited you." Somewhere in her mind a little alarm went off. She was being unforgivably rude.

He stopped walking and turned to her, and she hesitated next to him. His silence drew her gaze to his face. His eyes, she saw to her surprise, seemed to be brimming with happiness--of something he was anxious to tell her.

"Lavinia, I went to that cottage meeting. With the preachers from the Mormon church. I didn't mean to stay. I only planned to listen for a few minutes, and then leave and join you. But, once I started listening, I was captivated..."
Cutting him off, she began to walk quickly again.
"I don't want to hear about it." she replied, unable to keep the hurt and disappointment out of her voice.
Catching up with her, he reached for her arm, which she snatched away. The sparkle had dimmed and his brown eyes seemed to plead with her to listen, "Lavinia, I..."

"No, Charles. It's no good. No."

She left him standing there in the street, looking after her as she gathered her skirts and hurried away.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Day 132: Lavinia, Chapter 8

She opened the door, and there stood Jenna with a quart of ice cream and a huge smile.

"Sure. I was just coming." Lavinia tried to sound casual as she followed her down the hall.

There were several friends, none of whom Lavinia had met before. Jenna waved at them briefly, and said their names, but Lavinia knew she wouldn't remember a single one. She nodded at them and then sought haven in the freezer, pulling out her pistachio ice cream and setting it on the counter next to several others.

One of the guys exclaimed over it, saying it was his favorite kind, but hard to find, as he began dishing himself a large bowlful. Lavinia felt relieved--she had brought the right thing. She studied the different cartons of ice cream so that no one would feel like they needed to talk to her, but Jenna handed her a huge ice cream cone and comfortably introduced her into a conversation she was having with one of her friends.

"Vinia knows a lot about that kind of stuff" she easily transitioned, "She works at a homeless shelter as a social worker. What do you think, Lavinia?"

And suddenly, because it was something she was passionate about, Lavinia lost her shyness and found herself talking and laughing with the small group. They wanted to organize a service for the homeless shelter, but there was some debate about what, exactly, would be helpful and how to go about it. She was in her element.

Eventually, the conversation drifted in other directions--some of them confusing and foreign since they revolved around Jenna's church, which these friends were members of, too. Lavinia worked on her ice cream cone and decided it was about time to head to bed when suddenly, one of the girls, Michelle, maybe, asked Lavinia a question that made no sense to her. Jenna put her hand on Lavinia's arm, laughed lightly, and said "Oh, Vinia doesn't go to our church. She puts up with me, though." Lavinia smiled and made to wash her hands at the sink. From there, she was able to make a quiet exit.

Later, after getting into her pajamas and reading for awhile, she heard Jenna say goodbye to her friends and start cleaning up the kitchen. Lavinia put her book down and walked out to the kitchen. She joined Jenna at the counter, scooping some sprinkles into her hand and tossing them into the trash with a crumpled napkin.

"Jenna...thanks. For inviting me. You didn't have to, but it was nice" she said, with her back turned to her roommate.
"Hey--it was fun to have you. I think you really helped us pick a good service project." Jenna said easily, then--continuing, "I'm sorry about the church stuff. I hope it didn't make you feel uncomfortable."

Lavinia turned to Jenna, who was leaning against the counter looking intently at her. Trying to gauge her reaction, maybe.

"Don't worry about it." was Lavinia's reply.

She put a couple glasses in the dishwasher and walked back to her room to go to bed.

I'm ba-aaack...

Hellooooo, everyone. I'm back. You know I had a good trip because a) my back is sunburned and peeling and b) I don't dare step on the scale. A very good trip indeed.

Now. Back to this story...

Which, by the way, I feel like pontificating about for a second. "Lavinia" has created some interesting breakthroughs for me. For one thing, it's the first time that I've been able to see where I wanted the story to go, from the very beginning. I have an end in mind. It's good. I'm excited about it. The tricky part, now, is to figure out how to GET there. I have these two characters that have the same name, in two very different time periods and settings half a world apart. Their stories will move closer and closer together, but for now there's a lot of jumping. I have to remind myself, as I write, that this is a rough draft. One of the chapters I wrote the other day made the modern Lavinia introverted, and I thought "But what if I decide I don't want her to be introverted?" and I had to remind myself that I can always go back and change what I don't like or what doesn't work. There is a lot of detail missing, and things that need to be fleshed out. I guess, what this version is, is a skeleton of the full story. I need to be able to see ahead, clearly, and know the whole pattern before I weave the story together completely.

Your feedback has been so helpful--I can't emphasize that enough. I need to know what's working, and what's not. Know that I'm keep suggestions and comments in mind, even when I don't get to them right away. You all are my sounding board and, on the days when I just.don't.feel.like.writing--my reason to write. Thank you!!!

Now back to the story...

Monday, April 20, 2009

One more thing!

While I'm gone...

giveaway, girls. Good ones:

Go to Meanest Mom's latest billion commented, everyone wants in, post HERE.

Day 131: Lavinia, Chapter 7 and on vacation

I'm headed out on vacation until this coming Sunday, and won't be able to post the next chapters in my story until then, but Pleaaaaaaase don't go away. I will certainly be working on my next installment, and I want your feedback!!!!!

Until then, I'll leave you with this...


He never came. She tried, the whole party, to make conversation with James--to be amenable and agreeable to everyone, but she was afraid that her disappointment showed plainly on her face. She just couldn't recover her staggering hopes. She finally sought out William, and he agreed to leave a bit early, much to Ted's frustration as he was deeply engaged in conversation with the lovely Jane Bellweather by the window.

On the quiet ride home, her disappointment turned to annoyance. He had told her that he would come, if he were invited. She'd made a fool of herself, chasing after him. Who was he, anyway? But the thought of his brown eyes turned her annoyance away from him and to another source.

Those Mormon preachers. She was sure that he had missed the party to go to that cottage meeting. The more she thought about it, the angrier she became. By the time they pulled up to their gate, she was furious. What kind of people came to a foreign country, just to make trouble and spread lies? She had found them curious, and a bit pathetic. Now, thrusting her chin slightly into the air, she determined that they were more than that--they were base and evil. She loathed them, and determined, from that moment, to ignore them completely, and at any cost.

To be continued on Monday....



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day 130: Lavinia, Chapter 6

Jenna, it turned out, was going to be a great roommate.

After Lavinia met the missionaries from down the hall, and had learned that her new roommate was a Mormon, she worried that Jenna would be a weirdo who prayed over her constantly.

Instead, Jenna was a dark haired girl with hazel eyes. She worked at a local library, while studying for her degree in library science. She laughed easily, and--best of all--gave Lavinia plenty of space. She was always friendly, and would leave notes on the fridge that said things like "Thanks for doing the dishes. Have a good one." Never any awkward glances on her way out the door, wondering if she should include Lavinia. No forced invitations. Live and let live.

It was the perfect level of roommate commitment for Lavinia. She didn't need a best friend or a pseudo-sister. She just wanted someplace to sleep, read, and think clearly. She felt best when she was able to focus on her casework at a local homeless shelter, comfortable in her professional detachment from the people she worked with every day. A roommate like Jenna was just what she needed.

And, as for being a Mormon, she watched her carefully, trying to figure out the implications of that. She knew that there was never any wine or coffee in the apartment. She never had to worry about her stumbling through the doorway and passing out on the couch, or having men suddenly sleeping over. As far as she could tell, it just meant that Jenna's lifestyle didn't interfere with her own. Maybe, this time, she'd be able to stay in one place a little longer.

Sometimes Lavinia would see the missionaries on their way in or out of the building. They would nod and smile at her, but never said anything.

Unlike Jenna, it began to bother her, just a little, that they never invited her to learn more. Wasn't that their job? From what little she knew, weren't they supposed to be chasing people down? Wasn't she good enough? It annoyed her. She wanted the chance to tell them she wasn't interested, and then remembered, blushing, that she had told them exactly that when they'd come to borrow some sugar. And she wasn't interested.

But, still. Why didn't they ask?

Given their distance, and the space that Jenna always gave her, it surprised her one morning to find a note on the fridge that said "Ice cream tonight? Here. 8:00."

Ice cream? What did that mean? Was it an invitation, or a warning that there would be other people at the apartment? Lavinia didn't know what to make of it. She might have something else to do, at 8:00. She could go see a movie, by herself. There was always something going on, somewhere in this city.

But, deep down, she was surprised to realize that the thought of ice cream and visiting sounded fun. She wished she knew who else was going to be there. She thought about it as she pedaled her mint green bike to the shelter, and again as she pedaled home. She stopped at Ralph's and grabbed a quart of pistachio, her favorite, just in case. When she got home, she shoved it to the back of the freezer, and went to her room.

Her stomach was in knots. She just didn't do well--meeting new people. She corrected that thought, she did fine with meeting new people at work or school. But new people, in her home, made her cringe. She glanced at the clock--there was still enough time to jump on her bike and head to Westwood village for a movie. She could use some air.

Then she heard the door open, and two female voices chattering and rustling plastic bags.

She recognized Jenna's voice, but who was the other one?

Then she heard a third woman's voice. So, three girls. A girl's night in.

A knock at the door, and she froze when she heard some men's voices from the hallway coming in. Not a girl's night, then. A whole party. A lot of people. At least 5, that she could hear. She wanted to panic, but then felt silly. She knew that Jenna wouldn't care if she sauntered past the whole crowd, waved at them, and walked out the door. The part of her that had wanted to join in was growing ever smaller. She just wanted out.

She jumped when there was a light tap at her door, and Jenna's voice "Hey, 'vinia? You want some ice cream?"

Vinia? She had a nickname? No one had ever given her a nickname before. She liked it.

Throwing her shoulders back and plastering a smile on her bewildered face, she opened the door.

Day 129: Lavinia, Chapter 5

She spent extra time, that day, on her appearance. She tried to get each curl to set just right. She chose one dress, and then another. It was just a small gathering, mostly family and friends that she'd known her whole life. But, if he came, she wanted to look her very best.

William and his young wife, Beth, would be her chaperones for the evening. She guessed, by the care he'd taken, Ted was also hoping to see a particular someone at the small party, but she said nothing.

They arrived at the house, brilliantly lit in the falling summer night. William and Beth entered, but she held Ted back just a moment to linger a little over the beauty of the evening sky. Her family liked to tease her about her love of nature--they told her to take up her walking stick and follow Wordsworth over the hills, writing poetry. She soaked in a moment of the peace and stillness, before she allowed herself to be led inside, where Ted quickly disentangled himself to go and join a game of cards already in progress.

Lavinia walked once around the room, stopping to chat with her friends, then finally settled herself on a chair at one end of the room facing the door.

Charles was not there, but her cousin Anne had assured her that they had sent over an invitation, as she had requested. She tried to assure herself that he would come.

Within a few minutes, the chair next to her was occupied by a long familiar face with blue eyes: James. Her parents, she knew, would have loved for her to pay more attention to the young man. As he talked now, she observed him. His face was long and thin, with a high nose. He smiled readily, and his blue eyes often sparkled beneath his curly blonde hair.

She had tried to like him. She knew that he favored her. In fact, she wouldn't be suprised if, one day soon, he approached her father. And what would he say? What would she do? He stood to inherit a substantial piece of property, that he was already busy managing. He was a devoted son to his parents, and a wonderful brother to his siblings. He was her friend.

But then why, she wondered, did she wish that his blue eyes were brown?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 128: Lavinia, Chapter 4

Lavinia groaned inwardly, and almost couldn't help the grimace that surely showed on her face.

Two Mormon sister missionaries. Standing there. Smiling at her.

She had been in the apartment a total of maybe one hour, and they'd found her already? They must have a radar for fresh audiences.

Pulling the door open a bit wider, before they could say anything, she said "Look, guys. I'm new here. I'm really busy. And besides, I'm just not interested."

The two women, probably around her own age, exchanged glances before one sheepishly held up a measuring cup.

"Sorry. We just wondered if we could borrow some sugar. And an egg. We're you're neighbors, just down the hall, and we're making cookies."

Lavinia blushed profusely. "Oh, um. Well--I don't...have any sugar yet. Or eggs."

"Oh. Well, uh--you're roommate? Jenna? She's a member of our church, and she said..." the girl finished lamely.
"Okay. I mean, Jenna isn't home right now. I haven't even met her, but if she said it was alright."

Opening the door, she turned and walked into the generic kitchen and started opening random cupboards. The two girls followed her in and stood silently as she pushed aside boxes of pasta and cans of tuna fish, looking for the sugar. Finding it, she handed one the bag, and then grabbed a carton of eggs from the fridge.

Shoving it at them, she said "Here. You can just return what you don't use."

They thanked her and moved for the door.
"I'll tell Jenna you came by." Lavinia said, in a voice full of forced cheerfulness.
"Great, thanks. It was nice to meet you."

Closing the door behind them and bolting all the locks, Lavinia shook her head.

Somehow, she would've expected Mormon missionaries to be different.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Day 127: Lavinia, chapter 3

Lavinia strode distractedly up high street. She tried to look like she wasn't looking for someone, when she was. Holding her younger sister Malina's hand, she hardly heard her protests about wanting to stop and look at ribbons. In her distraction, she walked right past the shop she had come to visit.

Up ahead, she saw a small crowd gathered, and a smile dawned on her young face. Malina was truly protesting now and tugging at her hand. She let her go, and told her to go find Ted at the printer's shop, giving her a playful swat as her sister darted away. Then she turned back to the crowd up ahead.

She smoothed the front of her pale pink gown with her hands, even as she remembered her brother William's taunting remarks about wearing a ballgown just to walk into town. Now, it was worth it.

As she approached, she tried to come at an angle that he couldn't help but see her--even though she could see that he was engaged in conversing with some men at the center of the circle. She saw his deep brown eyes rise for a moment and catch her figure as she approached lightly, smiling quietly. A smile lit his face for just a moment before he returned to his discussion.

Wanting an excuse to talk with him, she stood at the back of the circle to listen and then recoiled as she realized that the men in the center of the circle were preachers--Mormon missionaries. She had heard of them, but never seen any. She was curious, but suddenly nervous. She knew that if her father or brothers saw her, she would have a hard time answering their questions. She glanced over her shoulder and stepped back a pace. Then, she heard his voice--so steady and clear, questioning the men. Her heart picked up it's pace, and she felt a flush of pride. He may be just an apprentice with no father, but he was intelligent and quick. His question was pointed and logical. She knew he would put these liars in their places, and felt far less uncomfortable suddenly.

But his tone was not attacking, simply honest. He had no intention of making fools of them, although she sensed that he easily could've. They announced that they would be preaching that night, at a cottage meeting and invited the listeners to attend. People muttered lowly and turned to walk away.

Not wanting to seem bold, she had started walking slowly back down the street, stopping to admire a new display in a shop when she heard his sure footstep fall easily behind her.

She turned to him, standing close behind her, and smiled. His deep brown eyes smiled back, and he offered to escort her back to her father's printing business. She nodded slightly and they began to walk, side by side.

She commented, politely, on his question to the Mormon ministers, and then complimented him on trying to help them to see the error of their doctrine.

He was silent a moment before replying, "Yes. But their arguments are sound, even if they aren't logical. They speak with conviction. I admire that."

Turning to him slightly, "But, surely, you don't intend to attend their cottage meeting tonight, Charles?"

He was quiet, before proceeding thoughtfully, "I hear much of them--the bad and the good. I wish only to see for myself."

Lavinia realized that her hands were clasped quite tightly into fists as they had walked. She had a small pit in her stomach.

She knew, deep down, what an uphill battle was facing her in regards to Charles William Mann. As far as her family, and their whole community, was concerned--he was a no one. No family connections. His only prospects due entirely to an uncle who had taken him in out of charity, and who owned his whole life until his apprenticeship was finished. Although she loved the sight of his brown eyes and the sound of his deep voice, she knew that there would be no point in hoping, if he chose to mix with this new faith.

Impulsively, she asked if he wasn't planning to attend a small gathering of friends that night at Honeywick, her cousin's home. She blushed, and realized how forward and obvious she was being. He would guess, surely, that she was just trying to keep him away from that cottage meeting. Trying to be in the same place that he was.

He only smiled as they reached her father's print shop and said "If your cousins were to extend the invitation, I could not refuse." He looked down at her for a brief moment, and then turned and strode away.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day 126: Lavinia, chapter 2

Standing with her hands on her hips, Lavinia looked around the tiny bedroom and sighed.

Another apartment. Different roommates. A new job. Everything changing, all over again, but everything staying the same.

She pulled a box to the middle of the floor and opened the top, then began to pull out picture frames, books, a mirror--things that would make the place feel like home. Make it feel the same as any other place she'd ever lived.

From another box she pulled out her blue sheets and stretched them over the twin bed in the corner. On the night stand, she put her eiffel tower lamp and alarm clock. It really was a tiny room, and the bed and nightstand practically filled it.

Moving to the window, she looked out at the view of the back parking lot, a fence, and another apartment building behind. She checked the window to see if it had a lock, and realized that a piece of pvc pipe, cut to fit, was in place to keep it from being slid open. It would be safe enough, she guessed, on the second floor.

Turning again to her room, she knew what this room really needed: something green.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Her roommate, whom she hadn't met yet, wasn't home. She hesitated. It wouldn't be for her. She didn't know a single person in this city. Maybe she should just ignore it and finish unpacking.

It buzzed again, and she moved into the dingy hallway with it's generic white paint and brown door. There was no peep hole, so there was no way to see who was on the other side. She gently pulled back the dead bolt, but leaving the chain lock in place and opened the door a crack.

On the other side, brown eyes smiled down at her.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 125: Lavinia

Green was all she had ever known. Rising out of cracks and crevices, smoothing lines of stone. Gazing into the tumbling brooks or wide, clear streams--it gazed back at you. Even in winter, it never fully retreated, but instead became a muted backdrop. In summer, it burst forth in profusion, greeting you with it's heavy scent and rustling branches. It was all green.

Lavinia was born on a warm summer day--the first day of July. Wrapped in a cool linen blanket, her grandmother had carried her over to the broad window and held her up to the sun dappled afternoon light. She had studied her tiny, bruised face and stroked the clenched fist. Her mother Hannah, in an exhausted sleep, did not see her stern mother-in-law lift the tiny child to her face and place her cheek against the dark hair, rocking gently.

She was the third child. There was nothing remarkable about being the third. But the first girl. And there was certainly something special in that.

In the next room, her father William tried to quiet 4 year old William and 2 year old Edwin, called Ted. The boys were tired of being cooped up all day. They wanted their mother. Short of that, they wanted their father to swing them up to the ceiling like he normally did, and not constantly shush at them.

Grandmother Jane laid the baby softly in the beautifully carved wooden cradle, her soft smile fading, and then, setting her face, she turned and brushed out of the tiny bedroom.

Lavinia: By Chapter

Here is the Lavinia story, to date, by chapter.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 124: Fields of Gold, Chapter 32

It was a magical day. The kind that, I anticipate, will happen only once in my lifetime.

We left the temple in Dave's car--my mom handing me our picnic basket with our lunch, but cautioning me that, since it was warm, we might want to stop at McDonalds in the next small town instead. We laughed about it, and then we did. A husband and wife of two hours, going through the drive through. I ordered a chicken sandwich.

We had a beautiful afternoon, followed by the perfect evening. We had our reception in the backyard of a good friend who had been one of my mentors growing up. She had a stream running through her yard and, when I was only 16, had asked a bunch of us girls to come and help us line it with stones. Three of us came, and she told each of us that we were welcome to have our receptions there--someday.

It was the perfect setting--a stretching back lawn that was a deep velvet green, overlooking fields that highlighted the mountains of my childhood. I remember my younger brother standing at the back fence, stroking a gentle horse that had wandered over. I remember Dave's nieces and nephews running up and down along the stream. The sound of people laughing as the sun sank and the light taking on a golden tint that makes the whole world shimmer.

We had always anticipated a first dance, as a couple, but had never chosen a song. The owner put on the theme song from the old Romeo and Juliet movie, "A Time for Us." We danced. Then Dave danced with his mom, and I danced with my dad. I can't say the word "perfect" too many times in connection with it. It was perfect. But I was growing weary. In the pictures from the reception, you can see me wilting just a bit. I didn't feel so well.

We made our big exit, through rows of friends and family throwing handfuls of rice, and jumped in the car that was draped in tulle. As we pulled out, I caught a glimpse of my brother, Ben's, face. He had huge tears in his eyes.

There is something no one ever warns you about, when they talk about getting married. They don't talk about how things will change with the siblings that you're close to--the ones that you call and talk to. The ones that you have twenty years of inside jokes with. They will always be your siblings, and you may always be close, but marriage does change things. I knew, as I looked at my handsome younger brother, standing there in that perfect evening, that both he and I knew that it would never be just the two of us, laying in a tent, laughing our heads off and reciting movie quotes, ever again. It hit me suddenly, and I started to bawl.

We drove away from the reception, me sobbing, and Dave looking confused. I cried all the way to the bed and breakfast. Dave turned off the car, where he said "Um. I guess we'll sit here until you're done crying." (I'm sure people would not have believed the reason the bride was sitting in the car bawling was because she was missing her brother, but I swear it's true.) I pulled it together. Dave turned to open the door and realized he'd made a tactical error. As we'd jumped in the car, he'd locked the doors.

This was a 1987 Quantum. There were no power locks. And this particular car was missing the knobs that allow you to pull up and unlock the doors.

Here is Dave in his tux. Here is me in my wedding dress. And we are locked in the car. There is only one thing to do: Dave climbed out of the sunroof. (My hero.)

For any newly married couple--there is a lot of "wedding night" anticipation, but does any bride, really, expect that her McDonald's chicken sandwich is going to come back to haunt her with a vengeance?? I sure didn't.

It sure did.

My most vivid memory of that night is being curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, stroking the blessed cold tile, and paying homage to the porcelain throne. I couldn't believe my luck. All pride, and beauty, went out the window. This was a crash course in marriage if ever there was one, and Dave passed with flying colors. He offered to hold my hair, asked if there was anything he could do, and went downstairs to have his eggs benedict. Alone. On his honeymoon.

The proprietor's wife, noticing his absent bride, inquired politely and sent him back upstairs with some pills filled with cayenne pepper. She swore they would do the trick.

All hail cayenne pepper.

Monday morning we were off for our four day cruise off the coast of California and day at Disneyland--and the rest of our lives.

It was the beginning of our happily ever after, which has included lots of roads and highways across many states. Various trips to different emergency rooms. Most importantly, it has welcomed three new characters. It continues to amaze me. And every once in awhile, I look over at Dave, and he looks over at me and smile, and I know--I'm home.
**
Epilogue
*My beautiful strand of pearls was flushed down the toilet in 2007. May they rest in peace.
*I wear my gold engagement band every March, to celebrate our engage-iversary.
*Dave's wedding gift to me was a beautiful album containing all of our letters and e-mails, his journal entries, and his letters to his parents. Best wedding gift ever.
*The watch lasted until a trip to Africa this year, when it fell and cracked. So much for time. On to eternity. *grin*

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day 123: Fields of Gold, Chapter 31

There are really no words to describe how I felt that day. There were too many. They were too varied. For some--there are no words.

So I did the only thing I could. I made a video montage.

I love these pictures.

I love the memories of this day.

I love that man that I married. I love that he looks exactly the same today as he did then--while I look...um...not exactly the same.

video

I hope you enjoy--I'll be back with my final chapter, and a prologue to answer some questions, tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day 122: Fields of Gold, Chapter 30

As I approached the entrance of the temple, I could see Dave standing and looking down at me. I was so glad he was there. Suddenly, everything felt more real to me.

I had quite the entourage with me, carrying my dress and all the accouterments of bridal paraphernalia. I walked up to Dave and he gave me a nervous hug. Someone snapped a picture. We both laughed. I hugged his mom, who lovingly put her arm around me as we walked in the doors.

Walking into a Latter-day Saint temple is a supremely peaceful experience. They are remarkably quiet places, and each one has their own personality. One of the things that Dave and I both loved about the Manti Temple, and why we had chosen to be married there, was because it feels very warm and welcoming, in a country kind of a way. No one is hurried or rushed. Everyone smiles a lot. They pulled me over to one side and took all my things, placing a small sticker on each item with the number "17" on them. There were 25 weddings in the Manti Temple that day, and we were number 17. (I later found out that in the Salt Lake Temple, there were 96 weddings that day.)

Dave and I were escorted down the wide hall and into a small office where we signed our certificate and answered a few questions, and then we went our separate ways to get ready.

In the Manti Temple there is a special room called the Bride's Room. It is not large, but has been lovingly decorated. There are four small vanities with mirrors and a delicate chandelier. Attached to this room is another small room with a wall entirely lined with mirrors. I entered the bride's room and my mom, sister, and an attendant from the temple helped me to put on my dress and fix my hair just so. There were two other brides in the bride's room--one just married, and one waiting to be married like me. We laughed and congratulated each other.

Once I was all dressed, I remember standing in front of all the mirrors. My mom was on one side and my sister on the other. I think it was the only time, in my life, when I would have completely believed that I was beautiful. Everything that I was feeling inside matched how I appeared outside. I have never been happier.

My attendant reappeared and I went with her to meet Dave. I remember the gentle rustling of my wedding dress as I came into the hall where he sat waiting. He looked nervous and young. I could tell that he was missing his father. He stood up and took my hand, and then dropped it after we'd only walked a few feet. He kept stepping on my dress, standing that close. We laughed a little, and it seemed to ridiculous, at that moment, to be wearing such a thing.

We entered the room where we would be married, called a sealing room, and spoke briefly with the man who would officiate. He gave us an encouraging smile, and then our guests began to enter. They were all perfectly quiet, and they filled the room and even lined the walls. Dave and I were seated on a small love seat, with his mom seated at Dave's left and my mom seated at my right.

The officiator welcomed everyone to our wedding, and then spoke for just a couple minutes. He gave us a few little pieces of advice, which I have always tried to remember: always be honest, use a soft voice, pray together, and respect each other. As he spoke, I kept my mind and eyes focused on him. Dave, meanwhile, was clutching my hand ever tighter--he wanted me to look at him. I knew if I looked at him, I would start to cry, and I didn't want to miss anything important.

I remember everything seemed to be in a haze--I wanted to hurry up and be married. I wanted every minute to last forever. I could see everyone smiling, but also how many were choking back tears because Dave's dad wasn't there. I looked up at Dave, and he looked down at me. We were both crying.

Soon, we arrived at the actual marriage. I listened carefully, trying to make sure that I didn't miss a moment of it. Almost in one breath it seemed, and we were husband and wife. It was then that I fully, intently looked into Dave's eyes. He kissed the bride. Our friends and family grinned and laughed.

Standing together, we exchanged rings. Dave had mine engraved, and it said simply, "You're home."

Day 121: Fields of Gold

While I'm writing--here is the last picture of Dave and I *before* we got married.... :)

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Sorry guys--we've got some wicked strep throat going on over here. I hope to get a post written today, but that all depends on a very delicate balance of penicillin, Nyquil, and sleep.

I'll be back.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 120: Fields of Gold, Chapter 29



There is no way to describe what it is like to open your eyes and realize that it's your wedding day.


That Saturday morning, I woke up to my mom's soft call. My dearest friend, Desaray, was laying next to me. She had stayed the night before, letting me talk. Letting me process. I will be forever grateful to her for the gift of her company that night.


I opened my eyes and could see the early morning sunlight coming through the curtains of my window. I looked at my ceiling fan, covered with tiny glow in the dark stars that I had bought when I was 13 years old. I could feel the weight of the threshold I was crossing--leaving my parent's home for the last time. As I rose and opened my door, I found a small business size card taped to the door. In Dave's handwriting was a tiny note "See you soon!" with a small bride and groom drawn under it. He'd given it to my mom the night before, and asked her to put it there.


I slipped on some flip flops and, in the tradition of Anne of Green Gables, went on my last walk through my childhood neighborhood. Desaray walked next to me, letting me remember out loud. I remember saying to her that I'd always wondered how I would feel on my wedding day, and if I would feel nervous or excited, and expressing surprise at what I felt: ready.


By the time we got home, it was time to kick into high gear. I showered and did my own makeup. Having learned my lesson, my sister Jen did my hair in a simple style--something I might've worn any day, with half of it pulled up and half curled under. She tied it back with a small white ribbon.


The phone rang. It was Dave, calling to say good morning. I grinned as I heard his voice, and commanded the butterflies in my stomach to find their formation. He promised to leave on time, and said that he'd meet me in Manti.


I slipped into a knee length black sheath dress with a black jacket, then hung the strand of pearls he had given me around my neck. We loaded my dress, slip, shoes, bouquet, and--finally--a picnic basket with a lunch for Dave and I into my grandparent's suburban. Time seemed to be going in slow motion, as I climbed into the car with my parents and younger brothers. We pulled away from the home that would never by my home again.


**

The drive down to Manti, Utah in June is a beautiful one. It weaves through the base of a narrow canyon surrounded by mountains then into a wide, open valley. You can see from one end of this valley to the other end, more than a 45 minute drive from one end to the other. In June, this expanse is a vibrant, living green. Not long after you enter the valley, you can begin to look for the Manti Temple, a tiny dot up on the hill far ahead of you. As you approach, it grows larger and it is truly breathtaking.


Completed in 1888, the Manti Temple looks like a castle on a hill. It is made of cream colored limestone that seems to glow from within. What makes it all the more striking is that it stands in the middle of this wide open space, overlooking mostly ranchland. As we drove, I watched it getting closer and closer. The closer it got, the more awe struck I became. We finally turned in the wide gates.


Looking up, I could see Dave. He was standing at the entrance of the temple, looking down, and waiting for me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 119: Fields of Gold, Chapter 28

The day before our wedding arrived. There were hundreds of last minute things to take care of, and little moments to savor. I went along with my dad to pick up his tuxedo. I ran with my mom and my sister to the local craft store to buy tulle and rice that was safe for birds so that we could make our grand exit. My florist brought my bouquet, and even though it didn't look at all like what I'd asked for, it was still beautiful:



I ran to the jewelers to pick up Dave's engraved wedding ring, as well as the wedding gift I had chosen for him--a Swiss Army Watch.


The day flew by, and by afternoon my mom turned to me and said "What are you planning to wear?" My mind was a blank. "To what?" Her eyebrows raised a little "To your wedding dinner, Becca. Tonight. In an hour." "Oh. Ummmm..."
Honestly, the thought of what to wear that night hadn't even made it on to my radar. I was about to meet Dave's many, many, many relatives. Aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces, nephews, not to mention his mom. And I hadn't given my outfit two thoughts.
Trying to appear calm and put together, I went to my room and started opening my packed boxes trying to find something that would work. A pink button up shirt that I'd worn for our engagement pictures. Fine. Pants? A skirt? We were having dutch oven--so, casual. But I was the bride. So--dressy? I chose a simple stretch khaki skirt and slip on flat shoes. I pulled my blonde hair back into a simple pony tail and put some lip gloss on. I felt ill prepared. I did not look like The Bride. I hardly looked like a Friend of The Bride. But it was time to go, so I would have to do.
My heart was pounding when we got to the church and I saw all the people that I didn't know, but would soon be related to. My own extended family, although wonderful, subscribe to the "we don't have to show up to show that we love you" philosophy. I was just thrilled to have my own immediate siblings, who took up all of one table, in a room filled with the warmest, nicest, happiest strangers I'd ever seen.
The evening was a blur--my future mother-in-law read a letter from my far away father-in-law who was, at the time, frantically trying to get some missionaries safely out of Liberia in the middle of a hostile government takeover. My dad gave a brilliant toast. Then my future sister-in-law, Nicole, and brother-in-law Mike got up to perform a song. Dave and I didn't have a song, in particular. There had just never been one that stood out. But there was one--a certain version of one--that I hoped would become our song. It spoke of all the things that I hoped for us. Eva Cassidy's version of "Fields of Gold." I had asked Nicole to sing it, without telling Dave what I'd asked for. It was a surprise.
Nicole stood up on the stage, looking as cool and calm as she always does, in a white shirt and blue skirt. Mike sat with his guitar. They began, and Dave reached over and took my hand.
All evening long, my heart had been beating wildly out of nervousness, but as Nicole's flawless voice spilled over me I felt calm. It seemed like our whole future was being laid out for us. I looked into Dave's eyes, and I saw it all there.
After a couple more songs (Dave sang our version of "Forever and Ever, Amen" for everyone), we hugged everyone and said that we would see them tomorrow.
As Dave and I walked out of the church building, I handed him the black Swiss Army box. He opened it, and smiled. I told him it was supposed to symbolize time and all eternity.
It would begin tomorrow.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 116: Fields of Gold, Chapter 27

Wedding week.

Growing up, I think that I envisioned that my wedding week would be filled with flowers and lace and beauty. I imagined standing in front of a mirror in my dress, basking in the anticipation of all that was yet to be. Ha! Little did I know how desperately I would want that week to be over. Never did I imagine stress. I couldn't have imagined tears, anxiety, and more tears. I never dreamed that, two days before my wedding, I would stare at the sparkling diamond engagement ring on my finger and wonder if the man of my dreams was just marrying me because somehow, some way, he had no idea what he was doing.


Ah, what a week.


It had come at last, and I remember sitting in church on my last Sunday as a single girl and wondering if I would really feel any different the next week. It felt odd and surreal, in lots of good ways. Dave and I were both more than done with the engagement phase of our relationship, and ready to begin our happily ever aftering. If only we could get through the next five days.

My future mother in law was flying in from Africa, and the party really couldn't begin until she arrived. In the meantime, I was all kinds of nervous. I had met her before, of course, and really liked both her and my future father in law, but I hadn't seen either of them since I'd gotten home from my mission. I hoped that she would still like me, now that I was going to be her daughter in law. I hoped I wouldn't say the wrong thing or spill anything on her nice carpet. I wondered, deep down, if I was what she had imagined for her tall, handsome son.

All of Dave's siblings were arriving, with their children, as well as my older siblings--from Colorado and Massachusetts. Everyone was going to be there, all together, for the first time in years. I couldn't believe it was all for me--for my wedding.

Two days before, I was in my bedroom packing up my childhood. There were piles of clothing to give away. Boxes of yearbooks and posters and pictures. I didn't know what to do with half of it. My oldest niece Grace, who was two at the time, appeared at the doorway with some tulle in her hands. She pulled me down into a kneeling position and proceeded to drape the tulle over my head like a veil. She tugged and arranged until it was just so, then--stepping back--clapped her little hands and said "Now my Becca married."

All the butterflies in my stomach seemed to find their formation at that moment. I was stressed. Dave was stressed. But everything was going to be alright. The next night would be our wedding dinner, and then on Saturday we would be married and everything would be perfect.

I just had to hold my breath until then.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 117: Fields of Gold, Chapter 26

One of the great blessings of my life is that I have a sister, and that sister is a beautician. Some of my early memories include her pulling my (always) too short hair into a tight french braid and putting flowers into it. She was, and is, a miracle worker.

It was time for me to have my bridal portraits taken, and I told her my vision--Gibson Girl. A loose upsweep do, a la Anne of Avonlea:


She caught my vision. The night before, she worked painstakingly to turn my drab, mousy brown hair into beautiful golden and honey strands. It took hours and hours and hours for her to carefully color and foil the strands so that they would look just right. By the time she was done, in the wee hours of the morning, I didn't even care what color it was. I just wanted to go to bed.


The next morning, however, I did care. It was blonde. Very, very, very blonde. I wasn't sure about it--I either loved it, or hated it, but couldn't quite tell which. She assured me that I loved it.


That afternoon, I poised myself in front of her as she used an army of bobby pins and hair product to pull my hair into a gibson girl updo. Mission accomplished, we piled me, my dress, the slip, and some flowers in the car and headed up to the park where we'd agreed to meet my photographer. On the way, we stopped so I could say hi to Dave.


He was waiting for me as I got out of the car and approached him. I could see it in his eyes, which were strained ever so slightly at the corners. I smiled at him as he gave me a hug and I said "You hate it." "No, no..." he stuttered "..Um... Are you going to leave it like that?" (When, I wondered, would I remember that he was incapable of lying about anything, and not to ask him things unless I really want to know the answer???) "Um. Yes." was my reply. "Well--have fun!" he cheered for me.


Feeling anything but a radiant bride, I shlumped back to the car and we drove to the park, There in the parking lot, I squeazed into my size 6 wedding gown. It *almost* fit. You could get it done up. You just couldn't breathe. Or look too closely at the seams. But it would have to do. My photographer took shots of me sitting, standing, with my veil and without. I grinned, twisted my head, and contorted my back trying to get into the perfect positions. I suddenly pitied models.


After the photoshoot, my parents and sister dropped me off at Dave's so we could go see a movie together. Driving to the theater, I began pulling bobby pin after bobby pin out of my hair and it slowly came loose, falling in little waves down to my shoulders.


Looking over at me and smiling he said, "Hey--I like the color." And I knew he really did.


He was so perfect for me.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 116: Two entries in one day! Fields of Gold, Chapter 25

There is another important test that engaged couples should go through, and it is called Ski for Free Day in Park City.

Dave grew up on the west coast, and had to drive several hours to get to the nearest ski resort, but it was something he grew up doing. He knew how to ski, and he liked it. I, on the other hand, grew up within a couple hours of many world-class ski resorts, and had never put one foot on a slope in the winter time. My only experience with skiing was in a backyard, 10 years old, my dad standing over me in utter frustration saying "Just stand UP!" as my skis and the boots attached to them began to go downhill without me. It was not the most positive father-daughter experience and, thankfully, my dad gave up after that.

But now I was an engaged woman and the thought of "hitting the slopes" with my fiance seemed romantic and appealing. So, we rented equipment, I put on my best cute "snow bunny" outfit, and we headed to Park City with my younger brother and his date.

It all started out alright. I mean, the boots fit, and my little snow hat with tassels was super cute. But that's about where the fun ended. To say that I am not athletic is like saying that water is wet--it is just a fact of nature and there is no changing it. I don't run, throw, or catch. I certainly don't make friends with an icy slope at any sort of speed.

We're on the bunny hill. Three year olds, with their bodies tucked down for maximum aerodynamics, are flying past me. I am trying to perfect "the pizza" formation of my skis. They keep going different directions, and the formation they like the best is called "x." I am going so slowly, the snow is probably going to melt before I get to the bottom of the hill. Dave is being patient--slowly going through the motions with me, giving me pointers. I fall and can't get back up. I slide over to the fence, and pull myself up. We try again. More patience. More pointers. I fall again. Dave is just down the hill from me. He's looking at me. I try to get up. The skis slide. I try again. The skis slide. "Just get UP!" I hear him say. I give him a look as I reach toward my boot. "Don't you DARE take off that ski." Click. I glare at him triumphantly, taking off my skis and standing up proudly. He gives me a look, and, without a word, skis down the hill while I reattach the boots to the skis from a vertical position.

The evening is long. It is cold. Dave is as patient as he could be under the circumstance of trying to teach the most uncoordinated, scaredy-cat woman on the planet how to ski. It's a good thing this date was free, or there might have been serious consequences. We decide to do one small run. We get on the ski lift. I realize, as it starts ascending, that I'm going to have to get OFF this thing with skis on my feet. I feel kind of nauseous. Dave is prepping me. He is assuring. He is trying to pretend to be confident that I'm not going to utterly wipe out.

He slides off easily and, mustering any and all confidence I had left after such a date, I remembered the wise "Fake it til you make it" mantra and propelled myself off the seat. To my astonishment,I skied smoothly down the slight slope, stopping perfectly in front of Dave. He was impressed. I was relieved. Now we just needed to get down the rest of the hill.

That night we decided two things: Dave would be the one to teach our future kids to ski, and my purpose at ski resorts is to wear a sweater, look charming, and drink hot chocolate in the lodge.

Day 116: Fields of Gold, Chapter 24

Being engaged is fun for approximately two weeks. You have people to tell. Everyone wants to see the ring. Which, by the way, if you happen to be wearing a thin gold band and not a diamond, people kind of raise their eyebrows at you and smile cautiously. They're trying to figure out if you're:
  • Making a political statement about the unethical nature of diamonds.
  • Poor and practical.
  • Marrying a cheapskate and hating it.

The exception to that being people of a certain generation who were just happy to see frugality and restraint being practiced by anyone in my generation.

You should know that I adore weddings. Adore. I'm the kind of person who buys wedding magazines for fun, and loves to browse the latest trends on The Knot. I started planning my wedding when I was 9 years old, which--being 1989--I envisioned my colors being mauve and dusty blue and a sequin bedecked dress with ginormous puffed sleeves. I just knew that planning a wedding with the man of my dreams was going to result in the most beautiful, perfect wedding ever.

I decided to do everything differently than I'd done it for my first engagement. No periwinkle for me. No Salt Lake Temple. No wedding luncheon at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Nope. Everyone was doing periwinkle or lavender, so I chose a Martha Stewart Weddings trend of apricot orange and pear green. We chose the Manti Temple to get married in, since we had shared memories there and we both loved it. Our wedding luncheon would be the night before our wedding, rather than the day of, and the reception would be outdoors. It was going to be the perfect blend of casual and classy, trendy and traditional.

But something else was different than planning my first engagement. Not just that the photographer I'd always dreamed of hiring had moved to Dallas, or that I was having a hard time choosing centerpieces. The thing that had changed, was me. I no longer cared as much about bridesmaid outfits or the perfect bouquet. What I did care about was planning our marriage, even more than our wedding. I went to our university bookstore, marched upstairs, and bought a whole armful of books that were required for a marriage course. I got the his and hers workbooks to go with Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, as well as brand new copies of First Comes Love, His Needs, Her Needs, and Love for a Lifetime.

Well armed, without really giving him a choice, I began to throw these books at Dave and tell him that we needed to get studying like our lives depended on it. Because they did. And, really, this is a great litmus test for an engagement--any man worth his salt will care enough about his fiance, if not about actually studying the books, to get his hands dirty and jump in. These books are not for the weak--they require revealing weaknesses, discussing expectations, and brutal honesty. We went through our workbooks separately and alone, working through the things that came up where we differed. This resulted in some painful dead-end conversations, as we called them, and there were things we skirted around (finances), but--as our engagement wore on, Dave and I were confirming that we looked at the world the same way. We not only got to know each other better, we got to wrestle with the every day-ness of marriage and began to establish the foundation for our marriage style. I am so grateful to say, now, that planning our marriage was more important to me than planning our wedding. I think I had my priorities in the right place.

Although, looking back, if I could've known that "apricot orange and pear green" were going to devolve into a very 1980's "peach and sage green" I might've spent just a little more time rethinking that decision.