Friday, June 26, 2009

Kirkpatrick double wedding extravaganza

Clowns, jugglers, mimes, these were all suggestions from the double-wedding committee (family friends who had been giving opinions our entire lives) 22 years ago when my sister and I were planning our wedding. People look at us funny when Susan and I talk about "our" wedding, but given the outside committee we had to deal with, the grooms didn't get to have a lot of input.

On this anniversary, as I look back at pictures, there are so many things I remember I about that day.

The videographer (and member of the wedding committee), the late, great Harry Watters, rendered almost invisible, just like my mother insisted.

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The wedding brunch. Daddy was presented with a trophy by committee chair Judy Watters for surviving (and paying for) the whole ordeal. The trophy reads, "Life's work well done; rest thee now."

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My dress, which had been my aunt's when she got married in 1956, hanging from the ceiling fan while guests milled around in Mom and Dad's living room because it was too long to fit anywhere else.

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Committee members and wedding director Sallie Estes and preacher Joe Estes, without whom the wedding wouldn't have come off at all. I'm sure we're still together because of the good work they did.

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So many hands getting us ready. I've never looked so good and always wished for a gaggle of handlers who'd dress me and make me up every morning.

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Lesley buttoning the hundreds of buttons up the back of the dress Mom made for Susan.

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Sending Mrs. DiPlacido, the mother of bridesmaid Lesley, out for falsies. I'd lost almost 20 pounds in the month leading up to the wedding--nerves--and my dress didn't fit any more. She was the only one in the room with money and car keys.

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Mom walking me down the aisle.

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Daddy walking Susan down the aisle.

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How handsome Chris (and his groomsmen) looked in his tux.

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The beautiful music. Thanks in part to Harry Watters (son of the invisible man).

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Exhaustion setting in as the after-ceremony pictures were taken. You know how long it takes for photos with one bride and one groom. Imagine how long it takes with two entire wedding parties.

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Following a family tradition and cutting the cake (there was only one) with a saber. Made it taste especially good!

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The wedding party

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It's been a great 22 years. How could it not have been, with a start like that? Chris, I'd do it all again. Happy Anniversary!

Karen and Chris

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Susan and Gregory

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Daylilies and a rehearsal dinner

Twenty-two years ago today was wedding eve. The day before an event the likes of which Huntsville, Ala., still has not seen duplicated. But the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner also stick in my mind, not only because they were a lot of fun, but because the dinner marked my introduction to daylilies.

The wedding was double, my sister and I got married together. Here we are at the rehearsal dinner, (Chris, Karen, Susan, Gregory) with the spectacular daylily centerpiece that my in-laws and their friends created.

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We inherited those daylilies, which are blooming profusely this year thanks to a fair amount of spring rain. These are photos I took this week.

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I wrote the following piece about our daylilies several years ago as public radio commentary. But the sentiment still holds true on this day when I find myself thinking about them and that very special time 22 years ago.

When I'm in a good mood, I look out at the thousands of daylilies blooming in our yard and think about our wedding. I remember the tables at the rehearsal dinner covered in gorgeous yellow and orange daylilies. I can almost see the arrangements at the wedding reception. Everyone says they were beautiful, but I remember those only from photos. I still hear the excitement in my then eight-year-old cousin's voice as she proudly showed me the daylilies she'd helped dig out of my new in-law's garden; daylilies she promised to plant in her own yard as soon as she got back home.

When my mood's not so good, I think of the many times we've moved the daylilies. After Chris' parents sold their garden property and moved to Florida, we transplanted 400 plants to our house near Five Points in Huntsville, Ala. Two years later, the daylilies needed dividing, so we moved 600 to our new place in Marietta, Ga. Our last move saw an increase in plants to more than 900. When I think about these moves, I have to get a glass of water and sit down.

This time of year, when the lilies are blooming so beautifully, in colors you never see planted along the ditch banks, I realize they are worth moving. They are so much more than the armloads of burgundy, pink, yellow, purple and orange blossoms that I gather every day for six weeks to decorate the fixer-upper. They are Chris' past.

Chris' mom and dad hybridized some of the daylilies and gave them names like Richmond and Salt Lake City. I can't look at their blossoms without thinking of the Kennedy's and what they passed on to Chris--a love of the outdoors and a concern for nature that shows in Chris' enthusiasm for recycling, growing vegetables and planting flowers, that's apparent in his willingness to move to the Atlanta area to please me, but only if I'll live on acreage in the suburbs.

It's morning now, the best time to cut flowers whose blossoms last only one day. Armed with scissors, I head up the hill to the garden. I guess I married the daylilies shortly after I married Chris. They're a lot alike, Chris and the lilies. Both quiet, hearty, good to look at and happy to be growing on our plot of ground in the shadow of the big city.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The practically perfect mini-vacation

For the past few years when we've been to the beach, we've hit uncrowded, uncommercialized, less developed places like Jekyll Island, Ga., and St. George Island, Fla. But this year we went back if not to the heart of kitschy Florida, which is probably Weeki Wachee and the mermaids, then at least to its liver.

We traveled to Ft. Walton Beach, the home of sugar-sand beaches, emerald-green water, Big Kahuna's water park, the Gulfarium and a main street called the Miracle Strip.

I've loved our low-key beach vacations, but driving past Cash's Liquors and Fudpucker's restaurant on the way to our beachside condo, I found myself getting caught up in the Fun, Fun, Fun that pounds you from all sides before you even see the Gulf.

A high point--two meals in three days at the Back Porch, an open-air beachfront place where shirts and shoes are optional, but the seafood is fresh and fabulous. Their grilled amberjack (a white fish caught off the coast there) sandwiches invade my dreams, both waking and sleeping, on a regular basis, so I was glad to have two of them. Plus great onion rings and something I'd never had room for before, dessert--some ultimate chocolate concoction that will accompany the amberjack dreams for years to come.

Our waitress took this picture of us looking happy even before we'd eaten our meal.

Back-Porch

So indulge your inner teenager and visit the commercial side of Florida every now and again. It's worth it, if only for the amberjack.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Boiling pig heads

Nothing says summer in the South like the sight and aroma of boiling pig heads in the backyard.

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Okay, so this little adventure had nothing to do with being in the South and everything to do with having a sister with a dead-animal fetish (and I mean that in the most wholesome sense of the word).

A student in one of her anthropology classes bought pig heads from a butcher, shot them with bullets, hacked at them with a machete, then buried them to see what would happen. Susan (the sister) was very pleased at the student's ingenuity. Then, joy of joys, when the class was over, the student told Susan she could keep the pig heads! Rapture!

Unfortunately they still had a little tissue attached. And nobody wants that. So, she brought them over to boil in Chris's outdoor, turkey-frying pot. (Thanksgiving will never be the same.)

The smell of boiling hog fat--it reminded me of the old-timey candle-making smell on steroids--permeated our yard and house for hours, but look at the payoff. Three perfectly clean pig heads preserved for college students for years.

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Better sign up early! That class will fill up fast!