The Camels are officially home from the honeymoon and it was a romantic and spectacular time that we will not soon forget. Right now I am overwhelmed with all the photos I took over those two weeks, and I’m still debating how much or how little detail I’d like to include in my recaps, but I will be sure to get back with you guys soon with our experiences on Malta, Gozo, and then in the city of Paris.
Until then, I feel that I need to backtrack a little and talk about our rehearsal dinner. What is usually a rather uneventful wedding tradition was made complicated by the first meeting of my mother and stepmother in addition to some sour post-divorce emotions on Mr. Camel’s side of the family. You can read more about my concerns and pre-wedding emotions in the post “Healing the Past: Family Drama and the Wedding.”
In this case, I think a picture will speak a thousand words, and so I present to you the first photograph of me (as an adult) with my mom and dad who divorced in 1997:
Red-faced from tears, completely and utterly overwhelmed with some of the most intense emotions I have felt in my life—and yet here it is. This might seem trivial to some of you, but for me this was a massive closure for a deep emotional wound. I had been dreading this night, secretly squirreling away my anxiety for weeks leading up to this moment, and suddenly for it to all be over, and not only over but to have gone so well, so perfectly—it was beyond what I could ever have hoped or dreamed.
I felt the need to write about this because people are always talking about the emotions you will feel (or not feel) on your wedding day. No one talks about the rehearsal dinner, which in our case was a big deal not just because of the drama, but because all out-of-town family (and close family friends) were invited to attend. It was overwhelming. I felt torn in 20 different directions. Some of the photos in this post I don’t even remember being taken. I felt like I was drunk but I had only consumed maybe two drinks the entire night; it was a dazed, bumbling feeling, clumsily making my way through snippets of dozens of conversations. I drifted around the room as if in a dream, a lifetime of accumulated family and friends standing before me. You might notice something rather important missing from these photos. Where is Mr. C? Where is the man of the hour? One of my biggest regrets is that we were constantly apart the entire night. There were just too many people to meet and greet, and eventually I felt my anxiety was swallowing me whole. It was too much, so I retreated to a large booth packed with my bridesmaids. I had them lock me in the center of the booth and for a moment the world stopped spinning. I felt safe there.
We ordered our food. I had a roasted turkey sandwich with avocado and a side of sweet potato fries—one of my favorite meals from this particular pub, but I could barely eat when it arrived. I distinctly remember my bridesmaids ordering me Hemingways, my favorite cocktail made with rum, grapefruit and lime juice, simple sugar, and maraschino liqueur. The drinks calmed my nerves, but I knew I would eventually have to face the crowds again. At some point Mr. C sat down with me and had his dinner as well. This is around the time when things started to become very intense for me. I watched as my mom introduced herself first to my stepsister. My stepsister is the most energetic, bubbly, extroverted person I know and she hit it off with my mom. My mom seemed to actually be enjoying the conversation. She seemed happy. She was making such a huge effort and you have no idea how proud I was of her in that moment. I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone. Was this real life? Was this happening?
Again, I realize this sounds trivial for many readers, but you have to understand that for most of my life, my step family has been a source of pain and evil for my mother. They were not to be discussed. My mom would make me feel like the scum of the earth each time I visited them in California. Thus, for most of my life I have had two very separate families on different sides of the country. These families did not meet. They did not interact. Neither existed in the world of the other. And there I was witnessing the largest barrier in my life crashing down, like the Berlin Wall being torn apart, sweet freedom and release rushing in from the other side.
My mother then moved on to introduce herself to my oldest stepbrother. They were smiling, laughing. I could not tell you what they were saying. It felt like the ocean was crashing in my ears and my eyes were welling with tears. Not the tiny, soft ones, but a tidal wave of emotional sobs. I felt my oldest friend and matron of honor reach over and quietly take my hand in hers. I squeezed it so hard because I knew there was no holding back what was coming. I cried and cried. My mom stopped her conversation and asked what was wrong, but she knew. She knew how huge this was for me. I looked up through my napkin tissue and I could see Bridesmaid A was crying too. Mr. C had his arm around me. All of the anxiety, the dread of what this day and moment would be like was fleeing my chest along with a deluge of relief, happiness, and the warm feeling of a healing heart. I wish I could better describe the emotions I was feeling, their intensity, but I don’t think it can be put into words.I can’t really remember what happened after this. Eventually my mom drifted back into the pub and I composed myself. I nibbled a little on my food and shared my disbelief about what was happening with my bridesmaids. At some point I got up to use the restroom, and that is when I witnessed my mom and dad and stepmother talking (amicably, if awkwardly) to each other in front of my brother, my stepfather, and a large portion of my dad’s family. Again, it was as if life was moving in slow motion, things seemed blurred. Was I dreaming? I felt another wave of tears and emotion. I remember crying my eyes out and hugging my dad so tightly. I looked up and my boss, his wife, and their son were watching me with smiles. I couldn’t believe I was such a hot, emotional mess in front of so many people, but I couldn’t stop what was happening. That’s when the photo was taken. Then my older brother jumped in as well. I’m not sure if he was crying here or trying to be funny to mask his own emotions.
In a few moments it was over, people were drifting away. My sweet aunt (not the one pictured below) hugged me. “It’s a miracle,” she said in her soft, comforting voice. It really was.
These photos were all taken by my cousin. I’m so glad she was there to capture these moments; otherwise I would have no physical evidence to show for the evening! I am so grateful to her for capturing moments that I will cherish for a lifetime.
With my stepmother—a picture I don’t even remember being taken!
With my dear aunt (my dad’s sister) who everyone says I resemble
With my stepsister/Bridesmaid J and Matron of Honor K
With my dad and his ombre green shirt. I don’t think he knew that ombre is currently trendy!
With the step-siblings: the youngest, then my bridesmaid, and the eldest on the right end.
With my mom and stepfather
Again, sadly, there are no pictures of me with Mr. C! Oh well, what can you do. Thankfully he (being the more extroverted and social of the two of us) was out manning the field in social interactions while I was experiencing the emotional roller coaster of a lifetime.
Thinking about this night and everything it implied and all the closure it has offered my life still has me in tears. I would love to sit down and talk with my mom and see what this night meant for her too. Did it lighten her heart? Did it provide closure for her emotional wounds, so old and so deep? I’m not sure, but I know that I am so grateful that she had the heart and courage to do what she did. It meant the world to me and really made the wedding something even more grand, even more special than it already was. It truly was the joining of not two families, but four. Looking at guest photos of my stepbrothers with Mr. C’s niece, or with my coworkers dancing with my 87-year-old grandmother—there was so much joy and happiness and love there at once from all the corners of my life. That is what life is about. It’s what we work and toil and worry for, and in the end it is worth the trouble, the hardship, and the waiting. It’s so worth it. I am truly blessed.