Over the weekend, my cousin got married for the second time in as many months.
Check that – what I mean to say is that he celebrated his recent nuptials for the second time in as many months. In early August, my cousin and good buddy Jason married his paramour of four years, Karen, in a beautiful ceremony held out West in her home state of California – technically, Southern California, which really should be a state all its own – even if it is ‘of mind’.
Andi and I were originally hell-bent to make the trek West (Hell, from my house in the Western sticks it’s practically 3 exits away). Then, as is often the case, real life intruded and a number of unforeseen circumstances conspired to rid us of any extra scratch we had laying around the house. You know how it goes in those early days of child rearing where one income keeps the whole boat afloat. Usually, you’re kept at status quo. A strange bill arrives. An unexpected bonus is received at work to fill that hole. And conversely – if you come into a little extra dough, some random twist of happenstance will arrive on cue ready to heist those extra coins before they can rest comfortably in your coffer. That’s just the way the world works for the Middle Class.
So, it was with deep regrets that we had to decline the invite to join the wagon train westward bound and had to await dispatches from the front. From the assorted pics and Blog posts that I spied upon the ceremony’s conclusion, it appears Karen and Jason were granted with a picture perfect Summer’s Day as backdrop to the blessed event. The sun shines brightest for the best of us and these two were handsomely rewarded.
Knowing that one ceremony for friends and relatives on both coasts would prove to be a logistical impossibility – Jason’s parents (my favorite Uncle and Aunt duo – Ron and Sharon) staged a second reception Back East to allow Jason’s Yankee posse to fete he and his new bride properly. Thus the stage was set for the event affectionately dubbed, “The Shindig”, which was held this past Saturday at the Monponsett Inn in Halifax, MA.
I’m serious when I say that Jason and Karen have officially celebrated two weddings as “The Shindig” was exactly what you would expect from a wedding reception. The setting was beautiful, the food fantastic and the hall crowded with a full gaggle of well-dressed well-wishers looking to send the newly-crowned couple on their way towards a lifetime of wedded bliss. The only thing missing was the arduous wait for the happy couple to emerge from a marathon session with the paparazzi (you know that typical 1-2 hour stretch of time between the ceremony and the official reception kick-off where everyone downs cocktail after cocktail while somewhere, on a remote gazebo, a photographer does his/her best Annie Liebowitz impression).
Well, we didn’t have to endure the delay as the first person greeting me on my way through the door was the Man of the Hour himself, Jason, who grabbed hold of my mitt, gave me a warm handshake and then sealed the deal with a friendly hug. Being able to mix and mingle with the happy couple alongside their assorted friends and family – and clink a cocktail or two in their general direction – was one of the highlights of a truly special night.
I was especially honored to be able to play a small role in the festivities through the reading of “Karen and Jason’s Love Story”. Let’s call it Chapter 1 as this tale is far from finished. My fondest wish for the two of them is that they use this life and love together to rewrite “The Neverending Story”.
Anyway, as part of the West Coast Wedding, their DJ had previously interviewed Jason and Karen independently to get the in-depth story of their courtship – basically how they met, when they “knew” and what they found in each other that they knew they couldn’t live another moment without. He then tethered the strands in their individual accounts and wove a grand tapestry that laid bare the indisputable facts that drove these two souls on a collision course with their destiny.
To kick-start that wedding reception and give the new Mr. and Mrs. Clarke a proper introduction to the world, the DJ offered up a spoken-word performance of the tale he cobbled together. Word is the crowd loved it.
For the East Coast “Shindig”, my Uncle Ron and Aunt Sharon (yes – the infamous Aunt Sharon who haunts these halls and remains one my favorite frequent contributors to the site) – anyway, they approached and asked if I would do the honors of reciting “Karen and Jason’s Love Story” for the benefit of those who missed its initial telling. “Of course”, I exclaimed. Jason’s been my lifelong cousin (natch) and more importantly, a great friend who shares so many interests in common. To be able to play some part in Part II of their Big Day was an opportunity I wasn’t missing. It would be an honor.
Aunt Sharon shot the script to me and I took a read-through. I was told that I could append my own thoughts as well. In reading through, I found the DJ did a masterful job in telling Jason and Karen’s story with great heart and humor. As the printed document stretched to six pages, I had to reign in my usual instincts. The last thing these party guests needed was a trademark Ed Humphries soliloquy to further distance them from the buffet. Still, I wanted to plant my stamp and put a little personal touch to show Jason and Karen how much they mean in my life and (as his older cousin) add a little playful ribbing in there as well.
I’m not going to reprint the entire script here as it belongs to them and they should be able to make the call on what gets shared when but I did want to post the excerpts from their own directly-quoted observations about each other. As these have now been delivered to two packed rooms of friends, family and food service employees, I feel I’m safely within public record guidelines (and this stuff is too good not to share).
(Note – Before I forget, in a night of a thousand highlights, this next pic looms largest. This was the centerpiece at my table. My cousin Jason is a huge collector of action figures with an extensive collection that is worth a whole lotta’ coin. To pay tribute to his passion, Karen gave the greenlight to allow action figures to find their way onto the centerpieces (on both coasts). For the East Coast Shindig, my sister Jenna did the honors and really did a bang up job crafting some unique, decorative works of art – none better than my Lost-themed piece. That’s Kate Austin embedded in the thicket and if you look closely, you’ll see Flight 815 perched in the foliage above (no doubt with a freshly munched pilot in the cockpit). I’ve gotta’ be the only self-respecting dude on the planet with a floral centerpiece on display in his Man Cave.)
Karen (on Jason):
“There’s no big reason that I love Jason, but there are lots of little ones.
He’s nice to me. He’s good with family. He’s funny. He’s a good kisser.
Our interests are close enough that we can enjoy things together, but far enough apart that we can teach each other new things and never get bored.
He always takes out the trash. He drives when we’re both in the car, because I don’t like to. He doesn’t nag me about the mess my knitting makes in the living room. He’s good to the guinea pigs.
His romantic side balances my practicality.
Through four years I’ve never doubted that I am happy being with him, and I look forward to many, many more happy years.”
Jason (on Karen):
“As Karen can tell you, I’m as sappy as they come. I spent years searching for “the One,” but when I found her, it wasn’t like being hit with a lightning bolt or making eye contact across a room while orchestral music swelled in the background.
It was a subtle thing. I almost wasn’t aware of how happy and comfortable I was right away, it was so natural.
It was meeting someone who I was instantly comfortable with. Someone who always understands where I’m coming from (even when I don’t).
Someone who’s smart, funny, and has legs that go on forever.
I can say it was, with no hyperbole (and this is coming from a Harvard English major), being with Karen is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Ahhhh, young love!!!
I can honestly say that I have never been happier or more proud for my cousin Jason. As I mentioned earlier, Jason and I go way back. One could argue that his love of Godzilla, which helped him gain entrance into Harvard University through his application essay, ties directly back to yours truly who at an early age developed an insatiable appetite for the questionable entertainment value gleaned from two dudes in giant rubber suits ripping cardboard Tokyo a new one.
I was a HUGE Godzilla fan back in the day and at some point came into possession of the Shogun Warriors foot-and-a-half tall replica of that gorgeous thunder lizard, complete with real firing fist and flickering fire tongue (the likes of which Gene Simmons trembled in jealousy). When I grew tired of grappling with Gojira, I shipped him off to Jason so that he could grab the torch and continue the campaign of toy terror. The Big Guy must have been gifted at that precise moment in a young boy’s development where our lifelong obsessions form, as Big Monsters and Collectible Action Figures melded with Jason’s DNA and have helped to inform the great guy he is today. It’s nice to know that in my own small way, I made a difference.
Jason repaid the favor in kind. Five years ago – as Andi and I set on the precipice of parenthood – we tore through a tower of baby shower gifts, OOOOO-ing and AAAAHHH-ing at every fluffy Teddy Bear or teeny-tiny onesie. There was one box that somehow stood out. My Aunt Sharon pushed it in my direction, said it was from Jason and that I should be the one to open it.
As I tore the wrapping, a tear blossomed and paved a meandering path across my cheek. Godzilla had come home – after 20+ years – looking like he hadn’t aged a day. And now, as Colin has just crested five and is starting to turn his attention to Big Boy Toys (the kind Daddy has been aching to play with) – Godzilla stands sentinel in his room, ready to fire that rocket fist (which amazingly still works after two decades) at whatever shoddy LEGO construction he and I can assemble.
We live these lives paying it forward. Jason returned the Big Guy to the roost in hopes that whatever magic contained within that plastic shell that some Japanese day laborer melded together oh-those-many years ago, is potent enough to spur the creativity of my beloved first born son. It’s a ‘circle of life’ kinda’ thing.
And I sit here – reminiscing over holidays spent playing with my cousin, tossing random Simpsons quotes at each other, speculating over upcoming genre pics – and I see the man he has become. And I see that his bride – the smart, funny, beautiful Karen Daugherty – has found the perfect half with which to compliment her life. And I wish for them to enjoy a universe of infinite possibilities to live a life less ordinary, together as one.
I’ve found that as I get older, it’s incredibly nourishing to lay bare my defenses and just share my deeper thoughts – no matter how sappy or sentimental they may seem. Life’s too short, right? Well, Karen and Jason deserve every word. They’re that special. They’re worth celebrating.
If I have any advice for them, it’s to take that road less traveled. I’ll be awaiting the postcards from the journey and am dying to see where it takes you. I guarantee we meander down different paths but in the long run we’ll meet at the same destination. That sweet spot where we realize our lives are lived best when surrounded by good friends and family – and most importantly – each other.
Before closing, I do have one final piece of business.
Now that the festivities have ended on both coasts, with nary a gunshot fired by either member of the East Coast and West Coast posse’s, the big questions surface.
1. Are they going back to Cali or are they sticking with the four seasons of New England?
2. When are they going to give us some grandchildren?
3. … and where did my sweet little cousin pick up the phrase “legs that go on forever”?