the night before

If I could scrapbook photographs of the days leading up to the wedding I would most want to capture the following:

Sunday afternoons. The entire family gathered around the dinner table, sometimes one end of it covered by scattered envelopes, lists and wedding announcements, trying to keep up with excited banter as it shoots across from one end or side of the table to another. energy. affection. humor.

Late nights. (too late of nights for my circadian rhythm) Luke and Emily dropping by–their evening just beginning, as we were winding down. love. laughter. energy.

Shopping. Meeting at a menswear shop. The bridal store. With a custom suit representative over the dining room table. Discussing colors, shades of colors, fabric; linings, bodices, beading. hesitancy. consensus. excitement.

Weather watching. Waiting for the ten-day forecast to appear. Disappointment as it first indicated stormy low 40s. Hope building as each day it improved to peak at a sunny 56. Sadness as it deteriorated to a cloudy, cold 37. prayers. hope. resignation.

Random shots of a pile of wrapping paper and bows in a room full of family and friends at the bridal shower on another cold windy day. Conversations over dinner at Brick Oven for another shower to include those who couldn’t make the first. introductions. connections. friendships.

Collaborations of beloved sister friends over the secret wedding presents and the wardrobe, shoes and jewelry of the mother of the groom. something old. something new. something borrowed. something blue.

And today: Kids off to school. Cleaning. Dishes. Laundry. Luke sitting on the sofa, headphones in his ear, studying for the third exam of this week, but the last before the wedding. Phone calls. Texts from reassuring and loving friends. People who’ve been there; done that. Finishing up unfinished business. Coming home after most all the errands to a houseful of family from here, Oregon and Idaho. A house full of energy. A house full of love.

A pile of dark brown hair on the newly mopped kitchen floor, carefully cut by my brother, who loves me just the way I am. The chatter of my nephew, who’d been car-bound for two days, from the other room. My SIL bearing good news of gifts of chips and queso and tres leches. My mom, her newly returning silver hair stylishly close to her head. My sister, who easily handled the centerpieces for the luncheon so I wouldn’t have to. My niece, who was the first to greet me before I even made it to the top of the stairs.

Lindsay towering well over 6 ft., practicing walking in borrowed heels (again with the something old. something new. something borrowed. something blue). Zack coming home from Wallsburg, asking if we could postpone the gathering of 75 chairs so he could go pick up the hide of a friend’s cow that had died. (We got the chairs first.) A last minute panic as we realized we had no black suit coat for Kyle. Relief when Luke’s old high-school choir tux fit just suited Kyle just fine.

Slowly making my way downstairs (the storm and a busy day having fun with my arthritis) to give Luke a hug goodnight. I linger for a second in his doorway, observing as he neatly packs the very last of his belongings still here away for their honeymoon. I give my sweet, tender-hearted worrier son a hug goodnight.

The realization that being so involved in the details–both significant and tiny–was a good distraction for the mother of the groom. The realization that this is different from leaving for his first day of kindergarten, for a week of Outdoor School, or scout camp, or for two years to serve a mission, or from moving into the dorms or an apartment for two semesters. This is leaving our Rowley family of six, established 1987, to cleave unto his wife–his best friend–to build a new Rowley family, established 2013.

This is the end. This is the beginning.






Dear little boy in the brown coat

I’m sorry I scared you when I slammed on my brakes when you darted out into the cross walk in front of me this morning. I’m grateful I did not hit you. I tried to give you the “go ahead” wave so you would know you were safe. I watched as you raced across the white parallel lines, praying you’d be visible to all the other drivers coming and going just two minutes before the bell was to ring at the local junior high. My relief as you safely reached the sidewalk turned to concern as I watched you, still running, trip and skid across the sidewalk on your hands and knees. I hurried to drop off the four nearly tardy 7th and 8th graders in my care and rushed back to see if you were ok. I suspected you were not.

You seemed so vulnerable. So young. So small. So alone.

As I turned left on to the street where your body had so roughly met pavement, I noticed a maroon minivan pulled to the curb. My worried heart relaxed just a little knowing someone had come to your aid as I had driven off just moments before. I slowed to ask the driver, who was walking back to his vehicle, if you were ok. He told me you were scraped up. Our eyes met. Shoulders shrugged and then sagged with the same sense of helplessness. Clearly we were both so willing and wanting to help. Yet we both knew it wasn’t likely we would be allowed.

Not in this day and age.

I pulled in behind the departing minivan, hoping that I, a woman–a mom, might somehow be perceived as “safer,” even though it was clear the good Samaritan who preceded me only had your best interest at heart as well.

Realizing it was unreasonable to offer you a ride home in my car, I asked to see your scraped up palms and offered to walk home with you (immediately realizing that now that too would be considered unreasonable). I wanted to make sure you reached home safely. And that someone was there to attend to your wounds.

“No, I’m fine alone,” you practically whispered.

As I desperately grasped at alternative ways I could possibly help you, you quietly repeated at each new offer.

“No, I’m fine alone.”

I understand. But I am sorry. So sorry.

I am sorry that you have–out of necessity, I guess, today I wasn’t so sure–been taught from a very young age that I, a stranger, am scary. A threat. And dangerous.

I’m sorry that even though you were surrounded by people who cared–people whose only desire was to help and make sure you were safe–this morning you had to go it alone.