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 Episcopal.
He is giving. Once, I saw him empty his wallet and give it to a handful of Hispanic 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 a handful of 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.
People in the vestibule were talking about how beautiful it was, just as soon as they walked through the doors. The white colors, the draped linen, the floral arrangements, and magnolia blossoms.
Somebody’s red headed toddler was running around in the back pews. And not that this is an issue, but he’d messed in his britches. We all know this because we could smell him.
His mother chased him, she was livid. She wore the angry face of Satan, adorned with 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.
And once his furious mother caught him, we all knew this 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 this, but I was friends with your new husband, long ago. We’re not as close as we once were, but we keep in touch.
He had his heart broken by his first wife—I’m certain you know more of the story than I do. You are medicine to him. I can see it. The way he looks at you tells a story, and it 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.”
Life is a fight, sometimes. A beautiful fight.
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.
The reception was out of this world. Fried chicken made by church ladies, squash casserole made by your mother. And whatever those fried potato-things were, I ate nine of them.
You had all the dancing we could stand. The string band was big fun. And when your elderly aunt buck-danced, holding the hem of her skirt, I started cheering like everyone else.
Your father was in the back room, passing out water bottles to the men. And I don’t mean give away his secret, but these bottles were filled with what smelled like kerosene.
He winked at me and said, “It’ll put hair on ya back.”
When you cut the cake, you smeared icing on your groom’s face. We laughed and applauded. Because we believe in you, you see. We believe.
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 vows.
And please pray for that redheaded child whose mother finally caught him.
He’s going to need it.