...Happily ever after

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2010

No. 3 Granddaughter got married early in June, so we trekked north to Healy to be part of the festivities. After the gorgeous Memorial Day weekend that the whole state had enjoyed, the trip looked favorable, but it poured rain all the way from Anchorage to the Talkeetna turnoff. It drizzled from there to the Igloo, then rained full bore again the rest of the way to Healy. All the way, the old saying "Happy the bride the sun shines on" was running through my head. I kept trying to think of a positive one regarding marriage and rain, but all I could come up with was "Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet." More cynical than positive, I guess, but the granddaughter is a definite "Walker in the Rain" so I was sure she'd not be too bummed if the sun didn't shine on her wedding day.

Granddaughter No. 7 went with us to the wedding to be an attendant for her cousin. She was almost giddy with excitement. And there is nothing like pre-teen giddy on a very long car trip. But we got there without too many unscheduled stops. Lucky for Grandpa and me that the same DVD player we took camping last summer was still functioning and the ear phones were in place. It kept her well occupied for most of the trip with only an occasional "Are we there yet?"

Healy is the epitome of small towns ... at least in Alaska. Not only does everybody know everybody and what they're doing, they turn up to help if it looks like "crunch time" is nearing. We arrived early, ready to help decorate the reception hall and were met by a contingent of community folks armed with step ladders and staplers, scissors and tape and lots of good humor ready to turn the Community Center into the Interior Alaskan interpretation of a Tuscany vineyard. Yards of lavender gossamer, a little green, and lots of white table cloths and purple bows later the transformation was complete: Italy in the Tri-Valleys.

I thought a lot about the day Granddaughter's parents got married. They had just graduated from college and the bride's family had made the trip from California to Fairbanks for the event, then stayed an additional week to celebrate the marriage. That wedding wasn't quite the hoopla that Granddaughter's was becoming, but it suited the couple. They left immediately for Kenai and the fish site with a tent, two brothers and a dog along for the ride. Needless to say, my admiration for our daughter-in-law has kept growing since then, considering that she still has the same two brothers-in-law, although the dog died a few years ago. I'm not sure about the tent.

These family milestones are conducive to nostalgia, of course, and as I looked at the four granddaughters, I wondered more that once how those people that I know and love, the same ones I sweated through lots of kids-will-be-kids stuff, some just plain "you can't be MY kid" thoughts, and a few periods of grief and woe through the years, had produced the good-looking, smart young ladies that the Granddaughters have turned out to be. Makes one believe in the Changeling myth ... except the family got the best end of the deal and the goblins got the kids my kids deserved.

Surprisingly, the wedding day brought sunshine. The bride wore her mother's wedding dress: a simple, ivory colored lace peasant dress with a purple sash, and flowers in her hair. Her attendants were dressed in royal purple velveteen gowns. (Did I mention that purple is the bride's favorite color?) The groom and his posse wore black Carhartt jeans, complete with rivets, and green suede vests. Just quirky enough to be classy and definitely Alaska chic.

The ceremony was conventional, and went off without a hitch although the rehearsal the evening before had foretold a six hour rite complete with dancing girls and sacrificial lambs. Granddaughter No. 7 led the procession, sprinkling flower petals when she remembered. She, and the other attendants, Granddaughters No. 4 and No. 6, whisked down the aisle so fast the pictures I tried to take were a blur. I must admit to a few tears when the bride and her parents came toward the altar and the waiting groom. Watching a granddaughter get married is distinctly different from getting rid of a daughter. Daughters are expected to grow up and get married and produce grandchildren. Granddaughters should remain little girls forever playing dress-up and being read to at bedtime.

But of course, they don't. And if the only way to get a grandson from this bunch is to marry one, then we'll take him. Eldest son commented on the abundance of women in his family and the pleasure of finally having someone who might understand his point of view.

It was a wonderful time. The ride back to Kenai was quiet, as No. 7 slept most of the way, and I finally remembered the mantra that has gotten me through the last several weeks: "Without the rain there would be no rainbow."

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.

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