Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The fun zone

Photo by Lee Timmons Photography
I grew up wandering more or less alone around the forests and fields that surround our home in Vermont. During the summers I had a friend, my cousin Christopher who is now a professional ultimate fighter. We collected water guns and Berenstein Bear books and those things kept us content, if not wildly entertained, but he went back to Boston at the end of August every year. My sister was around, too, but one day even she left to go to college, which was really terrible of her.
These days, the other three houses on the land are inhabited year-round by my aunts and uncles, but when I was younger they were still just summer homes, empty except for on the holidays. I did have friends over, and we always had a good time (sledding parties, no parents around, Aretha Franklin on the turntable, we were of the industrially squeaky clean variety of teenagers) but my house is so far away from town, from anybody else at all, that these gatherings were pretty rare.

For the most part it was just me, reading Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County in the tree house, drawing maps of the trails and old logging roads that I'd stumble across, and fantasizing about having neighbors- maybe a nice family with kids my age, or with a baby I could play with. Or anybody. I remember so well those wide open summers of exploring, those frozen winters where the fields were dead and it felt like each gray, dull day would stretch on forever.
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So it felt completely surreal when our friends began to arrive a few days before the wedding, all the way from Asheville, Seattle, Durham, Oregon, Boston, and all the much older cousins who used to spend Christmases on the farm but have long since scattered. To see them pitching tents in Sugar House Hill and drifting around in the pond chatting with one another was a bizarre and ecstatic thing.

How many times have I walked through those fields, at times unbearably grateful for the solitude, other times so lonely that I made a sport of earnestly searching for signs of other people (I once found a pair of car keys half buried in the ground, and twice scared the pants off early-season through hikers on the Appalachian trail, which crosses through our woods.) For thirty years, no one really came around to this place except for a tight group of us, and now all at once, everybody is here.
Photo by Lee Timmons Photography
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That's why people have weddings, you know. It's not to get married, you could do that for a lot less money at the court house. It's to bring everyone together so that you can stand back and watch your old high school science teacher having a long talk with your recluse cousin, while your mom's best friend since she was four dances to"Get Low" with the captain of your college ultimate team. It happens once in your life, it's weird and glorious and sometimes concerning, and just as you're wrapping your mind around it, the thing is over and everybody packs up and leaves.
Photo by Lee Timmons Photography
For one whole week we had friends staying with us on our farm, the busiest and most exhausting week of my life. By the end of it, I was too tired to speak. David and I felt so happy about everything, about each other and about getting to be around all of these people, we felt so overcome with our own good fortune and the task of keeping everyone fed that sometimes at night, when we were finally in our own bed, we'd both cry ourselves to sleep. 

That's right.
Photo by Lee Timmons Photography
Of course, I say all of this as if we didn't have any help. Really it was my family that kept everyone fed, Anna and Brooks up in the morning making pancakes, dad drifting from room to room with a box of wine, mom and doing everything else.

David and I were mostly pulled away doing the last agonizing tasks, the ones we saved till the last moment because they're so awful. Seating charts, alphabetizing, the license, the toasts, the lists, the last minute cancellations. We even waited till the day before to write the ceremony, sitting on a picnic table outside Jake's Quechee Market with Charles, our officiant whose brilliant blond mullet falls all the way down his back. It took us an hour.

We had a very simple event. We dropped every single detail and custom and tradition that we possible could and still call it a wedding. And yet, the last few days we were locked in my room for hours pulling it together, making sure no one's name was spelled incorrectly and that some of the cakes were gluten free and the photographer's schedule was the same as the DJ's schedule and the florist knew that our bridesmaid's husband was sick, she couldn't make it and didn't need the bouquet. Outside people splashed around, screamed and drank beer and played badminton.
Photo by Lee Timmons Photography
Photo by Lee Timmons Photography

Dave had set up the badminton net next to the pond and the fire pit a few days prior, an area we referred to as "the fun zone" that became the center of the party. On the night before the wedding, we came home late from the rehearsal dinner to find everybody gathered around the fire with music playing from an old pair of speakers someone had rigged up. A dozen more friends had arrived while we were at dinner. Our flower girl Charli was paddling around in the pond, blue in the lips, teeth chattering, refusing to come in. She'd dash onto the beach to light a handful of sparklers, then run back into the water to watch their light reflecting off the still water.
My friend Ryan was there with his fiance, they'd flown in from Seattle for a 36 hour visit, and I walked them to the upper field so they could see the land, starlit and quiet. I could see the Fun Zone from up there, black figures around the camp fire, those terrifying hot-air lanterns wobbling into the sky and drifting out of range. And there was Charli, nine years old and swimming alone the way I used to, a tiny fizzing speck of orange light gliding around the dark pond.    


Jamie said...

Just a gorgeous post. Thank you!

colleen said...

And....just like that it was over. Though a whirlwind for those of us returning home for the first time in waaaay over a year. I spent that whole week in a constant state of, "wait...when does sleep happen?" Lina. IT WAS GREAT. Almost as great as the bliss of dancing to Aretha in your basement in our underwear taking "shots" of orange juice, only to pass out to Dave Matthews "seek up" fantasizing about which of us would marry Ethan Waldo. LOVE YOU.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you ARE lucky to have so many wonderful friends in your life....and they are lucky to have YOU, Melina!

Rhett said...

Sounds like a wonderful gathering. Loving friends are such a gift.

Marie said...

I want to go to the fun zone! that pond looks amazing! Thank you for the wonderful distraction from my office today, it was just the escape I needed. Congrats again on your wedding!

Melina said...

@colleen- orange juice shots! and apple bras....

Ann Tilley said...

We had so much fun! Within hours of being there, Adam was zipping off in a car of new acquaintances, without ME! We agreed that all the people we didn't know before the wedding, were all freaking amazing and they became instant friends.

Melina said...

oh Ann, I love that!! That makes me SO happy.

colleen said...

Long live our sweet innocent days....

Melina said...

Thank you @Marie! these photos take me on a nice little mental vacation from my office as well.

Jill said...

Absolutely everyone I love will be here, in the same place at the same moment, like magic. Nate and I the common thread. Those thoughts ran around my brain for days before my wedding, filling me with a joy and a weird sense of pride. You captured that feeling, the almost surreal reality of it, so perfectly. Look at what can come of love. What two people can set in motion.

Sarah said...

Melina, it sounds like it was PERFECT!! Xoxo!

Melina said...

@Jill- pride, yes! so much pride!