Leap Year

When I saw this article in the New York Times, I was reminded of that utterly ridiculous movie, Leap Year, which has a a young woman flying to Dublin to propose to her boyfriend, being diverted to Wales, and taking a boat to—wait for it—Cork, which is then diverted to Dingle (what?). This alone makes no sense, as planes coming from the States fly over Shannon (in the west) first; a storm big enough to close Dublin Airport would have all of Ireland socked in; a look at a map will explain some of my disdain.

 

When I was in Dingle with my sis some years ago, she wanted to find the pub where the movie was filmed, which was when I had to break it to her that no part of the movie was actually filmed in Dingle. (Not that that would have helped, as much as I love Amy Adams.)

Supposedly this leap year legend is a tradition that goes way back. According to the Huffington Post,

Legend has it that St. Brigid of Kildare, a fifth-century Irish nun, asked St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, to grant permission for women to propose marriage after hearing complaints from single women whose suitors were too shy to propose. Initially, he granted women permission to propose only once every seven years, but at Brigid’s insistence, he acquiesced and allowed proposals every leap day. The folk tale suggests that Brigid then dropped to a knee and proposed to Patrick that instant, but he refused, kissing her on the cheek and offering a silk gown to soften the blow. The Irish tradition therefore dictates that any man refusing a woman’s leap-day proposal must give her a silk gown.

But really? There’s no definitive proof of any of it. I personally can’t imagine either of these saints having this sort of conversation.

Moreover, I don’t think we ladies need permission from society to do the asking. It’s the twenty-first century, kids! This article in the Irish Times has several stories about women doing the proposing. It doesn’t surprise me, since, as the writer points out:

The notion of marriage has changed in Ireland. It’s only a generation ago that it was unacceptable to live with a partner without being married to them. Though we have some distance to go on many issues, it’s undeniable that we have become a much more tolerant and equal society, even in the past 20 years. As a nation, the majority voted for marriage equality last May. That must mean we’re ready to take the proposals of women seriously, even outside a leap year, right?

True. It’s a lovely article, and I recommend it to you. And should it encourage you to pop the question to the one you love, let me be the first congratulate you!

Long Weekend

Oh, the things you can get done on a long weekend (after the kitchen is cleaned). We went through all the congrats cards we brought back from the party in Ireland and made a list for thank-you notes. Started writing thank-you notes. Then I did my usual thing of displaying the cards for a while on the bookshelf. Many a birthday card, thank-you card, wedding announcements, and more have been displayed on this shelf. It prolongs the delight. 🙂

Wedding cards.

Wedding cards.

And those little bells? They were repurposed from my friend Amy’s wedding (more than a decade ago) and used by a group of friends to ring us “in” when we arrived at the Nashville Airport on 20 October.

This is the weekend for counting our blessings, and we really are blessed when it comes to friends.

With a Little Help From Our Friends

Note: I’ve included more photos here than I might normally, because this will be the only source of wedding news for our friends and family who are far away. (And, even, close—since it was a very small wedding.) I hope you won’t mind this indulgence. Remember, also, that you can click on any photo to enlarge it.

• • •

So the plan was to meet at the county clerk’s office at 3:30 that afternoon. Jon and Teresa were waiting on us, and the four of us stood around outside chatting while we waited for Jenny and her husband, Kerry, to walk down from the square, where they’d parked.

I think Gerry and I were … a little anxious. 🙂

And then, in the way things have a way of happening in Murfreesboro—it’s a large town that acts like a small town—a woman walked by to put something in the Fedex dropbox outside the county clerk’s office. Wait … I think I recognize that woman.

“Katja?”

It was our immigration attorney. She rushed over, hugged me. “It’s today!” she said. “I love your dress!”

What a great moment, right? Of all the Fedex dropboxes in all the world, she had to walk up to, um, ours. 🙂

Me, Gerry, Jon, Teresa … and Katja Hedding, on a beautiful autumn afternoon in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Me, Gerry, Jon, Teresa … and Katja Hedding, on a beautiful autumn afternoon in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

And then we went inside to the court clerk’s office to buy the license.

Kerry and Jenny did a great job of documenting our day. As did Jon, who handled videography.

Kerry and Jenny did a great job of documenting our day. As did Jon, who handled videography.

They were expecting us! (This, again, is why I love Murfreesboro. They were expecting us.) Rick Spence had two couples ahead of us. (Who’d a-thunk it?) But that was OK, because we had some paperwork to take care of.

Notice I am smiling and Gerry is pretty serious. La-la-la-la-la!

Notice I am smiling and Gerry is pretty serious. La-la-la-la-la!

When we were done, we drove down to the square to wait. My friends Amy and Dan Parker were driving by and when they saw us get out of the car, they pulled in to the spot next to us. If I haven’t said it before, this is why I love Murfreesboro: on the day of my stealth wedding, we run into friends! Hugs, photos, and laughter ensued. We invited them to stay but they had someplace to be.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. Perfect.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. Perfect.

Here my brother, Jon, prepared with the video camera, and his wife, Teresa, wait. Business around the square went on as usual. I truly love this downtown. It’s the real thing.

Here my brother, Jon, prepared with the video camera, and his wife, Teresa, wait. Business around the square went on as usual. I truly love this downtown. It’s the real thing.

Gerry had been intending to Skype back to Ireland on my iPhone, so he got on the phone while the rest of us waited for Rick.

Ain’t technology grand? Gerry is talking to Ireland.

Ain’t technology grand? Gerry is talking to Ireland.

While we waited, we took photographs. Of course!

I was at the point of exhausted giddy, you know?

I was at the point of exhausted giddy, you know?

I love you, Jenny! Thank you so much for everything!

I love you, Jenny! Thank you so much for everything!

It became apparent that there were technical difficulties on the other end. We were not going to be able to have Gerry’s mother present via Skype. (But that’s OK. We have video.) When Rick Spence arrived promptly at 4:15, Gerry had to hang up. Everyone took his or her place.

Including us. Rick had some instructions for our witnesses.

Including us. Rick had some instructions for our witnesses.

And we began.

“Look at each other,” Rick said.

“Look at each other,” Rick said.

We did.

We did.

Rick has that lovely accent possessed of native Tennesseans; it’s unmistakable. He took his time; nothing was rushed.

Saying our vows.

Saying our vows.

Did I mention what a nice day it was? It was.

Did I mention what a nice day it was? It was.

No skimping! Vows, rings, the works!

No skimping! Vows, rings, the works!

It was perfect in every way.

It was perfect in every way.

It was a really nice ceremony. Both of us were surprised at how nice it was, when we’d been expecting a rubber-stamp quickie wedding. People were coming in and out of the courthouse but everyone got a kick out of what we were doing. Great feeling, rush hour, cars going around the square, and we were doing our thing. I loved that aspect of it—business as usual.

At one point we had to wait for some folks who insisted on going into the courthouse whilst we were marrying. The nerve! :)

At one point we had to wait for some folks who insisted on going into the courthouse whilst we were marrying. The nerve! 🙂

And then, just like that, it was over.

Smooch!

Smooch!

Our officiant was the best. Thanks, Rick Spence!

Our officiant was the best. Thanks, Rick Spence!

We lingered for a few moments—and more photographs. 🙂

We got our marriage certificate on the spot, no waiting!

We got our marriage certificate on the spot, no waiting!

All that kissing!

All that kissing!

Yes, it was a happy day.

Yes, it was a happy day.

The obligatory ring shot. Not to be confused with a rim shot. Bada-bing.

The obligatory ring shot. Not to be confused with a rim shot. Bada-bing.

Our family! Teresa, me, Gerry, Jon. Love you guys!

Our family! Teresa, me, Gerry, Jon. Love you guys!

Our friends! Jenny, me, Gerry, Kerry. Love you guys!

Our friends! Jenny, me, Gerry, Kerry. Love you guys!

And in case you’re just joining our program …

And in case you’re just joining our program …

Wedding, Part Two

We had one little thing to do before we could get to celebrating. One of my authors, Nancy Rue, was in town for a book signing. She’d emailed me about ten days earlier: What are you doing on October 23rd between 4 and 6pm? I have this book signing. We could catch up!

Um. I know this is gonna sound crazy, Nancy, but I’m getting married at 4:15pm that day.

We decided to crash the book signing.

It was more excitement than Barnes & Noble has seen in a long time. Ha!

It was more excitement than Barnes & Noble has seen in a long time. Ha!

Wedding, Part Three

At last it was time for dinner. Jenny had made reservations for us at Peter D’s, a local restaurant. We were early, but that wasn’t a problem. (Their planning to seat the six of us in a booth was a problem, but quickly rectified.) We landed with Richard, who was a fabulous server. We had a grand time. Kerry and Jenny brought a bottle of Dom Pérignon, and we wasted no time getting to the toasts and thank-yous. It was delightful.

Richard was the best!

Richard was the best!

Wedding, Part Four

And then we went back to the house. Remember, the wedding’s not official unless you have cake. 🙂

So we had cake. :) And tea. And some of us had more champagne. :) And Gerry and I were in bed, exhausted, by 8:30pm! Because that is how we old folks roll.

So we had cake. 🙂 And tea. And some of us had more champagne. 🙂 And Gerry and I were in bed, exhausted, by 8:30pm! Because that is how we old folks roll.

And that, dear friends and family and everyone else, is the story of our wedding. 🙂

Great shot, Jenny.

Great shot, Jenny.

 

I Wasn’t Prepared

After we made three different sets of wedding plans—and then quit telling people!—it’s a wonder anyone still wants to hear about it. But I’ve been so blessed with my friendships.

My friend Jenny cheerfully volunteered to take photos when I surprised her with the news that we were going to marry and soon. And then she quietly stepped in and became my wedding planner when she saw I was making a hash of it. 🙂

“What about this? That?” she’d say, her daybook open on the table. “I’ll do it.” She’d write something down. “I’ll do that.” Honestly, Jenny, I wouldn’t have survived this without you.

I’d been whining for months that my favorite florist (Henry’s, on the square) had gone out of business. Jenny spoke up one day and said, “Let’s talk about your flowers.” So we did. “I can make your bouquet,” she said. “And the boutonniere.” And she did. First she made a Pinterest page of bouquets in the colors I’d mentioned, using her imagination, really, since I hadn’t been particularly helpful, what with the computer crash, my work load, and Gerry’s impending arrival. I was frazzled, y’all. In the end, all I had to do was pick up the flowers.

I’d settled on white roses, with dusty miller for accents, if we could find some. But where, in October? Jenny had lambs’ ears growing in her backyard—that would do.

On the morning of our wedding day, then, Gerry and I went to Kroger. Yep! The grocery store. Jenny and I had a Plan B in case the local store didn’t have white roses—there are several in town—but as it turns out, our local had been remodeling all summer and had just opened the new produce section. Flowers were in stock, plentifully so. We bought white roses and white hydrangeas.

Text messages were flying. Jenny had discovered dusty miller in abundance at the entrance of our subdivision, and helped herself. (Sorry, HOA. It was for a good cause. Our dues are paid.) I did promise to bail her out if she got arrested for stealing the plants.

Jenny arrives with lambs’ ears and dusty miller.

Jenny arrives with lambs’ ears and dusty miller.

While Jenny got to work, I … well, I did nothing. I sat at the table and kept her company, but I was no use whatsoever. This marryin’ bidness is hard work.

Jenny constructs a beautiful bouquet.

Jenny constructs a beautiful bouquet.

I piddled around taking photographs. Dusty miller, lambs’ ears, and tulle.

I piddled around taking photographs. Dusty miller, lambs’ ears, and tulle.

At one point we needed to put the flowers in the fridge to slow them down. The bacon kept them company.

At one point we needed to put the flowers in the fridge to slow them down. The bacon kept them company.

I’d made the cake the day before. It was already occupying quite a bit of the fridge. The boutonniere rests atop it.

I’d made the cake the day before. It was already occupying quite a bit of the fridge. The boutonniere rests atop it.

When she was done with the flowers, Jenny spiffed up the downstairs like a whirling dervish, sweeping, cleaning the kitchen, arranging the table. And then she went home to get ready.

The table, waiting. Noonish.

The table, waiting. Noonish.

OMG, I’m about to get married.

Sometimes Things Work Out

Gerry had investigated marriage licenses in Rutherford County, Tennessee, months before. The website is pretty clear:

The Groom (male) and Bride (female) must be at least eighteen (18) years of age to obtain a marriage license. The Groom (male) and the Bride (female) are required to apply for the marriage license together in person and submit one of the following forms of identification:

  • Valid Driver’s License
  • Valid State Identification Card
  • Military Identification Card
  • Passport
 And
  • Social Security Number

No problem.

And look at this:

A Civil Ceremony is available in the Clerk’s Office. There is no additional cost for this service and no appointment is required.

Score! It’s a one-stop shop.

We called my brother and his wife, told them our plans and asked them to come with. Done.

Then Gerry suggested to his mother—who would have loved to be here except for that arduous trip across the Pond—that he could Skype her in. She was all over it. We “practiced” for weeks. She learned how to sign on and wait for my call.

And then Gerry began to worry. What if they only do the weddings at certain times of the day? What if they only do them in the morning? What if they take off for lunch?

So I walked in to the court clerk’s office to ask a few questions. The week before my computer had died and I was still in a bit of a daze. I was behind on work, had a hundred things to do to prepare for Gerry’s arrival, and my stress level was through the roof.

The gentleman who spoke to me that day was Rick Spence. I asked him all the What If questions, and we had nothing to worry about. It would all be fine.

One more question though: Where, exactly, do they marry you? Is it private? I’d heard stories about folks who got married with inmates of the county jail as witnesses (because it all happened in the same room: arraignments, weddings, hey!), who got married next to people buying car tags (making smart-ass remarks), who got married with the county sheriff’s deputy looking on (who might or might not roll his eyes), and so on. They are funny stories but … I wasn’t so sure about it. So I asked. I started to ask. Where—?

“No, let me back up,” I said. “Would it be possible for us to walk down to the courthouse? Get married on the steps?” You can see the historic Rutherford County courthouse from the clerk’s office; it’s about a block away. I’ve lived in Murfreesboro for a long time and I love our downtown with the courthouse square and the antebellum courthouse. It’s beautiful.

Rutherford County (Tennessee) Courthouse on 23 October 2014.

Rutherford County (Tennessee) Courthouse on 23 October 2014.

Rick was leaning on the counter. When I asked that last question, he sighed audibly, lowered his head and closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Seconds ticked by. “We get asked that a lot,” he said, eyes still closed.

I knew immediately the answer was no. And that was OK. It never hurts to ask, right? That’s what I said: “I understand—you can’t leave this office. No problem. Just thought I’d ask.”

And then he did something extraordinary and unexpected. (I don’t know why. I am a chubby middle-aged woman, not a sweet-faced twentysomething who’d look good in white.) “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said. “Our office closes at four o’clock. I’m out of here around four-fifteen. If you’ll come buy your license at three-thirty, I’ll meet you at the courthouse when I’m off work.”

I teared up, thanked him profusely. We looked at my daybook calendar and I wrote his name on the day. “I won’t forget,” he said.

And he didn’t. :)

And he didn’t. 🙂

 

I Wanted Something Sentimental

Believe it or not, this is a travel story. It starts with some friends of my parents, who were in the air force. (Technically, my dad was in the air force, but in actuality, we all were.) That story—of my parents and their friends—is connected to a coin, among a lot of coins given to me by those people. It ends up with a piece of jewelry I wore when I got married … because I wanted something sentimental. Let me tell you about it.

Jim & Doris and Hank & Shirley

My parents always made a lot of friends wherever they went, and early in Daddy’s air force career they became friends with a couple who were probably ten or fifteen years older than they were. I can’t remember their names, so I’ll call them Hank and Shirley.

Hank was also in the air force, but his career path separated from my dad’s. I suspect he was in military intelligence, because they were stationed all over the world. They had no children.

Hank & Shirley. I have no idea where this was taken. Someplace where they have camels. :) My guess is late ’60s, early ’70s.

Hank & Shirley. I have no idea where this was taken. Someplace where they have camels. 🙂 My guess is late ’60s, early ’70s.

Eventually he finished his career in Washington DC. (Military intelligence and the diplomatic corps are a natural fit.) They lived in Arlington, Virginia, which is right across the Potomac from DC and, more significantly, the location of the Pentagon.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents drove me to San Francisco and put me on an airplane (possibly my first commercial flight, though I’d flown in small aircraft all my life) all by myself, and I flew to Washington (Dulles National Airport) for my spring break week. April 1969.

I was there to see my country’s monuments. And Hank and Shirley took me everywhere!

This is a view of the Washington Monument taken from across the Tidal Basin; we’re standing at the base of the Jefferson Memorial.

This is a view of the Washington Monument taken from across the Tidal Basin; we’re standing at the base of the Jefferson Memorial. I felt very smart in that suit, which I’d made myself in a home ec class.

We parked ’round back at the Capitol Building. I imagine Hank had a special parking situation.

We parked ’round back at the Capitol Building. I imagine Hank had a special parking situation.

And I do mean everywhere. The Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Mint, the Smithsonian Institution,* the White House, the Washington Monument, the National Mall, the Pentagon, Ford’s Theatre, the home in Georgetown where the Kennedys lived when he was a senator, Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the US Naval Academy at Annapolis (Maryland), and many other places I can no longer remember. (I wish I’d journaled my trip then, as I do my trips now.)

In 1868 the figurehead from the USS Delaware (1817–1861) was installed at the Naval Academy; in 1930 a bronze replica replaced the deteriorating wooden bust. I was told they called it Tecumseh, though I’ve since learned that it is really Tamanend, the Delaware chief who welcomed William Penn to his land on 2 October 1682.

In 1868 the figurehead from the USS Delaware (1817–1861) was installed at the Naval Academy; in 1930 a bronze replica replaced the deteriorating wooden bust. I was told they called it Tecumseh, though I’ve since learned that it is really Tamanend, the Delaware chief who welcomed William Penn to his land on 2 October 1682. As you can see, it’s huge.

I was even allowed to flirt with some naval cadets, which is why I’m laughing in the photo above. 🙂

Former president Dwight Eisenhower had just died right before I got there, so all of my photos show flags flown at half-staff.

Washington Monument on a rainy day in April 1969.

Washington Monument on a rainy day in April 1969.

This is the Marine Corps War Memorial, which stands outside Arlington National Cemetery.

This is the Marine Corps War Memorial, which stands outside Arlington National Cemetery.

I remember all the tourism. I don’t remember anything, really, of my evenings with Hank and Shirley. We must’ve talked a lot about history and their travels, though, because a few years later they visited my parents and brought me a box full of foreign coins. Mostly from Europe.

A Coin From Ireland

Among those coins were several from Ireland, a place that had always held a fascination for me. There’s a silver coin with a salmon on it, but it’s very worn. There are three copper one-penny coins (1942, 1942, and 1949) with a chubby hen drooping her wings and holding her tail high—really delightful artwork. On the reverse, of course, the harp, which is the national symbol of Ireland.

My favorite, though, was a newer coin, a copper two pence coin issued in 1971, the first year of minting for this design. It’s called “ornamental bird” and is a Celtic design. It’s beautiful. And since 1971 is the year I graduated from high school, it’s a meaningful date for me personally.

Fast-forward a few decades, and I meet the Irishman. Fast-forward a few more years, and I’m planning to marry him, so I think I’d like to wear that coin on a necklace. For that you need a coin bezel, and if you want something nice you probably need to involve a jeweler. I started looking for such a bezel on a trip to Ireland, because I figured even though they use euro-coinage now, local jewelers might have stock bezels for historic coins.

Well, no. And jewelers in the United States were going to have to custom-make something. I set the idea aside for awhile.

Then I remembered I have a friend who makes jewelry. (Her name is Rebecca Cole, and you should have a look at her website. She does beautiful work.) I wrote her a note and told her a shorter version of this story. I told her I’d like a gold bezel, because I mostly wear gold jewelry. I left out the part about the marriage, mostly because we were keeping this information on the down-low.

As you undoubtedly know. 🙂

She said, “I only work in silver. But I think I have an idea.” We discussed price—“If you like it”—it was reasonable, and I sent her the coin right away. I figured I’d hang the coin from my bouquet and wear it later at my reception in Ireland.

The Princess Dress

In the meantime, I bought a dress. I spent more on it than I’ve ever spent on a dress, ever. From Nordstrum’s. Online. It was perfect in every way, but when it arrived, I noticed the beadwork along that princess neckline had some silver in it. The jewelry I’d planned to wear—gold—wasn’t going to work. Hmpf.

A few weeks went by, and Rebecca emailed. “I haven’t forgotten,” she said. “I had to order something for the project and when it came it was the wrong thing, so I had to order the right thing.”

I wasn’t worried, but more days went by, and now it was getting close. So I broke down and told her why in an email. She answered that she was about to send it off—and that she wasn’t going to send me a photo. It would be a surprise. Watch the mail, she said.

I love surprises.

A couple days later, a small box arrived. Three little bags, two business cards, a necklace, and a note.This is what it looked like when I opened it.

It’s a wedding gift. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind gift. I cried.

It’s a wedding gift. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind gift. I cried.

The “part” Rebecca had to buy was another, identical coin, so she could clean it and make molds from it. Because if you clean an antique coin, you destroy its value (who knew?) and she didn’t want to clean the coin I’d sent her. From these molds, she made two pendants. Then she returned the coins and the molds to me, which means what I have is one-of-a-kind.

Here’s what the pendants look like on one side: like an Irish coin.

Here’s what the pendants look like on one side: like an Irish coin.

Here’s the reverse.

Here’s the reverse.

One pendant reads May the road rise up; the other, May the sun shine. You know these lines from what is often called an anonymous Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields, and,
until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

So through what feels like a little miracle, I ended up with a gorgeous silver necklace that was perfect with my wedding dress (I layered it with my pearl necklace and wore my pearl earrings) and was personal and meaningful for both of us. What a beautiful gift! (’Becca, I can’t express how much this meant to me. Love you, sister-friend.)

* The Spirit of St. Louis—the airplane flown from New York to Paris by Charles Lindbergh in 1927—was a highlight. Lindbergh was a hero in our house. And Daddy, a pilot himself, was born and raised in St. Louis.