My friend Ruth got married on Sunday and what a hard-won wedding it was. It is her third marriage and his second and between them, they have seven kids. Ruth has one set of 13-year-old twins and an older boy who just turned 16. Gregory, her groom, has two sets of twins – 13-year-olds and 15-year olds. I don’t care how in love you are, when it comes to feeding and clothing and nurturing that many kids, you’ve got a challenge on your hands.
Ruth’s first husband left shortly after her oldest son was born and her second husband mistreated her and the kids. It took Gregory two years of a really ugly divorce to gain custody of his kids and free himself from his first marriage - to a woman who was certifiably crazy and also mistreated the kids.
Ruth and Gregory met at a school function a year or so ago – their youngest twins, it turns out, were friends. Ruth’s divorce from her second husband had just become final and Gregory was well into the battle that his divorce became. And, while it wasn’t love at first sight, Ruth and Gregory seemed to instantly forge a bond that came from the recognition of another kind, tired, lonely, open heart with a lot of kids to raise.
In spite of their complex lives – both single parents, working full time – the love Ruth and Gregory share seems simple and true. They clearly enjoy being together; they call each other “Honey;” they smile and laugh all the time. He writes her love letters and she makes meals for him and his kids. They like nothing better than being together, which, given their work and parenting schedules, had been difficult to make happen.
I remember how lit up Ruth was when she announced that Gregory asked her to marry him and how proud she was, showing off her ring. I remember thinking Wow! what are they going to do with all those kids? Can you imagine how much food that many teenagers will eat? And what about all that crazy, raw, hormone energy bouncing off the walls of that house?
Nonetheless, their time had come; there was a wedding to plan and in spite of their obviously very tight budget, this time Ruth and Gregory wanted everything to be just right. I helped Ruth plan the wedding and her family and friends chipped in generously with time, ideas and energy. In the background, however, there was still the matter of all of those kids. What they would wear, and how they would act, and how to incorporate them into the ceremony that would turn their two families into one?
Before the wedding, I’d not met any of the kids. I’d only heard about them - mostly the worried kinds of things friends share when seeking advice or needing to vent about parenting. And, I’ll admit, based on what I’d heard, I was more than a little worried - not only about how the wedding would go, but how the family would meld afterwards.
My worries vanished as soon as I met the kids. All of the boys were pressed and dressed in matching black dress pants and blue button-down shirts. Their hair was combed, their shoes were shined, and, they looked sharp. The one girl was obviously on cloud 9 in her bright blue sparkly flower girl dress. And, you could sense their excitement about the whole event.
I felt a lump in my throat when one of Ruth’s 13-year-old twins said, “Wow, Mom! Is that your bouquet? You look just like a bride!” Another lump came when Gregory’s daughter, the flower girl, asked “Miss Ruth” if she could hold her bouquet “for just a minute” then told Ruth how “very pretty” she looked. One of Gregory’s sons folded origami flowers to decorate each reception table; his older sons took obvious pride in ushering the guests. And, the look on Ruth’s oldest boy’s face as he walked his mother down the aisle was priceless.
The sight of that clearly happy, deeply in love couple standing at the alter surrounded by seven shining faces was quite something. The thing that really choked me up, though, was watching them light their unity candle. Each of the seven kids very solemnly and slowly lit a single little candle then used it to light their mother or dad’s bigger candle. Then together, Ruth and Gregory lit one big candle - uniting all their new family’s love, hopes and light…It was a wonderful wedding in every way.
I missed my friends Lou and John Peterman’s 60th anniversary celebration because I was at Ruth’s wedding. Sixty years together – imagine that! Mr. Clark and I are only half-way there with our 30 years together. Ruth and Gregory are just starting out.
“Hope floats” is an expression I’ve always liked and in the case of a good marriage, isn’t that right? Just give hope a chance to float up and it will, every time.
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a writer for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.