In my next few Tuesday posts I'll aim to capture the essence of this summer's Great Road Trip North. After 12+ years, College Station feels like home - with regard to our house, friends, schools, jobs, and dance and soccer families - and we love it here (except in late July, August, and early September when Texas and the surface of the sun are one in the same). But the Midwest still feels so comfortably familiar geographically, topographically, and meteorologically, and of course many of our extended family members reside in Midwestern states. It's always a joy to visit...and it's always a joy to return home.
Our Great Road Trip North started off (after somewhat accidentally driving from College Station to Madison in a ridiculously long 20 straight hours) with back-to-back weddings.
The first wedding brought together Tom's cousin, Natalie, and her fiancé, Adam. They were married in the backyard of Natalie's childhood home, where Tom's aunt and uncle still live and on the shores of Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Raised in two different faiths, Natalie and Adam designed a beautifully inclusive ceremony that blended - and explained the symbols and traditions of - both Christianity and Judaism, and included close and extended families, friends, and neighbors. Following the ceremony, we dined on authentic Mexican food (which is almost impossible to find in the Midwest) and then danced the night away with Tom's parents, many family members, and new friends.
To understand how crazy the first few days of our trip were...on Friday we drove from College Station, TX to Madison, WI. On Saturday we drove from Madison, WI to Oshkosh, WI, attended wedding #1, and then drove back to Madison. On Sunday we drove from Madison, WI to Iowa City, IA for wedding #2. On Monday we spent the day touring the University of Iowa (more on that in a future post) and then drove back to Madison. To say we were road weary would be an understatement.
The second wedding was between two "grown up" friends, Jane and Geb, of Tom's - and then mine as well - from our time at the University of Iowa. In 1997, Jane started working for the Iowa Engineering Department. A year later, Jane began recruiting Tom, who was a senior in high school at the time, and brought him and his mom to Iowa for a personal tour. While walking through the engineering building, Jane, Tom, and Susan passed the open door to Geb's lab and were invited in to see the cool research on which Geb and his students were working. Fast forward a year...Jane had convinced Tom to attend Iowa, and as a freshman, Tom began working for Geb in his lab. Back then, Jane and Geb were just colleagues. Throughout the next two decades, however, they became friends and started dating, before finally tying the knot earlier this month. Tom gave a wonderful toast during the reception, telling this story, talking about how instrumental Jane was in Tom becoming a Hawkeye and influential Geb was as Tom's mentor, and sharing that 20 years ago they both attended our wedding. (They were just friends at the time.)
In addition to a shared profession as engineering professors, Geb and Tom share a passion for music. Jane and Geb's wedding had some of the best music of any wedding we've ever attended - three different bands between the cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing - and we loved listening to some of their favorite styles of music and to Geb on bass for a few songs later in the evening.
Jane and Geb's wedding also marked a first for us as a family: while the kids were invited, we decided to make the night a date and let them hang out together at the hotel. (They wouldn't have known anyone, so they were happy with this plan.) We gave them the keys to the car and a credit card, and let them figure out the evening on their own; they worked out at the hotel gym, went swimming in the hotel pool, did a little shopping at Trader Joe's, and then ordered and picked up Noodles for dinner. They didn't buy me a small mac and cheese from Noodles, but they now know not to make that mistake again.
These two weddings made our first weekend a whirlwind, but we had a blast and were so happy to celebrate with family and friends!