Faith in Vermont: Marriage, Thirteen Years Later

July 20, 2002, 8 AM

I spent the night with my mother at The Colony Club on Park Avenue in New York City, where the wedding reception will take place.

I didn’t sleep much; I was too excited. Instead, I finished reading The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s masterful novel about the Vietnam War: an odd reading choice for a bride-to-be, perhaps, but it definitely takes my mind off of the wedding.

Now I am headed, at what I believe is an ungodly hour, for breakfast with my father at a diner on the corner of 60th Street and 2nd Avenue. We like greasy diner breakfasts, my father and I. I order a lox omelet and coffee. Black coffee.


July 20, 2015, 8 AM

I have been up for two hours. I have packed three lunches into three backpacks, and a fourth snack into a lunch bag because the two-year-old wants her own “backpack.” It’s the first day of camp for three of my daughters: the oldest two will attend a half-day theater camp, and the preschooler will head off to the Middlebury Area Land Trust’s nature camp. In the past hour, I have forced four girls to get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush their teeth, and feed the dog.

I didn’t sleep much, because last night our two-year-old spent her first night in her “big girl bed,” and she was so excited that she couldn’t settle. When she finally crashed, her older sister burst into our room in the early morning hours and spent the remainder of the night on our floor in her sleeping bag.

My husband and I tag-team between getting ourselves ready and washing breakfast off of the dishes and table and floor: biscuits and bacon and coffee. Black coffee.

I think someone said “Happy Anniversary.”


July 20, 2002, 12 PM

I have spent all morning at the salon, having my hair and makeup done. In between grooming, I field phone calls from friends, family, and bridesmaids who are all busy with various stages of wedding preparation.

I don’t remember eating lunch.


July 20, 2015, 12 PM

I have spent all morning running errands with my two-year-old, which seems luxurious: only one child! In a nod to our anniversary, I met my husband at his office and we took the toddler for a stroll around the Middlebury College campus.

I am now picking up the preschooler from nature camp. I have packed lunches for her and her younger sister, which they’ll eat in the car on our way to pick up the other two sisters from their camp. My parents will meet us in the parking lot, where we will hustle the three oldest girls into their costumes for the Frozen-themed tea party that my parents are taking them to at the Middlebury Marquis movie theater.

I don’t eat lunch, but once I get home and put the two-year-old down for her nap, I wolf down some leftover salad and goat cheese while standing at the kitchen counter.


July 20, 2002, 5 PM

In just a few minutes, I will walk down the aisle of Christ Church, a stately brick building on the corner of Park Avenue and 60th Street. The ceremony was supposed to begin at 5, but things are delayed because the bridesmaids’ hair took longer than expected and there was a mix-up with transportation for out-of-town guests. This delay seems like a major crisis now, but I won’t remember it in a few moments, when I stand at the front of the church in my mother’s wedding dress and see the faces of friends and family – the people we love most in the world, all gathered in one place for us – and when I feel the weight of the vows that my fiancé and I recite to each other.

So many of life’s big moments shrivel in the shadow of our enormous expectations. Or else we’re distracted, worrying about something else, and we miss the moment. But my wedding isn’t like that; during my wedding, I know that I’m experiencing one of the most special moments of my life.


July 20, 2015, 5 PM

My mother’s wedding dress has been cleaned and packed away, so I am wearing my qipao, which is the Chinese wedding dress that I wore to the reception my in-laws hosted in California after our wedding. The qipao is a red satin sausage casing embroidered with gold phoenixes; I can still fit into it, but breathing is painful and movement feels risky. 

I am wearing the qipao because my husband has planned a vow renewal ceremony with our daughters and my parents. He printed out a program. The girls sprinkled the sunroom floor with petals ripped from our hydrangeas and geraniums. They also did my hair, which is why I have a dozen little bow clips all over my head.

We can barely hear our vows over the screaming: our two-year-old ring bearer, who insisted on wheeling her baby stroller down the “aisle,” is throwing a tantrum because we removed our rings from the Tupperware container into which she’d put them.

But I feel the weight of these vows even more than on our actual wedding. We had no idea back then; now, we have done the worse, the sickness, the poorer. And we stand in our home at the foot of the Green Mountains and promise to keep doing.

I know that I’m experiencing one of the most special moments of my life.


July 20, 2002, 10 PM

I have dined on sea bass and wine. I have danced for hours with my friends, family, and new husband. I have thrown the flowers and cut the cake. Soon we will make our getaway, but the night still seems young and full of fun.


July 20, 2015, 10 PM

I am asleep.


Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone labradoodle — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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