Earlier this summer we spent some time in Kentucky, and we very much enjoyed our visit with Chris and Natasha, who live in Lexington. They invited us to their wedding, which was to be in early August. I told Chris we would be there, for sure.
And the timing worked out well. I needed to go back to Oregon to get all our stuff and drive it to North Carolina, and this would mean driving to a bigger city to get cheaper flights. We could head out to Lexington first, and then head to Louisville, which has Kentucky’s biggest airport. We made plans with my Uncle Bruce in Richmond, as well as my aunt Sharon, who lives a bit further west. After about five days in Kentucky, Eva, Gaia and I would fly out.
Eva and Gaia haven’t seen Adam, their birth father, since our move from Oregon, almost eight months before. He lives in Medford, and our plan was to stay with him for almost a week so they could have time. I would bounce around and see people during these days, and then rent a truck and empty out our storage unit. The week long drive across the country wasn’t too appealing to the girls, but we also planned to stop in Texas to see family there, and they love getting time with their cousins.
So with the three of us packed for a two week journey, we loaded the car and headed over the mountains, making for Richmond. We were pleased to find that it took us only four hours to get there, and Bruce was kind enough to have dinner ready when arrived. Chris and Natasha’s wedding was the next day, and we’d be staying two nights in Richmond, at my grandparents’ house. Since they passed, my uncles Bruce and Allen have been maintaining their house, and my cousin Kathryn has been living there. It’s such a wonderful house, with so many memories for us all.
You can read more about our stay in Richmond, as well as my short sojourn into Frankfort, a city I hadn't yet walked about. We drove to the rural hills of South Lexington early in the evening, to the country club where the reception would be held.
Chris and Natasha held a small informal ceremony, with only close family in attendance. The reception, though, was large and lavish, and I was pleased to run into many old friends I have known through Chris, over the years. Grayson had flown in from New York, along with some others whom I hadn’t met before. Lee was there, as was Dan, whom I hadn’t seen or heard from since back in 06, I’m pretty sure. Bruce and Keith were there, and of course Amy and Margie, Chris’s sister and mother. Margie and my mom were best friends growing up, living across the street from each other. When I was growing up, we went to Kentucky fairly often, sometimes staying for up to a month in the summer. Chris was several years younger than I, but we were great friends, and for the longest time we actually thought we were cousins, as my mom referred to his mom as Aunt Margie.
Throughout my vagabonding years, I frequently went to visit family in Kentucky, and I started spending more time with Chris in those years, as we were now both young adults. He always had really awesome friends, and he introduced me to many people around Lexington and Richmond. We had good times making music, playing soccer, going hiking and camping, and partying, especially in those years of our early twenties.
Anyone who knows Chris Willingham will attest to the fact that he’s one of the most upright, noble characters you will ever meet. Kind, considerate, gentle, and respectful, as well as athletic, intelligent, and talented. His grandfather, whom everyone called Junior, was a professional musician, very talented. Chris had excellent tastes in music, but when we first started hanging out as adults he didn’t play any instruments. He’s since gotten good at guitar, but he's always been modest about it. Once a bunch of us were jamming at one of the houses when he was at school in UK, and Chris just hopped onto the drums and laid out a perfect beat that built with the song, sounding like something that could have been recorded. I was blown away by it, and when I exclaimed that I never knew he could drum like that, he said he never had before. That was his first attempt.
Anyhow, he’s a capital fellow, and we’ve had many grand adventures together. I was ever so delighted when I met Natasha for the first time, feeling certain rather quickly that she was going to be the one for Chris. He had dated before, but when I met Natasha, it seemed quite different. It was in 2014 when our family went through Kentucky that we met Natasha. She and Chris offered to put us up at their house for a couple nights so we could all hang out. Natasha was so awesome, and I could tell that she and Chris really seemed to flow well together, both in keeping a house and just hanging out, being friends. Natasha was outgoing, well-spoken and intelligent, and most importantly, she was having a good time with her life.
The secret to life, I think, is just to enjoy it. No excuses, no blaming, no grumbling resentment. (As little as possible, anyway) Just try to relax and enjoy the ride. Some people live this way as a matter of course, and they’re always good to be around.
I was delighted when I learned of their engagement, and I was very thankful to be able to be there for their celebration. I looked forward to an awesome evening with them, along with many other good friends. There were a few other children at the reception, including Bryson, Chris’s nephew. He was between Lila and Gaia in age, but he was full of youthful enthusiasm and they all went off to the playground together at one point, which is always nice. The rest of us enjoyed awesome food and drink, and eventually music and dance.
Several of Chris’s friends brought their guitars in, and I was told there was to be a jam/singalong later. I very much wanted to stay for this, because I had jammed with Chris’s friends before, and I knew the caliber of music would be excellent. I enjoy playing guitar most among a crowd who will know and enjoy the handful of artists I cover. With this kind of crowd, we have many shared favorites, and it’s always great to cover songs together.
Laura and the girls weren’t going to stay so long, so it was arranged for me to get a ride back to Richmond with someone else. Before they left, Laura had a good long conversation with Margie, which she very much enjoyed.
I only ended up staying another hour, I would guess, before going back as well, in the car with Chris’s best man, whose name is also Eric. We had a good conversation, though I’m not sure how they felt about my standard proclamation of voluntaryism as the only way forward. He and his wife were certainly obliging, and we had a nice conversation. The guitar jam never took place, at least not while I was still there. Unfortunate, but there will surely be another time. I now live much closer to Eastern Kentucky, and I hope to have more adventures with this crowd before too long.
As is usually the case at weddings, I didn’t get to spend a whole ton of time with the bride and groom, who had the rounds to make, but we did get some time to talk. I arrived home fairly late, wiped out from a long day. The next morning we would be on our way, meeting Sharon at Shaker Village.
Just a few months before we attempted to visit Shaker Village with Sharon, only to miss the lunch window and be met with pouring rain. We were now going to go for our rain check, though the forecast for our second attempt wasn’t 100% promising. Still, we had raincoats and umbrellas, and this time we were determined to walk around the old village, which was at one time very much an intentional community. More on our visit to the Shaker Village in the next episode.
Congratulations to Chris and Natasha, and thanks for hosting such a fun party. I know you’re married life will be wonderful, wherever it takes you!