Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 14, 2017
An heirloom shower
When daughter Katie and her fiancé Matt became engaged in January, they said they were thinking of getting married in 2018. But after being together for more than three and a half years, they decided to bump the wedding up to August of this year.
Calm returned when I remembered I had planned both of my weddings in less than two months. Much of the work for the first to late husband Jerome was even completed long-distance. We met in February 1979 while both of us were working in Costa Rica. Within a couple of months, we knew we wanted to be married on my family’s farm in Kansas. Jerome and his family were from the Wichita, Kansas area, so travel for them wouldn’t be a problem. My parents and sister Gaila visited me in San José in July. That was when we sprung the news on them. We bought material for my dress and my bridesmaids’ dresses and had invitations printed to take back to the States to mail. It all turned out well. Many people later told me our September wedding was about the most relaxed and enjoyable one they had attended.
My marriage to husband Art was equally simple. We had met in August 1987 and planned to be married on New Year’s Eve of 1988. But this time it was Gaila with the surprise for me. When she arrived in June from her home in Bolivia, she told me her first child was due in January 1989 and so she wouldn’t be able to attend a late-December wedding. Art and I immediately changed our plans. We told people we had to get married because my sister was pregnant! Six weeks later, we married at the Riley County, Kansas courthouse with Gaila as one of our witnesses. We had a reception for family and friends the following evening.
So there had really been no reason for panic over Katie and Matt's change of plans. It would be fine with having a short preparation time.
They decided to have a small destination wedding in Wyoming with just immediate family. For their honeymoon, they’ll camp in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. A fall reception is planned for extended family and friends to share in the happy event.
While Katie has been doing the lion’s share of the planning, I remembered an article I had read several years back about “heirloom” bridal showers. I thought it sounded like fun. Katie initially wasn’t so sure about the idea until I told her we could use vintage items for decorations and we could ask people to bring something that had some family significance such as a favorite family recipe. She thought it would be neat to have her sister Mariya design the invitations, using ivory card stock with images of soft green fern-like plants for the border. It would also be a way to include Gaila, since she and husband Humberto were in Kansas only a short time this summer.
Mariya and fiancé Miriam offered to host the early-June shower. I volunteered to take care of decorations and food. To add an additional family connection, the night before the shower I baked a mandarin orange cake, using the recipe from the 2001 shower for Rachel, my nephew Paul’s then bride-to-be.
When Katie and I arrived at their home the day of the shower, Miriam was mowing the yard and Mariya was dusting the house. Katie and I filled Mason jars with fresh flowers, including pink peonies from our place that I had transplanted years ago from my parents’ farm. I put pansies in an old chicken feeder that I had also rescued from the farm.
A large copper bowl Katie’s Great-Grandpa Robert Freeland had used when he ran candy stands in various locations during the Depression years was used as a place to put gifts. We wrapped Art’s mother’s veil from her 1931 wedding around the bowl. Next to the veil, we placed a photo of Donna wearing the veil and her wedding gown with new husband Tom beside her. We laid 1950s vintage tablecloths on other tables.
The shower began at 2 in the afternoon on Mariya and Miriam’s patio. We sipped mimosas - orange juice mixed with champagne - and chatted.
Then Katie opened the “heirloom” gifts I had selected and wrapped - cookbooks from her grandmothers Donna and Edla; a sapphire pin “Grandma” Rita Johanning had set aside for her; potholders her Great-Grandpa Nels Mostrom had made; a ring old friend and neighbor Teddy Johnson had earmarked for her; and a beautiful green vase her Great-Uncle Stan and Great-Aunt Kay had purchased in Sweden.
Brother Dave’s wife Linda brought pictures of when Katie was a baby; Gaila gave a set of Bolivian wooden bowls; hometown friend Nedy gave a cookbook with recipes from my hometown; and college roommate Deb gave a crystal ring holder and a book with pages she had folded to look like musical notes - a nod to Katie’s music background. Monogrammed bathrobes, favorite recipes and gifts cards to one of Katie and Matt’s favorite stores were also a hit with the bride-to-be.
The steady sun made the day a progressively warmer one, so we concluded the shower inside, snacking on veggies, fruit, cheese and crackers, and the cake I had made.
For supper, Dave, Humberto and Burns friends Tom and son Christopher joined most of us at the local Olive Garden restaurant.
I later reflected a bit on the showers and weddings I’ve attended. Some were very large, while others were small. Some were planned over years, while others were pulled together quickly. Yet one thing they've all had in common is they are a beginning built on the foundation of the past. Each person carries with him or her a bit of those who came before, whether those important people were family or friends. I think the “heirloom” theme was a good way to reinforce those connections with Katie's past.
Left: Gaila's daughter Larisa, Katie and Gaila with "future heirloom" bowls from Bolivia; right: Mariya, Gloria and Katie with current heirlooms. The peonies on the left were from the Freeland farm. The copper candy bowl in the center was used by Gloria's Grandfather Robert Freeland. It was wrapped with Art's mother's bridal veil. Donna is wearing the veil in Tom's and her wedding photo at the right.