1. My beautiful, clever, glowing, God-loving cousin Danie, the bride. 2. My brother and sister-in-law. 3. Button decorations made by my aunt. 4. My seester-in-law, lovely and blond as always. And me, awkward and hipsterish, as always.

Two weeks ago, we were on our way back from Iowa, in the middle of an 11-hour, un-air-conditioned car ride. Damn, it was hot. Shirts plastered to our damp backs, our hairlines salty with perspiration. "I hate sunshine," I would mumble. "Awful, wholesome sunshine." The wedding had been hot, too, but not as sweat-inducing as I had imagined. There had been a breeze, one off the river, that had kept us busy with our hair, our dresses. Our bangs would fall from ponytails, and the swirling air would tease our dresses. The dresses--mine especially--would flutter and dance, perhaps brushing up a bit too high. The boys, the groomsmen, the fathers, those who decorated and prepped and rehearsed in long pants, were more frazzled. In small groups, they gathered in the shade, a beer in hand. Almost time.

It was my cousin's wedding. My cousin Danie. I've 10 cousins, all on my mom's side, and prior to Danie's wedding, only one of them was married. We--my cousins, my brother, and I--consider ourselves the "Vorthmann kids," the twelve cousins who born so near in time to each other. The ones who grew up together, all living within a three-mile radius. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. We were all there, always together. We've gotten a tad more spread out over the years--to Indiana, to Florida, to Nebraska, to Michigan--but we all know each other with a nagging familiarity.

Seeing my family two weeks ago was ... I don't know what it was. Satisfying. Comforting. Hopeful. Happy. Invigorating. Fun. Perfect. Beautiful.

Sometimes, my homesickness is throbbing. It beats within my chest, wringing my heart and aching. Aching. Aching. Aching. My very bones long for Derek's sarcasm, Kristyn's goofy faces, Vanessa's hugs. God, I miss them sometimes. All within a few miles of each other. All so near. And I miss that at times. The not knowing, the not being included. It hurts, sometimes.

And then there are the other times, the times when we come together. In moments of sadness, in times of triumph. At the happiest of celebrations.

At a wedding.

5. The bride and groom with my aunt, uncle and respective grandparents. Seated on the left is my maternal grandmother, known here as "hoarding grandma." 6. My cousin Kristyn, my cousin Vanessa, and I manning one of the card/guest book tables. Two other cousins, Nicole and Morgan, also helped pass out water and fans. 7. My brother. The weevil, the lover of Phil Collins, the counselor, the romantic, the role model.

The ceremony, held on the banks of the Missouri, was sweet and personal. As Danie--flanked by her parents--walked down the aisle, I watched his face. Alex's. His nose immediately scrunched, his eyes pinched together. The most painfully beautiful crying I've ever seen. As for my mother? "I was watching [my sister]," she said. "And I lost it when I saw her face, when she was walking down with Danie." The bride and groom washed each other's feet, to symbolize service. And they spoke about companionship. And they wrote their own vows, promising to always change. To change for the better. To listen. To be patient. To love one another in spite of cynicism, sarcasm, and doubt.

Their words were brought to me on the breeze, on a swirl of air and blessings. Thank you for loving me in spite of my cynicism. I promise to be faithful to you, to be the best wife I can be. I promise to kept myself from doubt, from doubting myself and us. 

All things I wish I could say to Hans. Things I wish I could promise. Things I wish I were capable of. Thank you for loving me in spite of my cynicism. 

Even before Hans and I started our marriage counseling, and even before we called our wedding off, I had a very cynical view of marriage. I had not grown up with a close, positive example. My parents were separated before I was even born. My dad was twice divorced, actually. Growing up in a nuclear family was a foreign concept to me. A lot of peers' parents had been divorced, remarried, redivorced. Single. Divorce was an "easy" solution for those who fought. For those who struggled. For those who didn't want to fight. And I realized that, like them, I viewed divorce as an option. Sadly, I was already thinking of ways to leave my marriage before I even committed to it. I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't committed to anything, not even myself. And, even more depressingly, I'm still not. I still don't know who I am, what I want, who I want, what I need, what would make me happy. Floundering, swimming, lost. So completely and utterly confused.

Thank you for loving me in spite of my cynicism. 

Yes. Oh God, yes. I needed that. Because in spite of everything we've been through and everything I've put him through, Hans loves me. In spite of my cynicism. In spite of my anger. In spite of ... in spite of everything.

And as I watched Danie and Alex exchange words, tears, and rings, I knew I wanted that. I wanted what they had. I wanted what my brother and his wife have. I want happiness and joy and equality. And love. So much love. Too much that it leaks from my eyes and my heart. That all I can do is hug others, kiss others, help others, serve others. I want that. I want it so, so very much.

But damn. It's going to be hard. And I have a hunch that two things are missing: myself and God. There is no religion in my life right now, and there is no "me," either. I've been absent for so long. Practically a year.

I don't want to be that anymore.

... it was easier to be more present, to be more loving and happy when I was surrounded by family. When my brother and I could laugh and talk and swap "horror" stories concerning our parents. When I could hug Vanessa, joke with Kristyn, shake my head at Derek. When I got to see how beautiful Danie was in her dress. When my sister-law could carefully and quickly arrange my hair into a side pony. When my mom could happily gimp around the wedding, conversing and helping clean up. When all of us--any of us cousins who were available--picked up and carried off and stowed away decorations. The flowers. The chairs. The doors used as props. The bench on which they washed their feet. Anything and everything we needed to do.

When the D.J. played Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," I remember seeing my brother and sister-in-law playing air guitar out of the corner of my eye. I remember him picking her up and twirling her around at the end of the tune. Love. Pure love. And then "Shout." The family song, if we have one. When all of us--cousins and aunts and uncles--came out and shouted and threw our hands up. When we danced to the floor and jumped up and down and sang and swung and laughed and pointed at each other across the circle.

When "Margaritaville" began playing, when Vanessa screamed out, "WHERE'S MY DAD?" An impromptu dance floor was made near my uncle, who stood--one arm in a sling and the other reaching around his wife for support. And they danced, carefully and slightly off balance, they danced. It broke my heart in the most wonderful of ways. It cracked with happiness and spontaneity, seeing my uncle--survivor of multiple strokes--be ... be what? Enjoying himself? Be happy? I don't even know. I just know there was a stirring inside, something that kept me back in the shadows with mom and Hans, watching. I didn't want to miss it. Stand back and breathe. Watch and smile and love.

Nothing more.


  1. I loved this. So very real and honest and heartfelt. I also grew up living very close to my cousins. Within a mile, my grandmother's six kids had houses and each of them had about 3 kids each. I have about 15 cousins and the ones that were close to me in age are also getting married and having kids. Like yours, a lot of us have moved off. Some far and some not-so-far. We rarely see each other anymore unless someone is in the hospital or maybe a wedding or something like that. It's weird since we used to meet at a "secret spot" every day so we could spend the day outside playing. It's strange how people grow apart as we all get older. Sometimes it's so hard to accept. I also have a post saved in my drafts that I wrote a few nights ago about being homesick and missing home. I loved reading this and knowing that someone else understands my "aching".
    I love hand-written vows and I actually spend way more time than I'd like to admit watching wedding videos on Vimeo and YouTube. I love seeing the tears and feeling those strong emotions come through the screen at me. Your cousins wedding looks so pretty and simple. Simple in the best of ways, of course.
    I love what you said about marriage. Marriage is such a complex thing to think about. Even if you had a great example of it around you, which in this day and time is rare, then I think it's still something that triggers immense emotion.
    It's like until you know what you want and expect out of marriage, then you won't feel like you're ready for it. You have to define marriage for you. Love is simple and straightforward. Marriage is not always that. Love is like a force on it's own. It's in charge, if that makes any sense, and with marriage the couple is in charge of making it work smoothly. It's complex and beautiful and intense and sometimes scary to think about. I'm going to end this long comment while I still slightly understand what I'm talking about :)

  2. Awww, I totally get what you mean about missing family, it aches so badly for me too - especially with everything thats been going on lately.

    Weddings are so perfect for seeing family though as everyone comes together for love and even though you might not feel you have it at the moment, you do, its that ache when you miss your family, its the happiness you feel in watching the people you love, its within you, its just blocked right now, thats all :) but its there.

    The four goals I wrote for my next few months in my journal, were inspire, create, love and smile :) I like that you want two of those too x


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