I met Jerry back in 1987. We’ve had a good friendship since then, though we haven’t always been in touch. We lost contact during my Black Dog period in the ‘90’s, and I was really delighted when I got an email in 2003 that he and Dirk were going to be camping in Ontario, and would be driving past my hometown. Could we meet for supper? “Who’s Dirk?”, I wondered.
And that’s when I met Dirk. They’d met a couple of years earlier, and the relationship had clicked. They both loved the outdoors, hiking and camping, doing bike tours, attending concerts and dance performances. Dirk decided to move back to the American Midwest where he’d been raised, and they decided to make a bigger commitment to each other.
In 2004, I traveled to Minneapolis MN a few days in advance of Meg Swansen’s Knitting Camp to spend some time with spinning/knitting co-camper Mary, who’d I’d met at a previous trip to Camp. Coincidentally, The Guys were there as Dirk was doing some professional development training, and Jerry and I hung out for a couple of hours.
“So, are you guys gonna get married?” I asked Jerry.
“We would if we could,” he said. “But I don’t think same sex marriage will happen in the USA during our lifetimes.”
In their Christmas greeting email last year, The Guys announced that they’d been legally married earlier in the year in Iowa. “Mark the date June 6th on your calendar,” Jerry appended to me. “We’re going to have a party to celebrate. We really hope you'll come.”
I left town on Thursday and drove down to Howell MI. Hung out with Beth in her shop for several hours. Next day I motored down to Champaign IL. I’d forgotten how flat the landscape is in that part of the state; I wish I’d taken pictures. I wish I’d thought to take my camera. Ooops.
My first stop in Champaign was the yarnstore, Needleworks-Inc. Matthew was there, so it made sense to hang out until heading out to the house where I was staying with him and his partner, Grant. When the shop closed we went for supper with a couple of the other shop regulars, then home...where I discovered that Matthew was working his way through episodes of “6 Feet Under” on DVD. It’s one of my favourite TV shows (from when I had a TV): I think I only saw the first season. Over my time there, we worked our way through season 3.
On Saturday we went into the yarn store for several hours. I’ve always been impressed by how a community has built up around the table at the shop, and over the 5-6 hours we were there I saw knitters of all skill levels, from all walks of life. We had college/university professors, at least 1 lawyer, students, homemakers. We hunted up recipes on the internet (“It’s not ‘scalloped corn’, someone gently corrected me. “It’s ‘escalloped corn’.” And as I was in corn-growing country, would I argue with the locals?) At about noon, someone said “What about lunch?” and we ordered in from a local sandwich joint. One of the regulars dropped by with her new baby; another came in with a plate of homemade cookies. “How wonderful to have something like this in your town,” I thought.
Saturday night, The Guys hosted a dinner for the out-of-towners. Sunday there was brunch at The Guys’ house. There were relatives, former in-laws, Dirk’s kids, people The Guys had gone to school with, people they know from around the city. People came from all over the USA. I think I was the only Canadian at the wedding events, and while just about everyone asked me how I know The Guys, no-one asked me about health-care in Canada. (Thank you.)
Sunday afternoon we collected at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. We assembled on the stage in the Foellinger Great Hall, and the ceremony was conducted in the tradition of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), which basically means (I think) that the grooms’ community witnesses their union, without any presiding religious authority. (Highly recommended.) After The Guys and the 4 witnesses (including Dirk’s 2 sons) had signed the marriage certificate, everyone who attended had the opportunity to sign it. The guys were truly married by their community. (It’s a beautifully embossed document: quite a contrast to the certificate issued by Iowa state, which looks like it had rolled out of a manual typewriter.) A lovely meal followed, with good conversation (hi Sara; say hi to your Mom for me ::waves::), excellent wedding cake, no speeches or glass tinking requiring smooching from the grooms. And then the party broke up and we went our own ways. “How wonderful to have such a great venue in your town,” I thought. “Imagine living somewhere there’s a really good concert hall that attracts world-class artists.”
The next day was Monday and I went over to visit briefly with The Guys. It was good to talk and get caught up on stuff. I miss them both, a lot. I miss their wisdom, their humour, and their presence, and their insights, and the peacefulness of their home and gardens.
And then I realised I needed to get on the road and drove back to Howell MI. Tuesday morning, before heading out to finish the trip home I stopped by Beth’s shop for more conversation about the yarn biz and life. (Um...yes. I shopped a bit.)
All in all, splendid trip. More driving than I’ve ever done in my life and I’m still feeling tired.
And I’d do it again in a flash.