Good morning, Erin. You don’t really know me, and I don’t really know you, but I wanted to thank you for inviting me to your wedding last weekend. It was a beautiful service.
You picked a good man to marry. Todd is an old friend. He’s moral, kind, loud-mouthed, and he can handle more adult beverages than any man I’ve ever known because he is an Episcopalian.
He is giving. Once, I saw him empty his wallet and give it to a handful of Latino boys outside the hardware store. It was cold weather. They were looking for an honest day’s work. They were wearing T-shirts. He gave them cash to buy coats.
That’s your new husband.
Anyway, it was a nice ceremony. They tell me that you and your mother decorated the chapel all by yourselves—and on a puny budget. It was breathtaking. We in the vestibule were all raving about how beautiful it was as soon as we walked through the doors. The white colors, the draped linen, the floral arrangements, and the magnolia blossoms.
Somebody’s redheaded toddler was running around in the back pews throughout the service. And not that this was an issue, but evidently he had something fragrant in his diaper. We all know this because we could smell him before we entered the chapel, from a distance of roughly three blocks away.
His mother chased him, she was livid. She wore the angry face of maternal wrath, adorned in pearls and heels. She couldn’t catch the kid. He eluded her grasp, then ran toward the altar of God just before the wedding started.
He waved hello to the congregation.
We waved back.
Then he dug a hand into the seat of his britches and fished around for something which we all sincerely hoped wasn’t semi-solid organic matter.
And once his furious mother caught him, we all knew this particular redhead would not see his next birthday.
Anyway, I was sitting beside your aunt and uncle. They were country people, and I have a soft spot for country people. These are the sort I come from. They were beaming with pride when they talked about you. They told me how you skipped the sixth grade because you were so smart, and how you finished college early. They were so proud it hurt.
You probably know all this, but your new husband and I aren’t as close as we once were, although we keep in touch. And I just wanted to say that I remember when he had his heart broken by his first wife—I’m certain you know more of the story than I do.
I also want to say that you are good medicine for him. I can see it. The way he looks at you tells a story, and it’s a tale that makes me believe in good again.
Your children were beautiful, standing on stage beside you. And when the preacher asked, “Who gives this woman away?” we all sniffled when your ten-year-old son joined hands with his brother and sister and said, “We do.”
We in the congregation thought we were finished crying until your kids read vows they’d written to their new step-siblings.
“You’re our real family,” your eldest daughter said. “And we’ll fight for you if you ever need us.”
It was an honest word choice. Fight. Life is a fight, sometimes. A beautiful fight. But a fight nonetheless.
When you kissed your groom people shouted. Several of us hollered. And please believe me when I say this: I don’t know who hollered “Roll Tide!” during your matrimonial kiss. It wasn’t me. Although I shook the guy’s hand and discussed at length the importance of a strong wishbone offense.
The reception was out of this world. Fried foods made by church ladies, squash casserole made by your mother. And whatever those fried potato-things were, I ate nine of them.
We had all the dancing we could stand. The band was big fun. Although when I slow danced to “At Last” with your great aunt Maude, she did not honor the strict hands-above-my-butt rule.
Meanwhile, you should know that your father was in the back room passing out recycled jelly jars to the guys. And I don’t mean to give away his secret, but these jars were filled with something that tasted like Coleman lighter fluid.
He handed me one then winked and said, “This stuff’ll put hair on yer hair.”
When you cut the cake I felt so happy for you both, the whole room was glad. Aunt Maude hooked arms with me and told my wife to get lost. You smeared icing on your groom’s face. We laughed and applauded. Because we believe in you, you see. We all believe in you.
In fact, I believe in you so much I wanted to give you more than a flimsy Tupperware salad bowl from your Target gift registry. I wanted you to have words. Words that remind you of how much your new family gives me to believe in.
May you live a long, long life together. May age make your marriage even better. May you always feel the way you felt last weekend when your children read aloud their vows. And please pray for that redheaded child whose mother finally caught him.
He’s going to need it.