Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Oh, the Places You'll Go!  A better title for the adventure of fatherhood I cannot imagine.  The same can be said for the adventure of marriage.  The month of May, 2012, embraced this theme with enthusiasm.  Kannette!  (Kuh-NEHT-tay!  Truly!)

I spent the month of May, 2012, in the U.S.  Fortunately for me, unlike most of the trips I have made back to the States since moving to Lesotho over two years ago, this time Kathy and I went together.  I had to work while we were there, while she was on home leave, but we were both able to engage in a great deal of overdue catching up with family and friends.  Then, of course, there was the Grand Event at month's end.  But I get ahead of myself.

The month began in Washington, D.C., where we spent two weeks.  During that time, I had a conference to attend and an actual office in which to work.  We were also able to rely on the generosity of my sister, Joanne, and our friends Raja and Gael, for places to call our temporary home.  As with everyone else, we only wish we had gotten more time to enjoy their company!  

Along with the wonderful company of friends, some old and some new, we benefited from the amenities that DC offers.  This included attending a superb Carolina Chocolate Drops performance at the Birchmere in Alexandria, which I did with our friends Cecilia, Stephanie and Andrea.  (Cecilia and Stephanie actually visited us here an little over a year ago.  That is one of the blog entries I still need to post.)  I only had my phone with me to photograph the moment, but I needed to capture it somehow.  


We also ate out as much during those two weeks as we probably do in six months here in Maseru.  As much as we enjoyed that, we realized that we have really come to enjoy home-cooked meals and that we want to hold onto doing our own cooking more often when we return to the U.S. more permanently.  Meanwhile, of course, dining out at Lebanese Taverna was as enjoyable as we recalled.  It helped that our friend Dahlia, who performed our wedding ceremony, was there with us:

As were Stephanie and Cecilia (got to see them twice!):

Our friend (and published author), Susi, was kind enough to host a non-braai (BRY - the Southern African term for barbecue) at her home in Maryland, where quite a few friends joined us, including some I had never had the pleasure of meeting before, but who have known my amazing wife for quite some time.  Here are, clockwise from the top left (posing with the ultra-hip bags given them by Raja in celebration of her wedding to Gael), Leslie, Susi, Kathy, Raja and Laura.  I had met neither Leslie nor Laura before.  I can now say that along with all the other friends we saw, I wish I had had more time with them, too!

A little less serious:

And just behaving as friends reunited may:

Lest you think that the men had gone missing, here are Gael (Raja's husband) , Jeff (Leslie's husband) and me (Kathy's husband):

After DC, Kathy and I were, sadly, forced to part ways while she visited family and friends in Texas and I did the same in NYC.  Whilst in the Big Apple, I stayed with my sister Beth and brother-in-law Steve, who kindly shared their home in Brooklyn with me for an entire week.  That was fabulous, and I mostly just worked and got caught up with them.  I did go into Manhattan once, to have lunch with my friend Rachel (among the many friends whom I deeply regret failing to photograph that month).  I also made my first visit to the American Museum of Natural History.  For those of you who have not been, it is as cool as you think it is.  Since I had limited time, I naturally found my way directly to the dinosaurs:

That evening, I had dinner with our delightful friends Becca and Felix and their super-cool son, Benjamin (BEN-hah-meen).  I love that, where they live on the Upper West Side, they could Google vegan restaurants and find ten within a few blocks.  Mmm.  After dinner, Becca, her sister Robyn, and I went to see Regina Spektor perform at the United Palace Theatre.  It was the third time I have seen her in concert, and I believe she keeps getting better!  And the venue was great, too.  One of those old, early twentieth century theaters that make any performance special.

Again, I only had my phone, but that reddish blur is Regina:

Here are Becca and me in the subway tunnel after the show, posing with a concert shirt that I picked up for Cecilia, who introduced me to Regina's music:

At the end of that week, Kathy flew back up from Texas for one night in NYC with Beth, Steve and me before we drove to Providence to see her mom, Pat, her sister, Karen, brother-in-law David, their daughter Maisy, grandmother Ruth, Aunt Ellen, and and other family members in the area. (We actually drove straight from Brooklyn to Vis-`a-Vis Hair Design in Providence, owned by Kathy's cousin Michelle, so Kathy could have her hair cut.) We stayed with Ruth in Providence, but also with Pat in Scituate, Massachusetts.  I enjoyed every moment and must say I could not have married into a more wonderful family!  Again, I regret not taking more photos...

One of the highlights of that part of our visit was a party thrown in Pat's honor.  She is a teacher (French and Latin) who also heads her school district's foreign language department and is retiring this year after 37 years of teaching in Texas and Massachusetts.  Her contributions were significant enough that her local State Legislative Representative attended the gala and presented her with a formal Certificate of Appreciation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!  How cool is that?  Here he is presenting it to her:

A proud daughter, posing with her:

Many friends presented her with thoughtful gifts and, of course, spoke very, very highly of her:

One of the gifts that was a particularly big hit was a wine rack in the shape of the Eiffel Tower:

Naturally, the cake was decorated in multiple languages:

This was undoubtedly the main reason my wife and others were admiring it:

We got one last family dinner before leaving New England.  From left to right: myself, Maisy, Karen, Pat, Kathy and David.

Maisy is a true joy.  She even saved the seat next to her just for me.  What an honor!

On our way from Providence to Ithaca, we stopped for lunch in Albany, New York, where I lived for ten years prior to moving to the DC area.  We dined with my dear friends Paige and Jennifer, whom I got to know while taking dance lessons at Arthur Murray.  I had not seen them in about five years, and Kathy had never met them.  It was so great to see them, and - at the risk of repetition - I deeply lament my failure to photograph the moment.  I have missed them terribly and was overjoyed at the opportunity to see them again after so long!

After Albany, we stopped to visit Andy and Giulia in their lovely home in Oneonta, New York.  Again, insert lack of pictures statement here!  Kathy has known them a while (Andy since her days as a Peace Corps Volunteer), and I must say I am glad to be able to list them among my friends now, too.  Great people!

Eventually, we arrived in Ithaca, where we stayed with my mom.  We took the opportunity to visit Taughannock Falls:

While visiting my mother, we also attended an extraordinary event:  my son Casey's wedding!  (That would be the aforementioned Grand Event.)  Held in the lovely little town of Owego, New York, we went there the day prior to witness the rehearsal:

We also gathered with family and presented a few gifts to the wonderful couple, including some spectacular pearls my father and Martha (his wife) found for them in Hawaii:

Those earned him a big hug from my now daughter-in-law, Sheryl:

Of course, the proud father of the groom had to pose with his son for a photo demonstrating how well he had raised the lad:

Then we were fortunate enough to capture a Three Generations of Dill Men moment:

That evening was the rehearsal dinner, held at the Cellar Restaurant, where Casey and Sheryl were all smiles:

I made a brief toast, during which I noted both that I would avoid any embarrassing tales from my son's childhood as they were more likely to be embarrassing to me than him, and that he had best not mess this up, as we have grown so fond of Sheryl that if he does we are keeping her.  I think it went well, but mostly because I led off with a quote from The Princess Bride.

My mom, with the couple:

Then came the day of the wedding, which initially threatened, but never delivered, rain, and instead gave us more heat than we might have expected from Memorial Day weekend in Upstate New York.  My son showed few nerves, and indeed even had the presence of mind to attach an ice pack to his back before the ceremony began, so that while we all melted he just smiled...

Here he is with his groomsmen and a very proud father:

With his best man, Emilio, who has been a great friend to him for years:

Here are the two fathers, Mike and Michael (the tie was in keeping with the wedding's Dr. Seuss theme):

The setting:

The groom, waiting, seems to notice an approach:

Here comes the bride:

Her sister and maid of honor, Miranda:

As an aside, I would like to note that I was able to play a small role in helping to prepare the bridesmaids.  I had brought a steamer with me in order to look presentable, both for the rehearsal dinner and the actual wedding.  The day before, then, after we arrived at the venue for the dinner, I broke out the steamer for our jackets (Kathy's and mine).  I caught a little grief for that.  (I believe at least one family member found it embarrassing.)  Later, though, I got a text message from the bride asking if, as she had been informed, I had brought a steamer.  It seems that the bridesmaids dresses were all wrinkled, and a steamer would be just the thing.  So, morning of the wedding, there I was, privileged with admittance to the inner sanctum of bride and bridesmaid preparations, taking the wrinkles out of the dresses!  Very satisfying.  But I digress. Returning to the bridesmaids, here is Casey's sister, Sadie:

The wedding ceremony itself was quite "Seussical", and at an early point noted a characteristic we all share:

Everything was wonderful, with the colorful flowers draping the pagoda, and the couple sharing smiles:

And, of course, sharing some serious moments:

With all of us joining in to affirm and pledge to uphold the rightness and joy of their union:

Then more smiles:

There was only one reading.  Casey's mother, Paulette (who cleverly hid behind a trufula tree), read Oh, the Places You'll Go!:

More smiling:

Vows were exchanged:

Then they were wed:

And announced to the world:

Still smiling:

Sheryl's proud and happy parents, Pam and Mike (she seldom stood still long enough, during the entire weekend, for me to get a good picture):

Sadie again, with brother Adin:

Bridesmaid Karen with Casey's youngest brother, Mikey:

The receiving line:

Then the formal photos began, with the official photographers and a half dozen or more family members, myself included, taking the opportunity to shoot many pictures:

The couple's siblings, left to right, Sadie, Miranda, Sheryl, Casey, Adin and Mikey:

The bride and her maid of honor:

Three generations of Sheryl's family:

With her parents (Pam did stand still for this one):

With Casey's mother:

With Casey's stepfather, Mike:

With Casey's grandparents:

With my mom in her fantastic hat:

With my father and Martha:

A more casual moment, featuring a train:

Sheryl and Miranda drinking not near enough water.  It was hot!

Here, in front of Sadie and Adin, evidence of the heat:

When it was not their turn to pose, wedding party members relaxed and enjoyed the serene surroundings:

And Sheryl's grandfather showed the younger generations how a hat should be worn:

The reception hall:

The cake:

With a closer look at the top:

Always a special moment, the first dance:

And, of course, still smiling:

Then, attention turned to the cake:

A speech from the best man, in Seussical rhyme:

So many folks were taking so many pictures that evening that my first attempt at a picture of his speech caught someone else's flash...

A speech from the maid of honor brought laughter to all:

And throughout the evening, when I pointed my camera at the newlyweds, Sheryl always seemed poised and prepared, whilst my son, true to his bloodline, seemed clueless:

One of the evening's most special moments, and there were many, was the father-daughter dance:

Casey got his share of special dances, including with his mother:

And my mother:

Sheryl, in turn, had to suffer through a dance with me:

Then, surprisingly, a brothers' dance moment for Adin and Casey turned into shenanigans (go figure):

More dancing ensued:

This included another sublime moment - a dance with my mother.  

Then the garter and bouquet, though I have no doubts that the marriage will be long and joyous:

More dancing:

Though some preferred a more reserved approach to the evening, including Sadie, Adin and Adin's girlfriend, Bridget (who was among those I met for the first time and hope to get to know better after Kathy and I move back to the States as she seems a good match for Adin):

The cool kids' table:

Our table was so cool, in fact, that Miranda stopped by for a photo opp:

As did the bride and groom, here posing with my sisters Beth and Joanne:

And my father:

Of course, the evening would not have been complete without a picture featuring my sisters and me demonstrating, quite admirably, that we are all, indeed, a little weird:

Such a wonderful day!  Everyone had a fantastic time.  And as if it were not enough now formally to be able to call Sheryl family, though she has been in all our hearts for a while, it was so great to see so much of our families and friends over the course of the month.  It is what we miss most being so far away, though I must confess it is good to be home again with my own wife, who makes every day worth celebrating...