Tuesday, November 22, 2016

my girls

I have never wanted bridesmaids. Even as a child, it seemed like a not very nice thing to do to people who are supposedly your best friends.

And then I grew up and had it affirmed approximately 27 times that it is not a very nice thing to do to people who are supposedly your best friends. It's expensive and time consuming. It is often humiliating. [Cue the bridesmaids' luncheon I attended where the mother of the bride described my hair as a frizzy perm (because it was August!) and accused me of having collagen lip implants (false).] It requires you to get on stage in a costume you probably aren't comfortable with and recite lines you haven't memorized, wearing stage makeup that sometimes you've had to pay for yourself.

But, in one of our first compromises, Beau said I needed a bridesmaid. He said it would look dumb for us to stand up there by ourselves, and it made sense to have someone to hold our rings and the flowers... and he's right.

So then I had to choose a person. This gave me a lot of anxiety, because I have a lot of beautiful, talented, supportive women in my life who love me really, really well... and choosing one of them wouldn't be fair to any of them.

Case in point: I have 16 other females getting their hair and/or makeup done with me the morning of my wedding.

I don't have a sister. I don't have a best friend from third grade, although the two best friends I had in third grade are still my friends, and one of them will be present. My college roommate/sorority little sister is swamped with a career and family in another time zone; she's never met Beau.

But I do have a female cousin with whom I have always been close, so she was a natural choice. Carolyn lived in Austin while I did, and we saw each other frequently. I have traveled internationally with her. We have each spent time with every idiot the other has dated, going back 20 years. I gave a great toast at her wedding and then shared the honeymoon suite with her the night before her wedding. I have had more slumber parties with her than any other female.

When I called to tell her I was engaged, she was already happy crying when she answered the phone. When I asked if she'd be our best maid, she screamed "of course!!!!!"

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is, "How many girls do you have?"

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about my girls, the day after several of them threw me a bridal shower.

Brooke is my oldest (longest) friend in the bunch. We both attended Wake Forest but didn't meet until after graduation, when we were both being 23-year-old idiots in Washington, DC. We were making no money and spent a lot of Friday nights consuming pizza and two buck chuck on her couch. This worked out really well, because both of us like mushroom pizza and cheap wine; we would rather have been with each other than the ridiculous men the greater DC area offered as dates. One night, she programmed herself into my phone as "hotilishous." That's what her contact name remains. Her husband described me as the person Brooke would call if she needed to hide a body. Totally accurate, and it goes both ways. She arrives in New Orleans on her birthday, four days in advance of the wedding to help out wherever she can. She's throwing a luncheon for me on the Friday before we get married (you know, what would be the traditional bridesmaids' luncheon) and has been an absolute joy to vent to, because we have essentially the same sense of humor/sarcasm.

Brittany is my newest (and youngest!) friend in the bunch. She is my current work wife, as we see each other nearly every day for work and, if not, then for coffee. She got married in the French Quarter in August 2015 and has been an invaluable asset to me as I navigate the logistics of getting married in New Orleans. She's also very fashionable and opinionated, which helps when making nearly any decision.

Joy is my previous work wife. She is the Executive Director of CASA New Orleans, and I was the Executive Director of CASA Jefferson. We didn't know each other before I started working there, but we immediately liked each other and had standing meetings every other Thursday afternoon. She helped me write our major funding grant not quite three months into my position while her husband literally nursed Beau, who had just gotten out of the hospital with six broken ribs and two broken bones in his hand. Yes: I had *just* met these people, and they were in my home helping me through one of the most difficult times in my career/life. And, afterwards, they took home a load of our laundry to clean! There has never been a time when I have needed Joy that she hasn't made time for me; she often shows up often before I even ask for her help, usually with booze or flowers or both.

Julia has seen it all. I thought about this yesterday as I stood at her kitchen island, where I have stood 100 times before celebrating 100 different things, big and small. One of the first times was when she was distracting me with cheese and wine while my ex-boyfriend moved his stuff out of my house. Then she kept making me come over, even though the last thing I wanted was food or company, for the next couple of months. Her parents have included me in their Thanksgivings and birthdays. When my mother asked me if I had put together a vetting committee for my next boyfriend, I nominated Julia as President. She is judgmental but fiercely loyal. I've visited three time zones with her; we've shared clothes and more bottles of wine than anyone need count. She told me she couldn't let me get married without a shower, so she galvanized my other New Orleans' girls and hosted 20 women, many of them strangers, in her home. That's who she is: a generous host, a rallying cry, a champion for the people she loves.

Maggie and I met in the all-girls dance troupe we were both members of. Both of us have chosen terrible men as partners (although *fingers crossed* that phase of our lives is over!); both of us have experienced similar professional challenges; both of us love to travel, learn, adventure; both of us practice yoga and spend a lot of time self-reflecting; both of us feel a lot of guilt for being so far from our families, but both of us have parents who visit often. When Beau and I talked about someone to read at our wedding, we wanted someone who believed in the same kind of God that we do. Maggie was the immediate choice. She loves her neighbors in ways the rest of us should strive towards.

Meredith was my grad assistant at Tulane, and then we learned we were both in the same sorority alumnae group, and then we learned that we were both in the Junior League, and then we learned that my best maid was her best friend in elementary school. Obviously, the universe meant for us to be friends. (She has also worked for me in two capacities since Tulane.) She is one of those people who says yes to everything and somehow manages to diminish none of it. She uses her talent to improve her community, of which I am blessed to be a small part. She excels in making everything feel like a celebration, proving that every day is a holiday. She defines commitment, and I am grateful to be one of hers.

They are all strong, smart, amazing women. They have all held integral behind the scenes roles in creating the woman I am today, supporting my relationship with Beau, and this wedding. I couldn't be more excited for them all to meet, to celebrate with them, to laugh too hard.

May they, and the world, always know how special they are to me.

Friday, November 18, 2016

honeymoon

Our engagement will be fewer than four months. It has been incredibly intense to plan a wedding, which ends up being more than one day and more than one party. 

So we're going to wait to take our honeymoon. We'll recuperate energy and funds. We'll have more time to accrue vacation days.

And I really love to plan. I especially really love to plan travel. And I honestly haven't had time to plan it the way I'd like, so we readily decided to put off fleshing out all the details.

We need to go somewhere Zika-free and within the United States; we always want to go somewhere with a direct flight. 

So we decided on the American Southwest. Parts of it will be new to both of us: I went to the Grand Canyon when I was 15, and Beau went to Santa Fe as an adult and claims it is the most sacred place he's ever been. So we'll experience new things together and share others. Our favorite.

We'll fly to Phoenix and rent a car, driving through Sedona and Flagstaff before heading along Route 66 to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, then conclude our ventures at a spa near Phoenix. (The only reservations we have are hotels, because that's as much planning as I had energy for.)

best

Settle in, reader. I'm about to throw out some theories that are not commonly accepted.

I love Beau. I will love him forever. We are well suited for each other. We're a good fit in each other's lives and, if I may be so bold, in each other's families.

He is not my soulmate.
And I'm not his.
And we're both fine with this.

Remember how Grey's Anatomy taught us we all had a person? As in, "you're my person."

We are certainly each other's people in the way that we can depend on each other for big and small things. We have a partnership I am really proud of.

But we aren't soulmates.

Beau's soulmate is his best friend. They were college roommates. They talk all day, every day. His best friend lives two time zones away; I've never met him, but I certainly feel like I already know him.

He's our best man. Beau said he wouldn't feel married without his best friend as his best man. I had to get myself a best maid because Beau said he couldn't get married without his person at the altar with us.

My person, for as long as I can remember, has been my grandmother.

And she's another topic for another post. She's the elephant in the room of this #emmy30.

Because she has chosen not to attend our wedding.

I asked my cousin to be my best maid not only because she's the closest thing I have to a sister, but because she will understand better than anyone that I need someone to stand beside me and make sure that I don't fall apart in our grandmother's absence, that the grief doesn't overwhelm me, that I remain focused on marrying the person I love most in the world.

I am grateful she said yes.

page 423

Today we had our second (of three) counseling sessions with our priest. We went through the liturgy that will be used during our ceremony (and nearly all Episcopalian weddings).

He started out by asking how we were feeling, and we both answered variations of "overwhelmed' and "stressed," and then Beau realized the priest was asking if we still wanted to be married.

Oh. Yes!

At which point we discussed how we felt we had been planning our marriage for a long time, and the wedding is just the first day of it, and we hope our lives together will span several decades.

So then it was on to the liturgy. He warned us that very few people follow along in the Book of Common Prayer (beginning on page 423), which is so strange to me. There's a whole book sitting in the book rail in front of you with nearly every word of the ceremony... don't you want to know when it's your turn to chime in? To kneel? To sit?

Or at least how many more pages until you board a bus and head towards champagne?

We talked through the vows and the prayers. The priest had advice on how to not cry through the entire ceremony, which is especially helpful because Beau and I are both major weepers.

We're having one hymn (sung by our beautiful and talented friend Christian Sineath) and one reading. We are not having Communion. The homily will be brief, as the priest seems to understand that while everyone is excited for us to join our lives to each other and God, he's standing between us and what we all hope is the best party you've ever attended.

May there only be happy tears.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

beloved

I have written before about writing for World in Prayer. I volunteered this week, and I used the Scripture that will be read at our wedding as inspiration.

As I concluded the prayer, I needed a synonym for "empower," a word that I loathe, and discovered "embolden," which reminded me of one of the best compliments of my life.

On the morning of September 7, 2016, I walked Beau's daughter to school. We had a brief exchange en fran├žais goodbye, during which I kissed her, told her I loved her, Daddy would pick her up from school, and we'd have dinner with my mom, who was visiting. A class mom grabbed me afterwards. 
She said, "Y'all just have a different kind of love." I was completely taken aback, worried as always that I'm failing terribly at parenthood, and somehow differently from everyone else. I said, "Different... bad?!"

She replied, "Not at all. I'm just really glad she has you. The love she gets from y'all is really big. Y'all love out loud. It makes her bolder."

We do love out loud. We hug. We kiss. We hold hands. We tell each other that we love each other (in two languages!). We apologize. We practice empathy. And we love our neighbors.

Our "mundane" is big. We celebrate having dinner together, because that's something we don't get to do every day. When you only have a child present in your life half the time, you choose to love really big to make sure it lasts through the times when you're absent.

This summer, when Beau and I were trying to figure out how to entertain his daughter at church without Sunday School, I emailed the World in Prayer team and received this amazing and beautiful response from another member:
Even if you don't have [her] all the time, trust that what she is being exposed to with you and [Beau] will "stick", even when, in the future, there may seem evidence to the contrary. Most of all, your behavior- that of the two of you- will speak far louder than any words. Telling of a loving God needs to be demonstrated by being loving, and exposing her to a community where she is loved and accepted. I spent a lot of time "bored" in church as a young child and I ended up a pastor. She will still be absorbing the liturgy, the hymns, the prayers...I knew the entire Lutheran liturgy by the time I was four, plus words to lots of the hymns. Trust yourselves; trust the Living and Loving Spirit. And remember, [her] story/journey will be hers, not yours. And she will be writing it every day, which is as it should be. 
I hope she will live it out loud. I hope we have emboldened her. I hope that the love the three of us have for each other will resonate within her when she is feeling tired or weak or quieted or ignored. I hope that it reminds her that she is capable of anything and that we will love her no matter what.

It's an honor and a blessing to hug and kiss her, to walk her to school, to celebrate with her. I will be forever grateful for the moments we have, and I can't wait to see how she uses her big, bold heart to improve her world.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

dress

We are having an afternoon wedding. Our reception venue has a 300 degree view of New Orleans, so we backwards mapped everything to arrive there at sunset.

My dress is extremely formal. I told my beau (heretofore referred to as "Beau") that I didn't want to look like we were going to different parties, since my dress is much more formal than his suit. 


So we started talking about morning attire
The total headcount for the male portion of our wedding party is two people: a groom and his best man. Once we galvanized enough male attendees (my dad and brother, some of our best/favorite friends, some of my cousins, maybe one of Beau's uncles), we requested that all men wear morning dress. Beau didn't want it to look like he and his best man were going to a different party, specifically a costume party, from everyone else.

I was immediately bombarded with questions.

Short answer: have you ever seen the Duchess or Duke of Cambridge dressed for a formal daytime event? Now you have a model. 


We have not mandated attire. We suggest any male who wishes to rent morning dress from Perlis call Ryan Vogel with his measurements this week, and any male uncomfortable in this kind of attire wears a blue or grey suit. We suggest fascinators for female guests rather than hats.

And we suggest you come ready for amazing and beautiful fun.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

checklist

Our wedding is one month (!) from today. Here's what I/we have left to do:
  • All the wedding cake. Due to a disappointing tasting experience with the original vendor, we will now spend the next week eating cake (which is not especially on my bridal diet). The good news is that my beau's mother is coming into town this weekend, so we'll be able to taste with her and with beau's daughter, who missed the cake tasting Round One and will be thrilled about being a part of the Final Round. We have one appointment tomorrow, one Saturday, one Monday, and one later next week.
  • Pick up his wedding band once it arrives at the jeweler. 
  • Decide on two of six menus. (Four down, two to finalize.)
  • Receive and alter my rehearsal dress. It's due in next week. 
    • Choose which shoes to wear with the rehearsal dress.
  • Receive, finalize, and wrap gifts for the bridal luncheon
  • Create a will
  • Write one million thank you notes
    • Design/order or find more stationery
  • Obtain a marriage license (which we can do after I receive my birth certificate in the mail)
  • Prepare and sign a prenuptial agreement
  • Assemble hospitality bags for all hotel guests
  • Finish premarital counseling with our priest
  • Choose a perfume (I read somewhere to wear a new perfume on your wedding day so that the scent going forward is always associated with that moment in your life. I can vouch this happens, since I now think of our trip to St. Martin every time I use the sunscreen we used for the first time then.)
  • Create a list of "must haves" for the photographer
  • Write approximately 800 emails for the purposes of accomplishing the above and for making sure everyone knows what's happening and when.
I have delegated quite a bit, as is my practice. I did not want a wedding coordinator, so I have heavily relied on friends and my mother to help coordinate all that goes into wedding planning.

I really thought it was just like planning a really big party. But, in reality, it's planning several really big parties.

It can be very frustrating, so I keep trying to remind myself that the important part is already done: we've already planned our marriage.

I have also decided that I do not want perfection. It truly doesn't matter to me if it is a perfect day, because perfection doesn't exist in human nature, so it's a ridiculous goal.

My goal for our wedding day and for all of the associated parties is that it will be fun. I want everyone to have a good time; I want there to be a lot of laughter. I want new friendships to form and happiness to be shared.

And it shall be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

prophet

The Episcopalian Church does not prescribe any readings for its marriage ceremony. In fact, we don't have to have a single liturgical word spoken at our ceremony. But we met at church. We strive to love and serve God. However, we are not Bible readers, and our favorite stories are not wedding appropriate. (Good Samaritan, anyone? I could remind my most dearly beloved to "Go and do likewise.")

It turns out that documents that are more than two millenia old, written almost exclusively by men, may not share the same perspective on love and marriage that my beau and I do. And when one googles "best wedding readings," one get excerpts from chapters that especially don't reflect the perspective on love and marriage that my beau and I do. I'm a contextual person, and I believe that the first moments of our marriage should be taken in toto.

So we've decided on a passage from 1 John that talks about God is love and love is God and, my interpretation, love is love is love.

I texted my mother with our selection, and she read my message without the "1", and this was the passage she thought we'd selected a passage from the Gospel according to John that ends with this dialogue:

The woman said to [Jesus], “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet."
She called me, very confused, and read me the passage, and then we could. not. stop. laughing. 
Go and do likewise.

Monday, November 7, 2016

authority

These are the steps I have to go through to get a marriage license in the state of Louisiana:

  • Have a current driver's license or passport (check)
  • Have a certified copy of a birth certificate (uh... due to an overly complicated website, I'll be calling the Florida Department of Vital Statistics tomorrow, since I don't need a commemorative birth certificate... or a road trip to Jacksonville)
  • my social security number (not a card (?), just to know the number) (check!)
  • a completed application to obtain an Orleans Parish Marriage License
The marriage license fee is $27.50 + $5 per copy that we wish to have in cash or check only. 

Licenses are valid for between 72 hours and 30 days.

They are only issued between 8:15am and 3:15pm in downtown or between 9am and 3pm in Algiers, Monday through Friday. We both have to go unless I want to notarize my application separately. 

Kind of makes you rethink love, huh? 

It would be convenient if waiting periods to get married were the same as they are to get divorced. I'm not sure why the state of Louisiana thinks it knows me well enough to marry me within three days and then keep me married for six months if we don't have children and for twelve months if we do. 

But, then again, the state of Louisiana has a disdainful record of doing what's best for women, families, and children.

I'm irritated that we have to get a marriage license. Necessarily, other licenses require tests (driving), education (medical/legal), background checks (guns), all manner of safety permits (selling alcohol)... but a license to marry?!

My commitment is to my God, my husband, and our families. It has nothing to do with the state of Louisiana. And the more I think about how intimate and reverent the matrimonial ceremony is, the more irritated I get about having to involve four government agencies across two states, business hours, and a prescribed waiting period.

I have waited a long time.
I know that he is the right choice for me.
I look forward to committing myself to him, to my family, to our God.

And, hey, I get a certified copy of my birth certificate out of it, too.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

shroud

I won't disclose any details of the dress I'll wear on my wedding day, but I will share that I'm wearing my mother's mantilla veil for the ceremony and then using my grandmother's veil as my party veil.

I'll wear my mother's cap, which is not something I originally expected to do, and I'll have a new fascinator made to attach my grandmother's veil to. My hair will be up because I am the sweatiest person I know, and with the rate it's taken for summer to end, we may be in for a warm wedding.

I am honored to wear these items. My mother took exceptional care of her veil (and her dress, which I considered refashioning), and my grandmother keeps wondering why anyone would want her "old cheap netting." It's silk (which was less expensive than nylon in 1949), and my seamstress said she can't imagine how much it would cost per yard today. My mother carefully washed it in Martha Stewart's recipe for a bleach bath, and it looks great.

I cannot wait to party in it.
I cannot wait to marry in the veil my mother wore in the church that she would later baptize me and my brother in.
I cannot wait to wear in my hair what the women who begat me wore when they begat their families.
I feel incredibly blessed to have these women, these things, and what they symbolize in my life.
I love that I will be crowned with their love on my wedding day, that their love will flow around me, that their love will frame my face and my pictures.

May our wedding day beget much love.

Friday, November 4, 2016

charity

My beau and I share the same idea of fun. We also share the same idea of what is not fun.

This afternoon, my work wife organized a surprise bridal event for me. All I knew was to wear a cute dress and a fascinator. She and other colleagues took me to tea at the Ritz-Carlton, which none of us had had before but which we all enjoyed immensely.

Most of us are a full-time staff of one, so none of us have a group of co-workers who would throw us a bridal shower at the office. It was a revelation I had in my first 12 hours of being engaged: I had no coworkers to throw me a party the way I had been to 50 parties over the years for birthdays, engagements, pregnancies. Which is to say it's lovely to have a few moments with other women (all of the other Executive Directors in the Quarter are female) to celebrate, share, and laugh.

My beau showed up towards the end of tea, and four of five of us walked to a Napoleon exhibit opening at one of the local antique stores. We learned interesting facts about Napoleon and the art surrounding him, we enjoyed drinking brandy and eating beef Wellington, and we pined away for the kinds of income that would allow us to purchase 19th century antiques.

Then, my beau and I scooted to a gala for which we had been invited. I have worked in/around the nonprofit sector for 12 years, eight in New Orleans. We've attended many events supporting our community. We have been an active part of nearly every children's cause in New Orleans. (Almost 1,000 nonprofits have started in New Orleans after Katrina. Being solicited gets exhausting.)

Tonight's gala was incredibly awkward: seated dinner, cash bar, a silent auction that ended too early, speeches that were not about mission or outcomes of the organization. We stayed until the couple who had given us the tickets left, because we wanted to be polite, but we weren't having fun.

I've received a lot of advice from a lot of you (and approximately one million articles) on the keys to a successful marriage. I know we're supposed to go to bed mad, make time for sex, practice each other's love languages. I have learned we should parent similarly and share values (both a sense of right/wrong and what to spend money on).

But, honestly, at the end of the day, I think it's about having the same idea of what is fun. And what isn't. Don't subject yourself or your partner to boredom. Laugh. Drink good bourbon when you get home. And support the best cause of all: your relationship.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

theme

It's my first night alone with my beau in two weeks, so I'm going to keep this short in order to maximize my time with him.

I get asked with some frequency, "What are your wedding colors?"

My response: "Well, it's a wedding. So... white?"

Beau says I should play off of Steel Magnolias and say "ivory and alabaster."

It will be a wedding colored wedding, folks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

enterprise

My mother left today after more than a week in New Orleans spent wrapping up the next round of wedding details. She was supposed to head back to North Carolina, but her very best friend, my godmother, called her on Monday with the news that my godmother's mother had passed away after swift cancer metastasis.

While comparing spreadsheets full of names (something I have become prolific in these past months) to determine who still needed room reservations within our block, I realized that Mrs. Grimes died the day that our invitations were sent.

We knew she was too ill to have been able to travel for our wedding, but I wish she'd been able to experience the joy of opening our beautiful invitation. I'm not bragging: objectively, our invitation is exquisite. My parents and beau spent hours at the stationery store perfecting it.

So my mother left New Orleans for Florida, to spend her nights in her childhood bedroom in her parents' house and to help her very best friend grieve her mother.

The only time I really spent with Mrs. Grimes was in October 2012, when I went home for a few days to have and to recover from elective, minor surgery. My godmother and Mrs. Grimes were on a road trip coming from or going to see the fall leaves, and they had stopped in Wilmington (my hometown) to break up the trip. We (my godmother, my mother, and Mrs. Grimes) took one day to visit Bald Head Island, a place I very easily could have chosen as a wedding venue. I'm glad to have been well enough to have shared this activity.

Everyone's favorite story of of Mrs. Grimes is from her honeymoon, which was two weeks long, and Mrs. Grimes said that two weeks is way too long for a honeymoon. Towards the end of this too long time, she and her new husband were driving from Vermont (where she was from and where they met while he was stationed there) to Florida (where he was from and where they would make their home). The bride asked her groom if he liked her dress. He replied that he didn't much care for it.

She took off her dress and threw it out the window.
On to the highway.
Circa 1950.

When Mrs. Grimes went in for her six week checkup after giving birth to my godmother, she was pregnant with my godmother's brother.

I imagine there was never a dull moment in their relationship. And I'm hopeful my marriage brings the same kinds of adventures.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

muertos

Exciting news: I'm getting married next month.

Lots of people have suggested that I journal about this exciting time in my life, and I am a fan of 30 day challenges, so, for the month of November, I am going to write one blog post every day. I will try to capture all of the emotions I feel about this next step in my life.

Today is Dia de los Muertos. In January of this year, we were in San Miguel de Allende (first time for each of us to visit Mexico) and had a wonderful, enchanting time staying at Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada. I expected my beau to propose the whole time we were there. It was so beautiful and lovely and loving, and I felt confident that this year would be ours. I simply needed to be patient.

Several years ago, a girlfriend suggested a relationship/self-help book to me that I remember really enjoying but whose title both of us have completely forgotten. It was the first time I'd read a book about finding a partner, and it was solid advice. A year after I read it, another girlfriend got engaged, and I learned there was a wedding planner version of the book. The premise was something about being a mindful and present bride before "mindful" and "present" were buzz words. I bought it for my friend as an engagement present, because I worried she was planning her wedding and not planning her marriage.

They divorced this year.

One of the exercises in this book (at least according to the amazon reviews, which I may misremember) was to spend some time thinking about the people on your guest list who could not attend because they are no longer alive.

Today, I am reminded of the dead who meant so much to me when they were alive. And I will honor them here by telling you about my people who will be included "in memory of" on our wedding programs.

(in alphabetical order)

Elizabeth Blanks

We moved to Wilmington, NC in the summer of 1983, when I was three. My mom's parents helped us move. While getting shoes repaired, my grandmother asked the cobbler if he knew anyone who was a housekeeper, because my mother had just moved to town with two small children and was going to need help.

He replied, infamously, "I got me a real nice ex-wife."

And thus came Thelma. But in August, Thelma told my mother she was a janitor and would have to cut back her hours to half days once school resumed. My mother, nearly despondent, told Thelma she was going to have to find someone to work the afternoons.

And that's how we got Elizabeth.

Thelma and Elizabeth were my second mothers. They loved us like children, and we loved them like mothers. Elizabeth was one of the best cooks I've ever known, and I am certain now that my ability to fry was because I watched and learned from her. In the almost 12 years she worked for my family, she never took a vacation day (she just asked to be paid double for two weeks), and she never declined an invitation to babysit/work extra hours. She was home every day after school. She called me "doll," a pet name I've never allowed anyone else to call me.

Elizabeth gave birth to twelve children. One died serving our country. One had terrible kidney problems. She didn't drive, because she'd had or been in an accident and chose not to drive again. She had a drinking problem, but never around me and my brother. Hers was a sad, complicated life. I hope I gave her happy.

Right before Valentine's Day when I was in ninth grade, we got a phone call at 7:30am. I was almost ready for school, and my mother informed me that Elizabeth had had a heart attack, fallen down her stairs, and died.

It was the first time I'd lost someone I loved. Our family was completely distraught. Our dog waited for her every day at noon for months. For years afterwards, I'd go visit her grave. I should, the next time I'm home.

I've lived more years of my life without her than I lived with her, but her legacy lives on every time I successfully fry chicken. I know she's feeding people potato salad and love now. She was very good at both.

Robert Harold Hutchins

Another great part of 1983 was that we moved into a house that was next door to a family with a girl a year younger than me, also named Emily. She was my closest friend in elementary school. I spent as much time at her house as I did my own. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Hutchins, took us to the beach almost every weekend in the summer. I spent every July 4th and Christmas Eve with them.

The therapist I had in my late 20s suggested that my father was my first love. I told her if that was the case, I'd had two first loves.

Dr. Hutchins always seemed happy: happy to be with us, happy to share time with us, happy to love us.

My brother called me in June 2009 when I was at my ex-boyfriend's aunt's house for dinner. I asked if I could call my brother back, and he said no. My heart sank. He told me that Dr. Hutchins had died. He had been sick, but I hadn't known, and hardly anyone had known how sick.

Of everyone who will not be at my wedding, I will miss Dr. Hutchins the most. He would have loved my beau. They are both small town boys with incredibly stylish tastes. They both love their mamas. They both remember where they come from and give back to their communities. They both love their little girls.

I was lucky to be one of his.

Harry Cecil Remington, Sr. and Billie Remington

I mean. "Harry Cecil" was his given name. He had to be a character, right?!

All of my grandparents lived until my senior year of college. My father's father, Pop, passed first. He and my grandmother had married when she was 16. He was a decorated World War II veteran from the Pacific theater; he flew one of those planes that land on water, but on the day he died, he didn't know how to swim. No one had taught him. (!)

My grandmother buried him and then her daughter (see Trudy, below) within 11 months and basically gave up her will to live, and no one blamed her. It was ten long years before the Lord called her home. Hers was a steady, prolonged decline none of us wish for anyone. She was a woman full of steadfast faith, and I wish she had not suffered as much as she did. I am grateful that she is now at rest and without pain and surrounded by souls she loved the most.

I remember that Granmom hand wrote very long letters full of news of my cousins. I remember feeling inadequate that I had such nothingness to report: good grades, no boyfriends. I am 20 years older than she was when she married. But I'd like to think she would approve, because she always seemed to value her family members' happiness. And I am happy.

Trudy Remington Roberts

My father's sister Trudy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. She went into remission shortly after she cleared her five-year cancer free checkup. None of us need a month of pink to remember or to honor her. Her death was one of those that can only be explained by "God needed another angel." Her funeral was the saddest one I have attended, because we all felt such heaviness and darkness and frustration. She was in her early 50s. Losing her wasn't, and isn't, fair. Her daughters were about to marry. Her son was on a great scholarship to college. It wasn't her turn. We deserved to love her longer. We all felt we had earned her presence.

Alas. God needed another angel. And, boy, did He get the best one ever.

Trudy had one of the most infectious laughs I've ever been around. It didn't matter if it was a "tee hee hee" or a belly laugh that made you "tee hee hee" your pants. She laughed hard and unapologetically, and I'd like to think I learned this from her.

Trudy was one of those people who embodied Jesus: grace, humility, kindness. She wanted the best for her children but didn't interfere when they veered off the course she thought was best for them. She was full of positive energy before anyone talked about another's aura. Her life was very challenging and full of hurt, but she radiated goodness. She was content, and she loved broadly.

The light within me is brighter because of the light that was within her. And so is everyone's who knew her.

*

May their souls rest in peace.
May our souls find peace in their absence.
May we be ever mindful of the beauty they brought to our lives
and may that beauty live on through us.
On this All Souls', All Saints' Day...
Amen.