Thursday, September 26, 2013

That time I went to Springfield for a wedding

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
I’ve read the above quote countless times. It’s sweet and poetic, but it’s never struck me as undeniably true as it does right now, after spending a few days with people who choose me as their family. Returning to my “real life” has been a challenge, because of the unconditional love showered upon me by these people who choose me, again and again, to be their own. It’s an amazing feeling.

And so it was a few weekends back, when I drove to Springfield for the wedding of someone I am not related to, but who could not be described any other way than “family”. Johanna Jane – JJ, as we know her – is the stepsister of my “brother,” Mike Rice. He and I have been family since the day we met, back in the late 90s. It happened quite by accident (I cannot aim a Frisbee well enough to hit someone on purpose, thankyouverymuch) and proves to be the happiest error in aim I’ve ever made. 

The Illinois State Capitol; so pretty!
My arrival at the hotel was met almost immediately by gleeful shouts from my nieces, Kaylee, Isabel and Alice. Indeed, they were happy to see me; thus launched the parade of faux-bros, sisters and parents. So many hugs. So much love.

Folding into Mike and Rae’s arms is like going home. It doesn’t matter where we are; inside their hugs, I am exactly where I belong. Cindy and Charlie greeted me as only parents can (“Was your drive okay? Are you hungry? Here, have some pizza”) and then I got to see Ryan, my favorite Marine.

He and I became fast friends years ago on the first family vacation after Charlie married Cindy and Clan Rice/Carlson was born. And yes, I give him a lot of the credit for helping me become that runner I am today. Lamppost to lamppost; that’s how he taught me. That’s how the running started. Now my lampposts are miles apart, and I’m running the whole way.

And so, the weekend began. A solitary trip to Target ended with me picking up brother James at the train station and meeting brothers Chunk and Mike at a pub. Over onion rings and beer we laughed and joked and looked forward to what the weekend would bring. Returning to the hotel, I caught a good night’s sleep before the main event the next day.
My three "brothers", Mike, Chunk and James Rice
Saturday morning was run day for me, so I hit the treadmill. There were mirrors in the tiny gym inside the hotel. I don’t like watching myself run, so I concentrated on my music, and the fact that there were waffles available in the breakfast room. Soon enough, I was there.

And there was coffee. And it was good.

There was enough time to primp and prettify, and then it was time to head to the wedding, which was blissfully inside the hotel complex. Easiest commute ever. I met up with the Rice boys, who looked completely handsome and dapper. But that was nothing compared to the lady-folk; these are women who know how to dress up! For an afternoon, I was convinced I was among the Beautiful People; quite nice, yes? Yes.

Between the wedding and reception, I retired to the room to relax and have a glass of wine. Soon my room was full of family, and we had to get more wine. And Scotch. And shortly after that, it was reception time.  
Kaylee and Rae, relaxing between the wedding and reception.
The food was good. The company was better. There, among those people, I felt everything good, everything joyful and everything right. It was a perfect storm of awesome. These people, this love they share with me, just fills me up. I felt beautiful, intelligent, funny and fun, because of the version of me they reflect back at me. I felt lovely and alive.

Not ready to let go of the night after the reception closed down, I found myself having a nightcap with Ryan and his wife, Erinn, and doing a bit more catching up. It was one of those nights when the ability to stop time would have been truly handy; there wasn’t enough time to tell all the stories that begged to be told before sleepiness took hold and it was time to go back to my room and sleep.

Saying goodbye the next day was cleansing and awful. Sometimes I can leave them without so much as a tear, but on this weekend I just couldn’t hold them back. I didn’t want to; I just let them go, thanking my lucky stars I’d gone without mascara that morning. It is impossible to say goodbye to these people. They light my life; they magnify my joy. And the way they make me feel … it’s just beyond.

For someone like me, who plays with words for a living, it’s hard to not be able to describe something. But that’s where I’m at here – there is just no way to use something as simple as English to explain something that feels so otherworldly. These are the people who found me at age 30 and made me their own. They don’t take the place of my biological family; instead, they make up a tree of their own, and they’ve let this Maggie-shaped branch grow right into it. I’m not sure I deserve it. But I hope they never figure that out.

No comments: