Last month, on Friday, July 19thto be exact, our whole family travelled from New Mexico to Portland, Oregon for a very special occasion. Our daughter, Jennifer, was getting married!

The night before, we organized, packed and hit the hay early, hoping for a good night’s sleep before our drive to Albuquerque that would start long before dawn even thought of cracking. You can probably guess how that turned out. A lot of tossing and turning, checking the clock, counting sheep, and repeatedly running the phrase, “I can still get 5 hours in if I can fall asleep now,” through our heads, with the number decreasing depressingly fast.

Finally, sometime after 1:00 am, I dropped off only to be awakened by my phone ringing at 3:30 am. It was our youngest son, Joshua, who had shown up almost 2 hours early because he couldn’t sleep, wanting to know if the house alarm was set. He didn’t want to wake us up by having the siren on the alarm go off if he opened the door. He’s considerate like that.

Jeff and I tried to go back to sleep, but no such luck, so we got up and got started on what was to be a very long day. Middle child, Jacob, showed up, bleary eyed but ready to go, so we packed the car and pointed it toward the Albuquerque Sunport. Three hours later, with the car tucked into a space in long-term parking, we were in the security line. Jeffery breezed through in his line for VIPs. His status as a KCM, or Known Crew Member, means that he barely has to slow down on his way through. Josh and I were given TSA pre-check, so we were in a very short line with a few other special people. Jacob had to wait it out with the other poor slobs in regular security. He was a bit disgruntled, but we were nice enough to wait for him on the other side before heading for our gate.

Before long, my in-laws, along with three of Jeff’s brothers and our niece, Raelyn, arrived with breakfast burritos for everyone. We filled our stomachs while we chatted and got caught up, then we boarded our flight and we were off. 

After a three-hour flight, we landed in Portland. We immediately went to the rental car counter and Jeff took Josh with him to fill out the paperwork since they would both sign up as drivers. I found a chair and called my daughter to let her know we had arrived. We arranged to meet up in the parking lot of the Ikea just down the road from the airport. 

We pulled into the parking lot minutes later and found Jenny, or at least, I think we did. The woman waiting in the parking lot looked like my Jenny and sounded like her, but the agitated, wild-eyed person in front of us was nothing like our usually calm, unflappable oldest child. We are talking about someone who juggled a demanding job and a new family while completing a doctorate degree, and made it look like a walk in the park. Wedding stress is in a category all its own. 

She was terrified that she wouldn’t have time to get the tables and chairs picked up from the rental place and delivered to the venue before they closed. After putting our collective heads together, we split up, with Jeffery and mother-in-law, Debbie taking the luggage to the hotel we were all staying at to check in and unload, and all the young, strong brothers and uncles headed off to get the tables and chairs and deliver them to the venue. Jenny and I, with the oldest two of my new granddaughters, Lissa and Isabella, went to Costco to finish up the food buying. Crisis averted.

The rest of the evening was spent at the wedding venue, Hooper Hill, which is located in Washougal, Washington, about a half hour’s drive from Portland. What a gorgeous place! Set back from the road in a clearing covered in green, green grass and surrounded by mature trees with a breath-taking view of the Columbia River valley, it was the perfect setting for a wedding, as everything about it spoke of longevity and permanence. What is a wedding if not a promise of permanence?

The rest of the family was already there, my parents, sister, Lisa, and brother-in-law, Gary, along with the soon-to-be son-in-law, Will, and our two youngest grandchildren, Chloe and Owen. We were introduced to Will’s lovely mother, Mary, and sister, Danielle, and Danielle’s daughter, Lily, and we were excited to welcome them into the family. Jeff’s mom, Dee, and step-father, Alan, showed up soon after we arrived. It was a chatty, happy group! When stomachs began to rumble, we looked online to see what was close and found a small burger place.  Joshua took everyone’s order and called it in, and Jeff and I drove into town to pick it up. When I say it was a small burger place, that may be a bit of an understatement, but they gamely put our massive order together while keeping up with the line that went out the door from their local clientele. We were impressed!

We drove back with the odor of garlic fries as our backseat passenger, distributed the food, and tucked in. While we ate, we were entertained with a story telling session by 7 year old grandson Owen, or “Owen, the Scarer” who told a five part tale of a massive goo monster called the Colosaurus, (pronounced col-ah-ser-us) who waits in dark caves to set upon the unwary, leaving only their bare skeletal remains in a puddle of slime as proof of the encounter. (Shudder!) There was a quick rehearsal with the wedding officiant, Dalena, a “take-charge” gal if ever I’ve met one. She bustled around, arranging us, giving us instructions, telling us where to stand, what to say, all while joking and making us laugh. She knows her business. Then, with darkness setting in, our bellies full and our bones thoroughly chilled thanks to Owen the Scarer, we headed to the hotel to catch up on some of the sleep we’d missed. We would need our rest. The next day was Wedding Day!

We all slept in a bit the next morning. Jeff was up before me and met his dad, JR, downstairs for coffee while I kept my eyes closed a little longer. Finally, the guilt got to me and I threw back the covers and zombie walked to the shower to soak my head until I was fairly sure I could stay awake. When I emerged, my sweet husband had a bagel and coffee waiting for me in the room. I knew there was a reason I married him!

With everyone awake and dressed, we all left the hotel. We split up again, with JR and Debbie hitching a ride with us, as they had left their car at the venue so all the boys, Jeff’s brothers, Jonathan, James and Justin, as well as our two sons, would have transportation if they needed it. They are all very close in age, and bunked in the cabin on the property. Jenny had a short list of items we needed to pick up for her, so we found a nearby Fred Meyer and went shopping. After checking each item off our list, we drove to Hooper Hill to begin setting up for the wedding. 

I found my sister, Lisa, busily going through boxes of wedding supplies, organizing and arranging what Jenny had collected and deciding where everything should go. I’m convinced there is a special gene that some people have that gives you a talent for throwing a kick-butt party. In our family, Lisa received that particular gene. She got the whole thing, with not even a speck of it left for me. Ah, well. I was content to fetch and carry for her as she marched around the property, pointing fingers and giving orders, whipping everyone into shape. Debbie was also given the gene – I can attest to the fact that she has hosted some pretty spectacular get-togethers – so, between the two of them, they had the place transformed in no time. The flowers Jenny had ordered arrived and were beautiful and perfect with peacock feathers inserted into each bouquet, arrangement and corsage. I forgot to mention the two peacocks that roam free on the Hooper Hill property, Inigo Montoya and Princess Buttercup. It was not their feathers in the arrangements, but the addition of the feathers to the flowers was a tribute to them. 

We all headed back to the hotel to get gussied up. Jenny had snuck off earlier in the day to have her hair done, but the rest of us required some cleaning up after the morning’s sweaty work. Our boys used our room to shower and change as we had taken their dress clothes to the hotel with us, and the two of them looked so handsome in their dress shirts and sport coats! I don’t often get to see them dressed up, and it’s always a treat. Jeffery, as the father of the bride, wore a suit for the occasion while I had gone shopping and found a floral chiffon knee-length dress in navy blue and lavender. We all looked pretty darned good, if I do say so myself!

Back at Hooper Hill, I found Lisa doing Jenny’s make-up with my mother supervising. The two of them own a Merle Norman Studio, so Jenny was in expert hands. When her make-up was done, I helped her into her wedding dress, an off-white, floor-length, lace dress with short sleeves and a lace bodice that Jenny and I had found at a bridal event in February. Seeing my girl looking so lovely in her dress, it was obvious we had chosen well. Guests were arriving and finding seats in the chairs set up on the lawn. It was nearly showtime!

We lined up in our assigned places. I would be escorted by Owen, who also had the task of Ring Security. He carried a case with the rings inside, taking his job very seriously. Will would escort his mother to her place, and they were in line behind us. Next was Joshua and Bella, followed by Jacob and Lissa. The main attraction, the bride, with her proud dad were last in line. When Dalena gave the signal, the music started and Chloe, in her pink tulle dress, began the procession, dropping her rose petals along the path leading to the alter. 

Once we were all in our places, Jeffery gave his daughter to her groom and he joined me in the front row. Each of the girls read a statement they had prepared, which was lovely, and Jenny and Will exchanged vows they had written for each other. Then, they were pronounced man and wife. They were married!

The guests went through the food line while the family stood for a nearly endless number of pictures, then we were cut loose to enjoy the reception. Debbie was our official photographer, and was everywhere, aiming her camera at the action and documenting everything for Jenny and Will. As mother of the bride, I was like a frog on a hot plate, nervously checking the food, circling among the guests to make sure everything was running smoothly, which it was. Jenny had done an outstanding job with planning her day, even if it nearly killed her in the process. 

Night was falling and the sounds of conversation, laughter and children playing in the grass filled my ears. It had been an unforgettable day. 

We had a bit of drama when our six year old niece, Raelyn, was stung by a wasp as she played outside with the other kids. Her ever-attentive dad, Justin, cuddled her as she cried out, “Why did Jesus have to make wasps and why does it have to hurt so bad?” Awww. Every heart within hearing distance broke a little bit at that. 

Finally, absolutely drained and exhausted, we piled into our cars and went back to the hotel, where we fell gratefully into bed.

The next morning, we took our time getting around. There was still work to be done, but we weren’t on a timeline so we slept late and lounged around a little before we finally got serious about going over to Hooper Hill to clean up. After a couple of hours, the place was ship-shape and the rest of the day was for relaxing. We had planned an informal birthday party for my dad who would be turning 89 the following week, and around mid-afternoon, everyone gathered in the dining area of the hotel to have leftover wedding food and cupcakes and to celebrate this special man. The kids had all come wearing swim suits and took full advantage of the hotel pool. We visited, ate and enjoyed each other’s company before everyone separated to rest and have a quiet evening. We had to say good-bye to Jenny, Will and the kids as we would be flying out early the next morning, but we’ll be seeing them again very soon at Disneyland, so it wasn’t as hard as it normally is. 

I flew out of Portland the next day, having gained a son-in-law and four grandchildren. What a weekend!