Mother’s Day served dual duty this year as my husband, Erik, and I celebrated our first year of marriage. Like so many other couples, we faced many challenges while planning our wedding; some routine, some not so routine.
While working as an Animal Control Officer, Erik had to be conscientious of his fellow co-workers shifts and already scheduled time off. My future bonus-son, Bjorn, was the best man and we needed to choose a date accordingly with the parenting plan. The only date that fit within everyone’s schedule was May 9th, the day prior to Mother’s Day and the location was where we went on our first date – the Grays Harbor Lighthouse in Westport, Washington.
At the beginning of the year, I put my career on hold to assist my future mother-in-law, Judy, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Between doctor visits, she and I spent time discussing and planning the nuptials. She requested that we marry quickly, so she may join in the celebration, even if it was from her bed. Out of respect for her, we did what we then thought was right and asked my family not to come. They had moved to Florida just three years prior, but frequent emails and phone calls closed the gap as we cyberly shopped for my wedding attire.
With Judy’s health declining, she asked us to move into her home and prepare it for her to spend her remaining days there, with her family and hospice nurse beside her. Working long hours, many from dawn ’til well after dusk, we had the majority of her home organized, as well as much of our wedding details taken care of. Sadly, though, Judy died five weeks prior to our wedding and she is still deeply missed. Just days prior to her death, she requested that Erik, her only child, and I still move into her home, as she was concerned of it sitting empty and becoming a target for vandalism. Keeping our word, we moved into her home, comforted by the memories of her life and Erik’s childhood.
Two weeks to go before the big day and I was moving the last of the boxes. We had yet to sleep in the house, not quite ready to bring ourselves to sleep in his deceased parent’s bedroom and with the adage of April showers bringing May flowers prevalent, especially in Seattle, it was tricky to move our mattress without it becoming soaking wet. Or maybe that was just an excuse to delay the inevitable. Unable to procrastinate any longer, and seizing the brief glimpse of dry weather, I loaded the mattress on to the top of our Jeep, tightening the last strap down, just as the wind kicked up. Literally seconds later, the sky opened up and a deluge of rain soaked the mattress, and my spirits.
Standing out in the pouring rain, I found myself sobbing for the loss of a friend and mother-in-law, the absence of my family, and the sheer stress of life. It was at that moment when my maid of honor, Annette, Erik’s half sister on his dad’s side, called to see if I needed any help. Apparently my incoherent babbling caused a bit of concern and she decided to stage an immediate intervention with coffee, her truck, and her incredible personality. She’s one of these stick thin women that can immediately make you smile, all the while tackle the most heinous of projects without ever breaking a sweat; a trait she shares with her half brother, except for being stick thin, as he inherited the height and Norwegian build from their father.
After some girl talk, laughter, and good coffee, we loaded the vehicles with the last of our belongings and I said goodbye to the home I’d shared with my fiancé for almost a decade. Arriving at our new home and soon life together, we unloaded the remaining boxes and tackled the dripping wet mattress. Hoping against hope, we propped it against a wall under the heater vent and prayed it’d dry out prior to our wedding night.
Convinced I was sane again, or at least saner, Annette left to check on our flowers and take care of a few other wedding details, while I called my parents. Erik and I had always felt rather badly about not inviting them to come, however Judy was hurt that she wasn’t going to be able to attend and, at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. Explaining this to my folks, I told them how sorry we were and that we knew we couldn’t change the past, but how much it would mean to us both if my dad would walk me down the aisle. We offered to pay for the round-trip airfare from Florida to Seattle, room and board, provide them with their own transportation, and even tried sweetening the deal by offering them some spending money. But they refused to come stating it was too much of a financial burden upon them and that they didn’t want to miss my sister’s weekly Saturday night dinner held at her house. In the month following, I would learn just how much I hurt them by originally asking them not to come and that their refusal to be a part of our wedding was their way of ‘punishing me,’ as my sister told me.
Three days prior to our wedding and the reality of our move was beginning to sink in, replacing the sorrow with anticipation of a new beginning. During the move, we experienced colder than usual temperatures and discovered the heat in the house hardly worked. With a new heating system installed and fresh optimism, we tackled the next project – running water beyond just a trickle. We were aware of some of the issues while Judy was still with us; however no one knew just how much work needed to be done on this old house. Hot water was unheard of and the kitchen had a few weak spots in the flooring to the point where the kitchen sink literally fell through the floor, leaving an eight foot by six foot opening to the crawl space; which was great for when we were going to replace the non-existent insulation and plumbing, but hell for wanting to use the kitchen. In addition, neither the stove nor oven worked, and the refrigerator had interesting smells that refused to vacate, even after vigorous cleaning. Clearly, the kitchen was completely useless.
The night before our wedding, though, Erik and Bjorn repaired the plumbing to where we not only had running water, but it was hot, as well. Hot showers for all had me in high spirits and my guys are the geniuses who made it all possible. While they were working their magic, I packed the Jeep with the flowers, cake, clothing for the guys, and my dress as to save time in the morning, then happily cuddled up with my remarkable fiancé on our air mattress for one last night of unbridled passion before he made ‘an honest woman out of me’ the following morning.
Late night nookie led to oversleeping and a hurried frenzy to get everyone out the door quickly; we still had a 2 ½ hour drive to the lighthouse and we were already a twenty minutes behind schedule. Driving just a touch over the speed limit, we discussed breakfast and the possibility of skipping it. A dark look from both Erik and Bjorn let me know that wasn’t an option, so, against my protests, we stopped at Denny’s and ate quickly. Our delay worked for us, though, as Annette and her husband, Mark, (who was also our photographer), were running a bit behind, as well as our minister. Seems everyone had one thing or another go on the night before.
We were the last to arrive, but as Erik reminded me, they couldn’t start without us, and we had the foresight to book extra time, which definitely came in handy. The Grays Harbor Lighthouse stands at 107 feet and was built by C.W. Leick, who considers it to be his masterpiece. 135 steps takes you to the top, also known as the ‘Wedding Cake,’ aptly named after the unique design of the top of the lighthouse, where you have an outstanding 360 degree, unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean, the soft, sandy beaches, and quaint, picturesque town. You would think climbing or descending 135 stairs in a gown and heels would be challenging, but the steps were surprisingly heel friendly and the location and price were unbeatable.
Before beginning our procession, everyone took a moment to truly admire the sheer beauty and stark contrast of the crisp white lighthouse against the vibrant, clear blue sky. On the way up to the ‘Lens room,’ as it’s also called, everyone joked about not needing to exercise after that and once reaching the top, there was a collective ‘awe’ as we each took in the view.
Bjorn, the night before nervously practicing what he was going to say as he gave me away, confidently responded to the ministers questions and when the time was right, handed his dad the ring with all the look of love in his eyes. Erik, looking deeply into mine, proclaimed his love to me and I felt every word, knowing that this love is eternal. And as I said my vows, I made a special one to Bjorn, promising to be the best bonus mom, rather than the wicked ones tv and movies so like to portray, and to love him honestly and truly like my own. We were then pronounced as family, by the court of law, and it was time to party.
Reaching the bottom, we discovered my maid of honor and her husband had a surprise in store for us, and we were greeted with sparkling cider for all. The picnic table was ideally located, and as we sat, drank, and laughed, we signed the marriage certificate, officially legally binding us and I don’t think any of us could have been happier.
We had enough time to take several photos throughout the lighthouse and grounds before they officially reopened the lighthouse to tourists. A few snuck down the long drive; however, they were very respectful and even offered their heartfelt congratulations. As we prepared to leave for the reception, which was held less than a mile away at The Islander Restaurant, Erik noticed that our wedding cake had received some damage. Luckily for us, The Islander is equipped with a very skilled staff that effortlessly reassembled the cake for us, at no extra charge. After our meal of fresh caught seafood, the reception continued out on the beach where everyone collected sea shells as
souvenirs and splashed in the still chilly water.
One year has passed and we’ve celebrated the anniversaries of not just our wedding, but the life of a mother and friend, the move to a new home and the new life that brought with it. Every wedding brings new challenges to overcome and new opportunities to compromise, generally in the form of the bride or groom suffering an insufferable hangover from the ‘last night of freedom.’ I’ve learned that these challenges are only a taste of what married life has to offer and it is how you deal with these challenges that will ultimately either make or break your marriage. With some of the bad already behind us, I’m confident that our marriage can survive whatever life has in store for us, just as I’m certain yours will stand the test of time.