"But, really, why does anyone create? You feel a... a restlessness inside, a need to make something new, something no one has ever seen before. You want to add to the beauty and the richness of the world with a gift, an offering that is uniquely yours. It's an act of selfishness and generosity, all rolled into one."

-- Bruce Coville,
The Last Hunt

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vacation Part 1: Atlanta and the Wedding

Before heading to Boston for the wedding, I first went to Atlanta, where my parents and grandmother live. Grandma is in Assisted Living and no longer able to travel, so I wanted to see her before the wedding. While I was there, I gave her her birthday present (a few weeks early), which I've already blogged about. The whole time I was there, she kept showing the magnetic clasp off to all her friends; she really thinks it's the cleverest invention ever.

BTW, if you ever decide to use a magnetic clasp on a necklace, you do want to be careful what kind of chain you use. If it's silver or gold plate over a base metal, the base metal could be attracted to the magnet, and you can imagine the mess that would end up in. The magnetic clasps are nice, but do spring for a real silver or gold chain so it doesn't stick to itself.

Serendipitously, the AL facility happened to be having a picnic lunch for the residents while I was there, so my dad and I joined Grandma for that. Mostly we just talked about old times and spent a lot of time trying to convince her that it's OK to use her call button when she needs assistance-- that's why it's called Assisted Living! But she is determined that she is not going to be a bother, and so she doesn't use the button even when she really should. The trick with her is to make her see that the service is already paid for, so she'd better use it.

My parents and I flew to Boston on Thursday the 28th, the day after the tornados. Luckily for us, the worst of the storms passed around Atlanta; all we got was a good hard rain. But we stayed up half the night on Wednesday watching the news to be sure that it was going to be OK. There were buildings that went missing and a 3-storey hotel that collapsed in north Georgia. This explains why the death toll was so high; even though people had as much warning as possible, in many cases there simply was no safe place to be.

When we got to the airport on Thursday, we met a cousin who was flying from Texas to Boston for the wedding. We hadn't known that she was going to be flying through Atlanta, but she turned out to be on the same flight as us! Thursday evening we went to a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert. They played Ravel's Bolero; this is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, and to hear it played live by one of the best orchestras in the world, WOW!

Friday was a mix of business and pleasure. My cousin Nathan, brother of the bride, was renting an SUV, so he gave me a ride to pick up the rental harp in the morning. The harpist from whom I rented it happens to be a friend of mine, so we were able to visit for a few minutes, but we couldn't stay long.

Next, we got to take a tour of Stonehurst, the mansion where the wedding was held. Naturally, I forgot my camera (and I think we weren't supposed to take pictures inside anyway), but it was really quite interesting. The house was originally owned by Robert Treat Paine, Jr., the grandson of the Robert Treat Paine who signed the Declaration of Independence. The property and house were a wedding present from his father-in-law. At some point, the Paines decided that they not only wanted to build an addition onto the house, but they also wanted to have the whole thing picked up and moved higher up the hill for a better view. Mind you, this was in the 19th century; moving a building was an even greater engineering feat then than it would be today. But they had the money, and they got it done. The addition got built, with some disagreements between Mr. Paine and the architect; it seems that the architect mostly won, and from the small parts where Paine did get his way, I'd say it's a good thing the architect had such a strong personality. The landscaping was done by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same person who designed Central Park in New York; obviously, there was no shortage of funds.

Paine did find other uses for his money besides architectural extravagances. During the winter when the roads were bad, he and his family lived in Boston proper, and they saw how the poor people had to live. Cramped, dirty tenements with no light or fresh air, disease spreading rampantly, constant danger of fire, and practically no chance to improve one's lot in life. So Paine became a philanthropist. He started schools for the poor and created decent-paying jobs. He also started the first cooperative banks; prior to that, the only way the poor could get credit was through loan sharks, so that if they got a loan they would end up worse off than they were before. With Paine's banks, they could get a loan or mortgage with an affordable interest rate, thus allowing them to buy decent houses, or maybe start their own business. So overall, he was a person with way too much money on his hands, but he mostly did good things with it.

Friday afternoon was the rehearsal, after which Nathan and I had to run to Home Depot. The wedding was to be held at the top of the hill just outside the house, and we found that while there was a level area big enough to set up chairs for the guests, the ground started sloping away just at the spot where I needed to set up the harp; plus it was slightly damp and I didn't want to set the harp directly on it. So we got a piece of plywood, a length of 2x4, and some green outdoor carpeting. Before the wedding, we set the plywood on the ground with the 2x4 underneath the end where the ground was starting to slope downward; this made a level surface stable enough to set the harp on. Then we put the outdoor carpeting over the plywood so it wouldn't be completely hideous. The whole setup worked quite well. After the rehearsal, of course, the rehearsal dinner, where many of the members of the two families met for the first time. That was fun, but we couldn't stay too late; my parents had to get up early to pick my sister up from the airport, and I had to get up and practice.

Saturday morning: practice, practice, practice. Remember, by this time I had not touched a harp in a week, and the harp I was renting was somewhat different from my own. It's like renting a car that's different from the one you're used to; you still know how to drive it, but you do fumble around a bit because the controls are in different places. Fortunately, I knew all the music inside out, and the harp was pretty easy to adapt to. My aunt picked me up and got me to the wedding site in plenty of time to set up the plywood contraption and change clothes. The bridesmaids admired my tatted barrette, we did a final practice run-through, and then it was time for the real thing. By this time, I had some pretty serious stomach butterflies. I only get stage fright playing in front of my family, and I can NOT get them to ignore me, which would be the only thing that would help. But the one good thing about a wedding is that it's not about the musician; as long as there are notes coming from the instrument, nobody really cares what they are.

Finally, the wedding happened-- officiated by Nathan. In Massachusetts, a person can become an "officient for a day", although I'm sure there's some better-sounding title for it. All he had to do was fill out some simple paperwork, provide letters of reference from two people outside the family (presumably to affirm that he was mentally competent to understand what he was doing and carry out the task), and pay a small processing fee. He was then a legal wedding officient for 24 hours. The only catch to this is the person has to remember that they really only have 24 hours-- they almost forgot to sign the license before midnight, but my aunt made sure it happened!

After dinner, I had to drag the long-suffering Nathan away from the reception for half an hour to get the harp safely back to the hotel. (Really, he was very good-natured about the whole thing.) We went back to the reception and afterwards my sister, aunt, Nathan, and I all went back to Nathan and his mom's hotel suite to hang out for a while. Sunday morning, we *barely* managed to drag ourselves out of bed, Nathan and I went to return the harp to its owner, and most of the family left town.

After that, my real vacation started, and I'll tell you about it tomorrow.


  1. Wow - what a venue. Beautiful. Interesting about Paine of whom I knew nothing!

    And then, Ravel, by the BSO- bonus!

    Lots of activity! Hope you got to relax a bit!
    Fox : )

  2. I love historical places like that! Sounds like it all went well and you had a wonderful visit to boot! I like the lace in the previous too, btw. I don't think I commented on that post.

  3. How interesting, I have never been to a wedding in the USA so reading your piece I find how different they are to marriages here in the UK, My american penfriend was supposed to come over to our wedding but (she works for the US navy and is a lawyer) her leave was cancelled it was not long after 9/11 even though her flight and hotel room was booked I felt like writing to George Bush and telling what I thought of him. Our weddings are far more simple and we dont have anyone for 24 hours to officient either we have a registar who attends the wedding and signs the papers at the wedding.
    You had a very interesting holiday, I look forward to part three.

  4. Margaret, the 24-hour officient thing is not done that often. Weddings are usually officiated by clergy, who always have the ability to sign the license and make it legal. Another option is a judge or justice of the peace, but this is generally considered very impersonal and less meaningful because the couple does not have any previous relationship with that person. Some states have implemented the ability for a person to become a temporary officient so that couples who don't want a religious ceremony can still have someone with whom they have a personal relationship to perform the ceremony. But whoever it is, the person who performs the ceremony is always the one who signs the marriage license with the couple. Signing the license is what makes it legally binding, so the state does have to verify beforehand that the officient is competent to do something legally binding and is not going to go around marrying people willy-nilly.

    As for simple, I don't know, I believe there was recently a wedding in the UK that required quite a bit of logistical maneuvering... OK, that's not really a fair comparison. But it is true that all weddings everywhere are more complicated from the point of view of anyone who is part of the ceremony than any of the guests. And this one was extra complicated for me because of being in a different city and having to rent a harp instead of using my own.

  5. Yes, playing for families is the worst thing that can happen. even my crafts, my mum will always have something to say but then all my life she always get the last word. Fortunately, dad is always siding on me.