I was humbled and honored to take photos this weekend at a gorgeous backyard wedding here in Winston. The mother of a longtime friend from high school was married at their home and I was fortunate enough to be there behind the camera to capture the beautiful event for their family.
Not long after I arrived and ran around getting photos of centerpieces, the cake, the last touches being put everywhere, Michael, the minister of music from their church arrived to fit in a little tuning and practice before the ceremony.
I became enthralled with watching him warm up and hearing his beautiful violin. Maybe it was the gorgeous green all around him in the backyard and the fact that I don't think anyone else had even noticed him yet. But I was sucked right in.
I have been blessed with an incredible love for music. This is what makes me a "Frye" (my grandmother's family) more than anything else. (That and my hands....every woman in our family has the same hands, I feel like.)
You will be hard pressed to find anyone on that side of my family that cannot carry a tune, keep great rhythm, and play at least one musical instrument. When my great uncle Harold died a few years ago, my mom was quick to point out that our family section at the church service sounded like a full blown choral ensemble, and that for most hymns a lot of the group didn't even need hymnals and could sing the respective 'parts' by ear.
In our family, learning to read music has always been just as important as learning your multiplication tables and how to tie your shoe. Just a few weeks ago at church the music with the hymn in the hymnal was not at all the same tune as what was being sung. After church Mom said something to me about how "that wasn't even the same tune that was printed!" and I quickly said "yes, but how many people in the congregation actually even knew that, do you think?"
Part of our Christmas tradition every year growing up was, truly, nearly a concert at my grandparents house. All of the grandchildren would take turns playing a song (usually Nanny's favorite, 'O Little Town of Bethlehem') on any variety of instruments. Then my mom and her sisters would always line up at the piano to play their holiday trio of Sleigh Ride. I've heard this every Christmas of my life.
I so, SO appreciate that music has always been so important in my family. I have vivid memories of my grandparents in the choir at church when I was very young, of going to see my cousins in concerts many, many times through the years, and of being very involved in music growing up myself. I often feel like I can still hear my grandmother humming. She did it ALL the time, and it was like some sort of background soundtrack for my childhood.
Music often brings me to tears. A gorgeous arrangement of something can take the breath out of me. Just this weekend at the backyard wedding, Michael stepped back into the aisle during the ceremony and played The Lord's Prayer, and I forgot for a moment that I needed to keep taking pictures because I got so wrapped up in how beautiful it was.
I've realized that I am just like my mother used to be when I was younger now at church. I clench my teeth when people talk during the music during the worship service. I have even, from time to time, thrown her 'look' in the general direction of those folks who seem to think that the music during the service is some sort of free-for-all to whisper down a pew. These things MORTIFIED me growing up, and now here I am...
I'm so thankful that music has always been instilled in me. I think I speak for every single Frye when I say that it's a blessing. Music is healing and full of worship. It can calm sometimes when nothing else can. An appreciation of it is a true gift. A gift for which I will always be grateful. (Which is exactly how my great-grandmother would have worded it.) :)
I know that there are hundreds, thousands, likely even millions of things floating around out there right now about the Amendment One vote that took place yesterday in North Carolina. I'm not thinking that what I have to say will matter to anyone any more or less than what anyone else has to say, but I seem to put my thoughts together on this blog fairly well, and so that's what I'd like to do...
I will not take a political stance. I will not take a religious stance. I will not bash North Carolina because I love where I am from. But I will take a stance of loyalty. And love. And friendship. And happiness.
I am FIERCELY loyal. This gets me in trouble sometimes. A friend can go through something rough with another person, and long after they have buried the hatchet, I am still walking around carrying a torch and with a bad taste in my mouth about the person that hurt them or did them wrong. A blessing and a curse, this loyalty. But it's just how I am.
This brings me to my most personal - VERY personal - connection to Amendment One. My dear, dear friend Amanda.
Amanda and I met in high school, and got to know each other through very high school-like things - Student Council, Yearbook Staff, etc. She is a SCREAM and one of my very, very favorite people on this planet.
I can remember SO vividly, my Junior year in high school, when she talked me off of a ledge about worrying so much about what everyone thinks. It was something silly about being invited to a dance and people that weren't were being mean to me about it (I know, I know, the DRAMA. But it was high school.) I am super sensitive (and really was then), so having anyone even slightly upset with me bothered me so, so badly. But she looked me in the face, over the table in our 7th period Yearbook class, and told me not to worry about it. That not everyone is nice and not everyone will agree with everything. But not to worry about those folks - because it is your true friends that will be there for the long-haul, anyway.
A few years ago, I found out Amanda was gay. I heard "through the grapevine" and then tried to track her down, to get in touch with her. Almost a year later, I finally did, and we met for lunch. She wasn't aware that I knew, and about halfway through lunch, after some general catching up and small talk, she told me she was really glad we had finally caught up because she needed to talk to me about something...and that she couldn't figure out how to until then. I stopped her and told her that I knew. And that I didn't care. And that I would love her if her skin turned green and she shaved her head and was 4 feet tall. It didn't change who she was to me... And I remember thinking how sad I was that she had felt that I would care. The very person who, all those years ago, talked me out of that same corner of worrying about what other people think. She wasn't worried about me specifically, I don't think, but just anyone. It had taken me nearly a year to get an email or phone call back from her. But I remember being SO grateful to sit in that moment and talk to her about it all. And the bottom line of it all? She looked me square in the face and told me that she was the happiest she had ever been in her life. And I remember crying, because I was so happy FOR her.
That afternoon I met Marie, and I instantly understood the connection. When the phone call came down the road from Amanda telling me that they had decided to get married, I wasn't the least bit surprised. They knew it wouldn't be a legally recognized event, but the importance to them was to have their friends and family in one place and commit to each other.
I was very, VERY humbled when they asked me to do some of the photography for the wedding. I would stay with Amanda for the day, another friend would stay with Marie, and then we would both shoot things once the ceremony started.
I have been around a LOT of weddings. In them, there to help photograph them... The whole day of this one didn't feel anything different from any of the rest. Amanda actually got ready at the same salon my sister did for her wedding. I ran around and took photos of Amanda having her hair and makeup done, of details in the salon. I stuck their rings in roses that were there and shot those. I headed back to the hotel with Amanda and got to be there the whole time she got ready. For about an hour and a half it was actually just the two of us, and I remember thinking how grateful I was for that time (that I didn't necessarily know would be that way). The bridal party busted in soon, dresses everywhere, a little champagne to accompany the quick sandwiches being shared, vows being finished...me finding all of the details that I love to shoot for such an occasion.
It wasn't any different. Amanda was nervous but excited. She was reflective and beautiful. She was HAPPY.
The wedding was beautiful and - even as my first experience at such a thing - didn't seem that different to me at all. I didn't come away thinking of it as different at all. I instead came away thinking about Amanda's young nephew who stripped his shirt off in the back of the ceremony site and played with his airplanes. I remember the music. I remember almost tripping over the bottom of my dress trying to get up from taking a shot of them exchanging vows. I remember how beautiful the flowers were. I remember Amanda's dad walking her down the aisle and Marie's brother doing the same for her.
I have a crystal clear memory of Amanda's sisters - who I babysat for when I was in college - sitting in the front row before the ceremony. They were nervous. One of them couldn't get her corsage pinned on because her sweet hands were shaking. I got down on my knees, offered to help, and talked to her while I worked on her flower. I told her I knew this was different. But that it was okay. And that Amanda was HAPPY. We loved her and she was happy and that's what mattered. She nodded and hugged me and two hours later I watched her cutting a heck of a rug on the dance floor with everyone else, having a blast. :)
Amanda and Marie are no different to me than any other married couple that I am friends with. The only issue I have when I go see them at their house is not that they are gay, but that their cat stirs up my allergies. My only argument with them is that neither of them cheer for my Wolfpack. They are fun and loving and warm and hilariously funny and I will be friends with both of them forever.
And they will - one day, somehow, I know - be parents. And I will show up with bells on toting my favorite baby gift of a monogrammed blanket and send my customary First Christmas ornament. Their children will love sailing and golden retrievers and the Heels and the Hoosiers. And they will be wise, beautiful, driven people because they will be a reflection of their parents.
Like I said - I will not get on any political or religious soapboxes. But I will get on a happiness one. It is all - ALL - we should ever want for those people that we love. And if they are happy, who are we to judge?