I did a thing - let the shaming begin
Let me start by saying that I'm well aware that we are in the throes of a global pandemic. I wear a mask everywhere I go. I carry hand sanitizer even though I've always preferred good old-fashioned hand-washing. I also carry disinfecting wipes. I work from home and do delivery/carry-out more often than my budget can accommodate, if I'm being honest. For my groceries, I either schedule no-contact pick-ups or I shop at 6:00 a.m. when only weirdo morning people like me are in the grocery store.
I've traveled a few times since the pandemic began, not because I'm throwing caution to the wind, but because I think we have to find a way to do some normal stuff, but more carefully than before. After carefully weighing the risks, I decided to fly to Texas with my daughter recently. We had an invitation to attend my cousin's wedding. Technically, it was my cousin's daughter. I always thought my cousin's child is defined as my second cousin, but I did a little digging and that's technically incorrect (but widely believed). As it turns out, your cousin's child is your first cousin once removed. #themoreyouknow
Our flight to Houston (which connected through Denver) left at 6:15 a.m. If you've ever lived with a teenager, you can imagine how much fun I had waking her up. As it turns out, she was more coherent than I was that morning. I managed to leave my carry-on on the parking shuttle. I was able to call the company and the shuttle driver brought the bag back on his next pass. Whew! Our flights to Denver and then to Houston were pretty uneventful. Once in Houston, we grabbed our rental car and drove to Galveston. I had booked a room at a Holiday Inn right on the seawall. The temperatures were in the 60s, which was a nice break from the frigid weather back home.
We had been invited to the rehearsal dinner at 5:00. I hurried my daughter along and rushed her out the door. I fussed at her and told her how frustrating it is to be late for every single thing we attend. We walked inside the venue and . . . no one was there because the dinner didn't start until 6:15. I had the time wrong. I apologized profusely to my daughter because moms have to do that sometimes.
I didn't want to go back to our hotel since we were dressed and ready to go. Way back in 1988-1989, I attended Texas A&M University at Galveston. I later transferred to George Mason University and received my degree from that school instead. Since we were in town, I was curious to see if I'd recognize anything on campus. We drove over and wow, did it look different. I recognized a couple of dorm buildings and that was about it. We didn't get out of the car - we just circled the exterior. The kid stared at her phone because yaaaaaawn, I guess.
We picked up a few groceries since our room had a microwave and refrigerator. By then, it was time to go back to the party room that had been booked for the rehearsal dinner. I didn't know many people other than two cousins and of course the bride. It was a very nice dinner and I was grateful to the groom's mother for the invitation. Everyone was good about staying masked except during eating and a few photos.
The next morning, I really wanted to do something fun before the wedding, which was scheduled for 5:00 p.m. (for realz this time). I also knew that there was 100% chance of rain in the afternoon. As I waited for Her Highness to shower and get dressed, I read a book on the balcony while enjoying the breeze coming off the Gulf.
My youngest sister and her family were in town, so I really wanted to catch up with them. They were hanging out at the Pleasure Pier which, I promise you, is not an adult book store. By the time my kid was ready, it was well after 1:00. We headed to the pier and bought walk-on passes. No sooner did we find my sister, brother-in-law, and nephews and play a few arcade games . . . the sky opened up. My daughter and I headed back to the rental car, our shoes squishing all the way. I had an umbrella, but it was mostly useless. We were soaked to the bone. It was all I could do not to say, "if you'd gotten ready sooner . . . "
We stopped for ice cream (there was a Ben & Jerry's very close to our hotel - non-dairy cookie dough for the win!) and then spent the rest of the afternoon drying out and getting ready for the wedding. My daughter's high-top Vans were still wet two days later when we flew home.
The wedding was held at the Bryan Museum in Galveston. Originally planned as an outdoor wedding, the rain shifted the ceremony to the conservatory instead. The conservatory is like a greenhouse, but much fancier. The rain stopped just as the ceremony began, which was nice because then the large doors could be left open (worth mentioning since fresh air and circulation are so important these days). It was a beautiful ceremony. I felt really fortunate to be there. My family is spread out across the country and sometimes, many years go by in between visits. I had last seen my cousins in 2007.
After the ceremony, the conservatory (which had amazing lighting, by the way) was reset with banquet tables. An adjoining tent with more seating allowed the guests to spread out. After dinner, some of the standard wedding activities were completed - first dances, cake cutting, etc. Guess who caught the bouquet? My kid! If she thinks she's the next person to get married, she's got another thing comin'.
As for the bride and groom, they seem to be perfect for each other and it was so much fun just watching them together. My cousin (once removed!) looked absolutely stunning and her mama did, too. It's been a while since I attended a wedding. At my age, everyone is already married and in some cases, long divorced. Traditions have changed a bit. Instead of rice, the guests waved colorful fiber optic wands at the departing couple.
The next day, the kid and I decided to walk out on the jetty that was located directly across from our hotel room. We climbed on the rocks and took a few photos. After a quick stop in a gift shop, we headed to Conroe. We'd made arrangements to visit my daughter's birthmom and family. (Conroe was a convenient mid-way point.) This was the other important reason for this trip. My daughter hadn't seen her birthmom in quite a few years.
We met the whole crew for lunch first (A's birthmom, her husband, and their three boys). My kiddo keeps in touch with the two older boys through social media. We had a nice lunch at a Mexican restaurant. I'd brought a gift for J (a framed photo of A) and she'd brought a gift for A. Her husband insisted on paying for lunch. He's a super nice guy (and no, he is not A's birthfather). He thanked me for bringing my daughter for the visit. In fact, he thanked me twice. I knew it meant a lot to his wife to see the child she'd birthed nearly 16 years ago.
After lunch, we decided to head to a nearby park since it was a nice day. I'm not used to being at a park in December! I sat at a picnic table in a park shelter while the six of them hung out on the playground. I sat by myself for a few reasons. One, I needed to get caught up on some emails and to balance my bank account. Two, that visit wasn't about me and I didn't need to be in the middle of it. I know some may want to pat me on the back for arranging such a visit but honestly, I have no reason not to. My daughter's birthmom is a wonderful person (who has never asked me for anything) and it's truly the least I can do for her. Back in 2005, I signed a communication agreement indicating that I would honor the open adoption. That document was not legally-binding, but my word is always good. Over the years, I've sent photos, updates on big events in my daughter's life, etc. The way I see it, the more people who love my child, the better her life is. She and I are tightly bonded and always will be. Her spending time with her birth family does nothing to diminish that. In fact, I'm glad she has contact with her biological half-siblings since she's an only child in our home.
After leaving the park, we finished our visit with a trip to an ice cream shop. I was glad for the kids to have a few extra minutes together before we needed to head back to Houston. Our flight was leaving the next morning.
After a very glamorous dinner at Denny's (the closest thing we could find near our hotel), we spent the rest of the evening packing and getting ready to fly out the next morning. Our trip home was pretty uneventful. We connected through Orlando and briefly entertained the idea of fleeing the airport and spending 15 minutes at Disney before catching our final flight.
My cousin and I have vowed to get together again soon. I have lots of other relatives in Texas but it just wasn't safe to visit during this strange time. I have an elderly aunt who'd just spent three weeks in the hospital after a fall. I wasn't able to visit her, but I'd like to fly back in a year or two and expand my visit to more people.
I know many people will frown on this whole trip. COVID weddings aren't easy. Everyone did their best to stay safe. The guest list was cut way down in order to accommodate social distancing. Between attending the wedding and setting up the visit for my daughter . . . the trip may not have felt like exactly the right thing to do during such a weird time, but it didn't feel bad or wrong either.
Here are a few photos from the trip!
|At the airport in Denver. She didn't want me to take this photo because there were some cute boys walking by.|
|At the rehearsal dinner. Why does she look so grown up???|
|View from our balcony in Galveston.|
|At the Pleasure Pier.|
|Look at these two! My sister and brother-in-law.|
|Yes, Virginia, you can dance with a mask on.|
|I can't get over this girl.|
|Caught the bouquet!|
|Visit with A's birthfamily.|
|A and her birthmom.|