I have a new stepmother.
She and my dad both smiled so much today that I bet their jaw muscles are sore tomorrow. By evening, she had already changed her last name on Facebook… I’m not sure why that surprises me, but it does, in a good way. They had both spoken so casually of their decision to marry, and were so laid back about the selection of a date, so resistant to any sort of fanfare or planning, that I made the mistake of believing that they were thinking of the marriage itself in the same easygoing, “ehh, whatever” sort of way. It’s nice to be wrong.
My kids called her Grandma today. It’ll take a while before that becomes habit – she and my dad have been together for 3 years and the kids are used to calling her by her first name – but I can already tell it will happen. She’s great with them, always has age-appropriate and personality-relevant crafts at the house, makes cupcakes so good you would unhesitatingly break into “Bohemian Rhapsody” in public if the alternative was to go without, and genuinely seems to understand – and like – my children.
It was just enough of a crowd to move from the town clerk’s office to the meeting room next door: the happy couple, my new stepsister, the bride’s parents, a friend or two from work, myself and the kids. But not so much of a crowd that it felt the least bit formal or arranged. Just a casual thing. No invitations or expectations (indeed, they just chose the date on Thursday, and might have gone out and gotten hitched that morning if the weather hadn’t been so bad), no guilt for those who couldn’t attend. Just a very simple, basic, quick event. I parked in a 20-minute spot outside the courthouse, and was back in the car in plenty of time to avoid a ticket. I have to imagine that it was more challenging – certainly more complicated – to have served Thanksgiving dinner. And it’s hard to find fault with a wedding day that doesn’t feature stress and a billion details in starring roles.
Afterward, we went out to a simple lunch, now only seven in the group. I was seated next to the mother of the bride, and we had a very pleasant chat. I hadn’t thought it through before, but when I made the sudden connection – and offhand comment – that she is now, suddenly, a great-grandmother to my kids, she grinned and nodded and got a little teary. They’re people who have always been polite to us, but a bit distant, and I’m sure that won’t just instantly evaporate (nor should it!) but it was nice to see today that they’re ready and willing to make the effort to form some sort of family bond.
My wedding, with 120 guests, seating chart, handmade centerpieces, beaded gown, coordinated wedding party outfits, and astonishing quantities of alcohol, was perfect. It was just how we planned it, Willem and I smiled all day long, and even the little glitches or awkward moments are things I wouldn’t change, because true perfection is just boring. But I could see, today, at a very different event that somehow led to the same end result, that it could have been perfect if it was a quick courthouse ceremony or a high Catholic mass or a barefoot beach gathering. You always know that it’s not about the trappings, it’s about what’s underneath… but it doesn’t hurt to get the occasional reminder.