this is viv in france a few years ago. it's a significant photo (to me) for a number of reasons. visiting our darling daughter while she was a student abroad was one of the first times i'd gone back to europe since i lived there in the first half of the '70s (we made two quick trips as a family when our oldest children were very young). i missed the place desperately; living in germany for almost 5 years made it seem like home (which, in many ways, it still does). our amazing parents did everything they could to allow us travel as a family while dad was posted in germany- getting to see that much of the world left me with only a taste for more. nothing helps you realize how much we are all really alike- humanity, people wanting to be good to each other, people going through daily motions and living and trying to get by and working and all that- as wandering around in another country. i believe that most everyone on earth has the impulse to do good. it's sharing time and space and knowledge that promotes that. and travel, as far as i can see, is one of the best ways to find that out.
that's not the biggest thing about this photo that's significant, of course. there are others. none of which i'll go into here. each one of them is a glorious bit of happiness. they will remain locked in my memory. i simply wanted you to know: this picture brings great joy.
great joy is the reason i'm writing this. after a year of planning- and vivian is an awesome planner- we celebrated her marriage last weekend. it was, if ever there were one, a do-it-yourself wedding. and there were so many people that helped us out that it is not really quite possible to go into details, to list every one. and it is absolutely impossible to thank them enough; all the help and all the generosity and all the love that came forth during this year and during all of our planning- it is simply phenomenal. i cannot even put my mind around it. but i need to say a few words- it will look like an awful lot to anyone who wanders by this post, but it won't be enough. that i know.
to george and ann perham, who have the most magical place on earth for a wedding. their kindness and love- one cannot help but understand how such a remarkable family has been created by this extraordinary couple- suffused all. they opened their home (as ever) to their grandson and his fiancée and all those who were sent (thanks to claudia schwartz's brilliance) a red-letter save-the-date many, many months ago.
there is nowhere on earth with the charm of voladores vineyard, and it is because of ann and george. and if the utterly remarkable george perham hadn't spent lord knows how many hours working on the model-T (once a milk truck that drove in the Borden fleet, his father's), the bride and her beautiful bridesmaids wouldn't have been able to come trundling down the hill in such grand style. ann perham's resolute good spirit and brilliant (emphasis on brilliant here) energy, wit and charm kept the whole enterprise moving along- through the months of preparations, through the weekend we worked like dervishes to get everything ready, through the heavenly-magic dinner in their backyard & the dancing & the beautiful breakfast (cooked by george and ann, and beyond perfect) the next day (said breakfast was followed by a slightly less-dervish like clean-up; heat and exhaustion reared their heads)...why, without ann and george, none of this would have happened, not the way it did. and there is not enough gratitude in the world for this; we cannot thank them enough.
as i write about the perhams, it is perhaps not evident to the casual reader but clearly evident to anyone involved that ann and george and voladores vineyard are also sally and mario and heidi and mark and donna and shel and jan and tom. and all of their incredible, amazing kids. and then throw in, please, the thornes and reynards, and all of their incredible, amazing kids. my parents, vivian and richard, flew out early and were there to pick up loose ends- the inevitable ones that always happen. they have always been our heroes, and through them we know the true meaning of generosity of spirit. the thorne clan came, also, from back east- ready and willing and full of good cheer- barbara and charles and chris and ann and jason and connie. lindi and kord- what can we say? you arrived from potsdam and virginia with all love and then picked up the most glorious california cherries to ever grace a cake. everyone flying and driving miles and miles just to be there- so many aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. looking around- we first saw everyone when we got to sally and mario's splendidly fun rehearsal dinner- was overwhelming. we'd never all been in one place before, the thornes and reynards (not since vivian was barely walking and her aunties were getting married). and here they all were in california, a zillion miles from home. and smiling.
so we were all there, and with the family were friends (and how we wished there could be more, but seating in the backyard is 125 and that's that) and these friends really are family. there was no difference. kord officiated, and started us out with monty python. and as i stood there with kevin and our parents and much-loved siblings & their spouses, and that bevy of incredible, amazing kids and cousins and friends...as we watched the bride and groom exchange vows...can i tell you? i won't come any closer to heaven here on earth. it was like floating- the light in the trees- an entire oak grove that felt as though it hovered several feet (or miles) above the earth with love- flowers that seemed manifestation of visual blessing. and the best part- the part i've saved- was to see the wedding party standing with vivian and kevin. the groom's brothers and sister. the bride's brothers. the clan of them, the bride and groom's dearest friends.
brothers and sisters, standing there together.
when our four were little, drew and viv and alex and erik, it seemed to me that the thing that might be most important, more important than almost anything else on this earth, was that they would be always able to stick together. to count on one another. to love without condition or expectation or competition. to love so that there would always be someone in the world you could depend on. because, as i saw it (and their dad was with me on this, but i was home picking up the dirty socks- sort of- and cleaning up after the backyard picnics, and digging the legos out from under the sofa cushions- so it was the daily mantra that i recited to myself) you have to know, in this world, that someone is there for you.
it makes things work.
being alone is not what this world is for, and the more love you've got- the more love you share- the more you seem to be able to count on. and parents will not- cannot- always be there, much as they'd like to be. it becomes a matter of time. but your siblings will be around, God willing, and whether they are near or far, they will be part of you. anyway, that's the way i saw it. (and of course i didn't just figure this out by myself; without the love of the family i came from and the family that their dad came from, how would we have known these things?) so. to see the newly-minted vivian and kevin chaves family standing there in that oak grove that was floating miles above the true earth somewhere in heaven with all of us attached, and to see andrew and alex and erik and danny and eric and julia (+ michael and julia and holly and jenelle) there with them. let me tell you. it taught me something.
love can do anything it sets it's mind to. real love.
it's more than walking down the aisle or toasts. it's about having people there who love you.
and to love you just need to- love.
and to be there can mean a lot in this world, especially now.
why, you've read this whole darned thing (or parts of it, any bit of which i do appreciate and wonder at) and you see only by visiting online that i want to extend some of this love to all who visit. that sounds a little hokey, i know, but i'm going to say it. because that's really all we're here for, as far as i can see.
so you have perchance slogged through reading this in teeny tiny gray type (or on google reader, which is much more friendly to the eyes- i never intend to write this many words on the blog, but feel today i must), i am grateful for it. and grateful for this week, these people, you, my husband and children, our new (and gloriously extended) family. thank you, every one of you who were able to (and those who tried but could not) make the trip. how much we adored being with you! and, of course, deeply heartfelt thanks to friends we couldn't have done this without, friends who showed up with smiles and hot coffee and freshly-pressed linens and more love and willingness to help than i can begin to tell you. deanna and barb (& families), you are loved beyond words- we can't thank you enough. tim and kids- from long island to paso robles, and we adore you for it (our sartorial genii!). mom and dad- always there at the perfect time with utmost love, the truest gift- the greatest teachers in the world; the life you've shared with us! beyond compare. lindi- never were there such devoted sisters (we've known that song forever, alte kinder). kord- mawwaige: no one says it better. pip- to go from potsdam and back again- a thousand thanks! all thornes- grateful and unabashed gratitude and wonder for the blessings you bring. sally, i couldn't dream up a better friend to be mom with- a joy beyond compare. mario: about that terrific mustache of kevin's- i believe there could be no greater tribute to a father's love. ann and george and ALL perhams- you are forever in our pantheon of heroes! julia, jenelle, holly & julia- never were bridesmaids more loving, capable, hardworking, or (and most especially) FUN. reddings & mike- now eternally part of the chaves-thorne-basnight-reynard clan. mrc, your words and encouragement are beacons. mad cow string band: completely ethereal, that first dance (and beyond)- thank you, my dears. mary risala laird- without you, the letterpress would never've happened; you are a saint. gayle moore, a true guardian angel- your enthusiasm and love are so deeply appreciated. sweet cassie and andy- you threw a most heavenly bash that blazed the way (with perfect masons, thank you ;). margot, it's that light- & you knew. andi, your gracious smile and rolled-up sleeves were a godsend. sal & doug and fabulous camera- thank you, thank you! and our joey- it's great to have another son- one as amazing as you- such a blessing. and most especially baerbel, whom we do adore, there with us in our hearts- we so look forward to toasting you & your boy.
andrew, alexander and erik- we can never thank you enough for all that you did to help last weekend and before, and in countless ways- some so clear & a thousand unseen, each one a gesture of love. i can tell you that your dad and i couldn't be prouder of the three of you and your sister, the paths you've chosen, and the good you put into the world. the blessing that the four of you are! the two of us have such great gratitude and joy- more than you might ever know-
and yet, somehow, one day-
when you stand and look at your own kids in another light-filled grove or church or room or field, a place that is floating somehow above earth and just in the vicinity of true heaven with those you love,
you will know.
of this i am sure.
p. s. positive i've forgotten to put in some of the most important things. and i want to write thank-you's, in ink on paper with stamps and all that. but, for now, i had to express my gratitude. so- if your name is not here and it is supposed to be- just know i know and thank you eternally for it. and what's not to love about being able to edit (soon, i hope) the longest blog post ever?