Another Day in the Country
At my age?
© Another Day in the Country
This past weekend, we’ve been out of town at a wedding in Nebraska.
In 2000, when my sister and I decided to do something wild and crazy and go to Kansas — “for a year,” we thought. We left behind family and friends in California. They included Des and Jeff and their new baby girl, Natalie.
This was Natalie’s wedding we were now attending — in Lincoln, Nebraska, no less, and not in California, where she’d been born and raised.
“Pat, can you come take pictures at my wedding,” she texted out of the blue.
This was quite a compliment because Natalie has turned out to be a photographer herself. Would I do this? Could I do this?
Just in case you’ve never tried taking wedding pictures for someone, let me tell you that it isn’t a walk in the park.
There’s a lot of built in pressure at a wedding because every young person and his or her parents have a pre-formed template as to what lovely, fairy-tale things should occur.
It will be the topic of conversation for years to come. And if the photographer has equipment failures or doesn’t get the right kinds of pictures at the precisely right moments, everyone is unhappy. It’s a big responsibility.
And where is my camera, I wondered. Is it under the desk or under the bed? When did I last use it?
I texted Natalie: “You know I don’t have professional equipment — other than my trusty old Canon camera — and I think you’ve maybe forgotten that while you were getting older, so was I. Think about it!”
A couple of hours later, she called and said: “I still want you to do some of it. I have a videographer and a friend who will do the formal stuff, but I still want you there if you can because I like how you take pictures.”
Well, the pressure was off, so I agreed. Actually, taking the more informal pictures is the most fun. I was on the inside track with a bunch of kids — well, that’s what they seemed to be even though the bride and groom were 21. They seemed so young, but weren’t we all as we launched ourselves into instant adulthood and got married?
This young, barely 20-something girl was making one of the biggest decisions of her life, a long way from everyone and everything she’d known growing up.
To my surprise she’d chosen a college in Nebraska when she graduated from high school.
“Really?” I said to her mother, “She’s coming to Nebraska for college?”
“She loves it there,” her mother said. “She thinks she wants to live in the Midwest?”
And then, you guessed it, she’d met the man of her dreams. He lived in the same apartment complex as she did.
He seems like a good guy. He comes from an Army family with his father and older brother in the military, and he’s following the family pattern.
Suddenly, I, as the honorary relative/friend of the bride’s family, found myself thrust into the middle of both family dynamics — even into the groom’s family home — because I am one of the wedding photographers.
I am privy to the private lives of these people who were strangers five minutes ago.
Not only did we arrive in Nebraska. Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles also swooped down on the airport tarmac from California — relatives and lifestyles as different as night from day, all being polite to each other and smiling tentatively.
Surely they must be saying to themselves, these are the folks who are now relatives? My grandchildren will belong to them, too, some day?
Five minutes ago, we’d never seen them. Six months ago, we’d never heard of them. Even now, we don’t know them, but we have been set upon a path by our children’s choices and we hope to God it turns out OK, even though statistics are against us.
That’s what happens at weddings. Strangers become family. A lot of promises are made that have less than a 50% chance of being kept. Enough money is spent to buy a house — in Marion County, at least.
At my age, do I have any worthy advice? At their age, there’s so much they don’t know.
At my age, the whole business seems fraught with miscalculations, but I just keep snapping pictures, recording the moments of celebrations for these dear kids, their wholesome Nebraska in-laws, and their loving parents from California.
We send up a prayer into the future that these two will make it, that their lives will flourish, and love can defy the odds, once again, on another day in the country.