My nephew Luke was married on August 10 to beautiful Katie at her home in Maryland. The Edstroms turned up en masse. Auntie Nan played piano and organ. Cousin Morgan sang. Little kids Peyton and Andie were flower girls, and Harry was the ring bearer. The bride’s aunt performed the ceremony at the Church of the Brethren in Union Bridge. Katie was radiant, Luke’s smile lit up the sanctuary, and happiness filled the church.
Harry took his charge quite seriously. He told me before the ceremony that he had a “very important job.” The three little kids drew smiles and giggles from the congregation as they marched down the aisle, the girls carefully covering the floor with petals, and Harry clutching his satin pillow with the two little fake rings attached to it as if it were an attaché filled with state secrets.
During rehearsal, it was decided that the kids would leave the altar when the father of the bride did, but during the ceremony, he left, and the kids stayed. Harry was a little antsy, so his mother caught the eye of the best man, who sent Harry down to sit with us. Everything was fine until the minister said, “and now the couple will exchange rings.” Harry, thinking that was his cue, jumped up and looked around frantically for the satin pillow. His mother had to assure him that the minister had the rings, and he had done his job. I could tell he didn’t really believe her. After all, he could see the little rhinestone rings sitting right there on his pillow.
The reception was at the bride’s family farm in Taneytown, Maryland. It is a beautiful place, made more beautiful by the spectacular gardens, and pots of gorgeous flowers everywhere — down to the flower boxes in the windows of the bride’s childhood playhouse. A friend of the family worked nearly a year on the floral plan, and the result was to make us feel as though we were on a farm in Normandy or Tuscany. A pond, outlined with twinkling lights, the trees full of lights, a bar — made by the bride’s father — attached to what might have been the old milk house, and seating groups placed around the manicured lawn made us feel as though we were in a photo shoot for a travel magazine. Waiters and waitresses passed hors d’oeuvres, including bacon-wrapped barbecued shrimp. People were practically chasing the wait staff around to get just one more!
A huge tent was set up, under which a jazz trio played, and later a DJ, inviting everyone to the dance floor. Favors on the tables were jars of unusual homemade jams — mine was peach basil. The meal was heaven from the oven — chef carved tenderloin, and the absolute best crab cakes (Maryland is a big, big crab producer) I have ever eaten. Dessert was an assortment of wedding cakes, including a gluten-free option.
I drove the little girls back to the motel, following Cassidy, Angie, and Harry, while Morgan and Dan stayed to party into the wee hours. In bed at the motel, I reflected on how much John and I loved weddings. I learned to bring extra tissues, because the two of us always cried. Something about young people willing to make the commitment to each other to form a family made us tear up. The old married couples in the congregation know that what lies ahead will not always be easy, but that in the long run, the rewards are worth the emotional peaks and valleys that inevitably come with creating a family with the person you love.
The rest of the trip
On the way to the family wedding in Maryland, I stopped in West Virginia to visit former Winonan William (formerly known as Mr. Bill) Byxbee, and his lovely wife Cindy Emmans. They live in Charles Town, founded by George Washington’s brother Charles. It is a lovely area, quite rural.
It was rainy and humid, but we managed to fit in lots of conversation, and incredible meals prepared by the two of them — Basque Chicken and Pasta Norma among my favorites, not to mention the berry tart. They also drove me around to some of the historic sites, including Harper’s Ferry and the Bolivar Heights battlefield. A cliff overlooking the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers gave me a panoramic view of the area, including where the old Chesapeake and Ohio canal ran along the rivers. The old mule path along the canal is now a hiking and biking trail, and the rivers are popular with tubers and kayakers.
We drove to Shepherdstown, which may be the oldest town in the state. A river runs through the town, called the Town Run. It meanders through back yards and even under several streets. We ate lunch at a nice restaurant there before heading home.
On Friday, they dropped me at my hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, about an hour away, where I met up with the rest of the family. The day of the wedding, we visited the battlefield there. If you go, be sure to see the new visitor’s center, where there is an introductory film, and a chance to see the Gettysburg Cyclorama, an 1883 painting by Paul Philippoteaux that depicts Pickett’s Charge. The painting encircles the room and is 27 feet high and 359 feet in circumference. It is truly remarkable, and lighting makes it appear in 3D. The day after the wedding, we made the auto tour of the battlefields and visited the Minnesota monument. Nearby, a group of reenactors from New York were kind enough to tell us about their encampment. One shared the fact that he recently had begun sleeping on a foam pad, rather than the very hard ground.
I was struck by the openness and relative flatness of the battlefield, and the up close and personal sort of fighting that characterized the Civil War. With nothing more than canons and guns and bayonets, those men fought to the death — 51,000 killed, wounded or missing in that battle. Minnesota lost 224 men of the 378 engaged in the battle. Wisconsin lost around 800 men there. I wondered if we have squandered the lessons learned from our Civil War.
On our way out of town to the Baltimore airport, we looked for a place for a quick lunch. We stumbled across Gary and Dell’s Crabhouse in Westminster, Maryland. Fresh crabs are served at tables covered in brown butcher paper, and each diner is given a small sharp plastic knife and a wooden mallet.
We ordered Harry a shrimp basket, but he was quite taken with our mallets, and wanted to borrow mine to smash his shrimp flat as pancakes. They still tasted pretty good, though. I tried some. It wasn’t fast food, but it was good food!