Tag Archives: New England Gothic

A Yearly Renewal Of Vows

What is a wedding anniversary? Beyond being the day each year that the event of a wedding occurred, it is so much more! It is a day to reflect on the past, the present, and the future to come with your spouse and the communities joined by the union of marriage.

As we lined up with the last minute change to put me at the end

On September 2, 2018 I walked toward the rocky cliffs of the Maine coastline where my best friend waited for me, standing next to his father (our officiant) between our friends and chosen family. As they processed down the aisle, this instrumental version of A Thousand Years played. Amanda pulled me aside and reminded me that this was what I should pay attention to – this is what I will remember – the moment before everything begins. It’s important to have close, lifelong friends like this in our lives. Thank God I am blessed to have a friend like that.

Amanda looked so beautiful.

An instrumental version of Candle On The Water played as I walked toward Jacob – the rewritten duet I created for our wedding playing in my head.

Before us a community brought together through our lifetimes guided us through a ceremony of our own design (based loosely on old Norwegian and New England heritage waterman traditions. My father had to bow out of his role as a fiddler due to surgery on his wrist years ago).

Once we said our “I dos” and the community said their “We dos” we left to the Vitamin String Quartet’s version of Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.

I recently read an article that remarked a concern that I’ve seen repeated my whole life: is marriage dying? As long as there is love and there are humans falling into it – no. Marriage is not dying. I promise 2020 is not going to kill it.

Our marriage was not about legal benefit, it was not about a big party, and the ceremony could have proceeded without any legally binding contract or even the <50 people that were present. Marriage is about something much deeper. Marriage is about community and the joining of communities – the chosen families we accumulate through our lifetimes. And though we don’t plan to have biological children, we plan to raise children within these joined communities.

One of our flower “girls”, Calleigh, in her tiara and dress with a color matching mine

Marriage is valid even when children are not involved. Communities can be joined simply for love and to join families that are meant to be together. That may sound trite, but it is a beautiful, valid, amazing thing I will need to go into more detail on at some point. Marriages “of the soul” are valid, if not more so, than any legal contract – if two individuals remain together even though they are free to leave does that not make their union more valid than those who remain together out of legal obligation? I think specifically of a widow friend. Though never legally married, I will always view her as the rightful widow and the one and only true love of a late friend.

Every year we are faced with the opportunity to reexamine our union, and 2020 is no different. We are blessed to have joined our two families and to spend the rest of our lives with each other, and I promise there is nothing more healing than finding a friendship that sows seeds of love wherever it touches your life.

And so, without further ado, on this second anniversary, I share the proof of the design project I’ve been working on with our vows. Consider creative ways to celebrate love. I decided to take our vows and re-write them into the shape of a lighthouse.

You are 
my best friend;
My partner in this adventure.
You have shown me the 
Definition	of	Love 
And encourage me to share 
that with the world
I will always have 
the time for you, 
And       for      us.
I   promise  to  be
Your   best  friend,
 Your	      Partner, 
And your  Spouse.
I	will	hold 
The     	   Boundary 
Between what I can do 
And    what    I    cannot; 
For  though  I  may  wish 
To make everything perfect
Life  is  about  experiencing 
All things: both good & bad.
I       will        support      you
 As	  you	  support        me 
And	at	the center of my life 
I  place  our  marriage  and  our  future 
as we raise a family and honor the generations 
of memories, heritage, and tradition that our families have passed down.
Through all the storms, when you are at sea, I will be your lighthouse.

The shape of the lighthouse is based on the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse (without the keeper’s house) in Bristol, Maine where we held our ceremony. There’s still room for improvement – I’m aware! For those using assisted readers, I have included our vows in the alt text.

Part of planning our ceremony was bringing a community together. Jacob’s mother’s wedding dress became the stole for Jacob’s father’s officiant robes.

My mother and Nana wove the knots and did all of the floral arrangements for the wedding, including my bouquet. As per family tradition, these knots were saved and are displayed at holidays around our home.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen carried lanterns that were an arts and crafts project labor of love between Becky, Kate, Heather, and myself. These beautiful lanterns were constructed using LED lanterns that can be purchased at a craft supply store like Michaels and bulk loose wooden flowers in the colors sage, sky blue, dusty rose, natural wood, and ivory. Those wooden flowers were used for decorating throughout the weekend, including on the cake.

After our ceremony, we proceeded back to the Bradley Inn. They provided an inclusive wedding package at a reasonable cost compared to other similar venues (that did not have on-site lodging) with gluten free and allergy conscious catering with menu options that acknowledged all of our heritage traditions. It was a truly remarkable experience. We were even able to set up a dance floor!

One guest made the comment about how they worried they were at the “gay table.” The hardest/most awkward thing we had to disclose later was that we actually had to put together a “straight table.” Welcome to the 21st century! As a reader may be able to tell our accent metallic colors were in the copper to rose gold range with some aged bronze thrown in.

We kept the invitation list very small. We invited fewer than 50 people and still have spare invitations for future memories to share. I guess in 2020 it’s valuable to share our experiences with planning a small wedding such as this.

It would be an absolute shame if I failed to mention our cake by Hippie Chick Bakery (pictured below). This champagne, ginger, raspberry cake was gluten free, dairy free, and 100% divine. The top layer kept in Jacob’s parents’ freezer for a year and a half with minimal freezer burn, so we were able to fulfill that tradition as well! It turns out gluten and dairy are not required.

Our very first dance as a couple was to a special duet version of Broken Road by Rascal Flatts. This was followed by the realization during the planning stage that we had both chosen Paul Simon songs as our Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances. The song chosen for that first dance with my father was Father And Daughter with each lyric carefully examined. This song captures my relationship with my father in a way I could have never predicted until I did that.

Jacob and his mother chose Loves Me Like A Rock for similar reasons.

One unusual bit of our wedding compared to others people may have experienced in America is that we had a dance that brings the community together as a singing/dancing hymn after the “first dances.” This hymn is called “Lord Of The Dance” and is a Shaker hymn. It’s important to note that Shakers do not traditionally believe in marriage and this is part of why they’re dying out.

File:Shakers Dancing.jpg
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shakers_Dancing.jpg
A close up of our dancing

But back to the lanterns really fast – we don’t have pictures of this part of the event sadly. As the wedding party lined up and we walked out of the reception, the lanterns were lit to guide our path into the future through the darkness. As we walked out, our wedding DJ (Bob Wilson – Maine) conspired with us to play Pachelbel Canon in D as played on rubber chickens as our exit song. Because this is Us.

Our friend Krieger doing his due diligence
Many thanks to Doreen at Seams Sew Elegant for all of the help!

As I look back on that day, and all of the work that went into making it happen, I do have one regret. My eldest sister had a speech prepared and the person hired to make sure microphones got into the correct hands and things went smoothly handed the microphone to the wrong person. As in, the exceptionally wrong person. Things did not go smoothly. Feelings were very hurt. Two years later, this still hurts. My sister still hasn’t shared those special words with us and I can only hope that someday we will be gifted with the honor of hearing them.

But given we planned a wedding from over 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) away and that’s the hardest lasting hiccup, even though I purchased a used dress that needed extensive alterations, left a toxic PhD program, and started a whole new journey focusing on my art and writing… The truth? It’s all better than my wildest dreams could have ever imagined.

At the end of the day, through all of the stress, we joined two communities: one from the North and one from the South. We did this through the efforts of everyone involved in making the day happen. And we did end up signing a legal contract because it’s America.

We still ended up married and many more people will continue to get married. For this, we give thanks.

Credits
Bei Capelli – Hair and Make Up
Love Pop – Invitations – we chose their now-retired lighthouse design.
James Allen – wedding bands
Adair Jewelers – Lo’s engagement ring setting
Tiffany & Co. – Jacob’s engagement ring
Kate Crabtree Photography – Photography

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Thank you for joining me in honoring our 2nd wedding anniversary. I hope that this inspires those looking for ways to celebrate their love in a time of social distancing and more intimate celebration restrictions. If you enjoy this post, please like, comment, and/or share. It helps me know which posts my readers enjoy most.

Things That Influence My Writing: Small Town Gene Puddles And Not Liking “Gone With The Wind”

Listen – you’re going to see a lot of posts involving inspiration from Reddit’s /r/Mapporn or similar subreddits. I love maps and I’m a very visual/spatial thinker. Sometimes these will make you laugh and sometimes these will make you scratch your head because I’m posting a map about the percentage of first-cousin marriages per population found in each region of Turkey (see below) and wonder “how does this relate to Southern Gothic?” Well, no one’s dared to make one of these maps for the United States as far as I can tell. Cowards.

I promise it will all make sense. Now take a deep breath and listen for the imaginary banjos playing “Turkey In The Straw.”

Gene Puddles And Regionalism

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/hiny8f/rate_of_marriage_with_first_cousins_per_turkish/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

I grew up in mostly small town areas, save a few years in Northern Virginia. When living somewhere for generations with five other family names to choose from in terms of social circles, let alone dating, it’s not uncommon for people to accidentally date their cousin(s). Or date their cousin(s) on purpose – I don’t know the culture and I don’t want to judge. I’m from the American South (yes, a weird edge-case part of it). I’ve seen a lot of weird things happen at family reunions.

I knew people in high school that accidentally ran into the person they were dating at their family reunions. Yes, that’s plural.

State Laws on Marriage to Cousins
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures | The Washington Post 25 April 2005
If you’re wondering why these marriages are illegal in some states and not others, you can primarily look to American religious communities and The American Eugenics Movement.

Isolation and deeply intertwined family histories breed family lore in the South and throughout the United States. Genealogy is a big deal because family lore stretches back for generations. I love this and I love my family – in our own genetic and paper trail based research, we have found some unique family scandals. This lore is where American Gothic stories find many of their metaphorical/literal skeletons and demons to unearth and/or summon to expose. It’s a safe way to discuss the atrocities committed by and done to our ancestors without shame or guilt – instead we can say, “This Is America” with honesty and fun colloquial phrases. The horrors of our past become ghost stories, biopic hero legends, hauntings, crazed outlaws and precautionary tales of devil encounters that act as reflections of reality.

Deeply Flawed Close-Knit Families

The isolated small town communities across the United States provide the most incredible inspiration for American Gothic writing. Growing up in the South I tend to focus on Southern Gothic, but American Gothic includes New England Gothic, Midwestern Gothic, Pacific Northwest Gothic, Southwestern Gothic (aka Western Gothic). When I write American Gothic and Southern Gothic short stories I think about these close knit family ties between characters. The story a reader sees will only show a small portion of the full cast of characters.

In my short story, “The Disappearance of Lula Mae Darling” I choose to introduce readers to the characters of Lula Mae Darling, Uncle Rod, Becca Lynn, and Henry “Hank” Bryan. But I mention other characters and the types of relationships all of the characters have with each other around this family business, the gas station off I-95 near a South Of The Border billboard.

I waffled on how to include Lula Mae’s mother and absent father in the story. I knew their presences (or lack thereof) were essential for communicating the concept of “Southern Escapism,” and the social and economic disparities that lead to the development of this pattern of behavior.

That is not to say that the Darling family does not demonstrate unconditional love toward one another, even with their extreme differing and, in the case of Uncle Rod, bigoted opinions. In these small town communities you’re all each other has, even with these deep, painful disagreements.

In another short story I am currently submitting, I discuss a family that dies out over the course of several years after they elect to discontinue their own family trade and traditions in favor of gaining additional status and power to join the elite upper class.

I try not be heavy handed in my discussions and criticisms of cultural nuances. No reader enjoys being beaten over the head with the author’s opinions as far as I’m aware. This is why I focus on writing stories in the way I like to read them: nuanced with the ability to take from it as much or as little as I want with each read.

What Is And Is Not American Gothic?

One of the problems that constantly needs to be addressed in all American Gothic genres, particularly Southern Gothic, is glorification. An unfortunate problem with these genres is that many readers and authors have become confused by the inclusion of antebellum or “Good Ol’ Days” glorification narratives. Glorification is not the point of these genres, nor should literature focusing on glorification be included in these genres. I do like the phrasing of themes used in the opening introduction of the Southern Gothic Wikipedia page. “Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may be involved in hoodoo,[1] decayed or derelict settings,[2] grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.” I extend this to include several other factors as well. One such being the deep stratification of society that remains as a result of failure to reconstruct the Southern economy and deconstruct social, economic, and legal power structures after the Civil War.

Throughout the South there is the omnipresent racism in language use while individuals will claim it does not influence their actions across these stratifications in modern day, but stepping backward in time reveals stronger influence in action. With these deep societal divides, some horrifying community-wide behaviors can be found in historically impoverished and non-slave holding, religious Southern communities such as something akin to the Tall Poppy Syndrome. This same or similar societal strata is often associated with the worst oppressive reinforcement of racial divides thanks to the influence of white elites. This still persists to this day and gives a lot for American Gothic authors to write about.

There’s an unfortunate part, particularly among class preservationists that would prefer to reinforce Tall Poppy Syndrome among the lower strata. They pretend none of these problems existed and instead glorify only specific details, pretending anything unsavory, shameful, or embarrassing never happened. This still happens today with modern issues and is a common problem throughout the South. I have no doubt that this is the origin of Jenny Lawson’s memoir title “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.”

A great example of a book where this happened and was culturally amplified was “Gone With The Wind.”

Why I Dislike “Gone With The Wind”

At one point I mentioned not being a fan of “Gone With The Wind” by Margaret Mitchell and the movie related to this book. I have seen this book listed on “Top Ten” lists for Southern Gothic Literature. I do not believe this book belongs on those lists. I personally believe it was poorly written and its publication and success is more indicative of the politics of the United States in the mid-1930s than it is of the book’s quality or value to history beyond the significance at its time of publication. The book was poorly written compared to other books written by other female authors at the time to the extent that even the book’s editor, Harold Latham, almost refused the book due to its poor writing, but changed his mind after deciding the story was more important than the bad writing. He went so far as to tell Mitchell it was “the worst looking manuscript he’d ever seen.” What changed Harold Latham’s mind about the story? According to the telegraph Mitchell received regarding her manuscript, most likely, it was due to the “Advisers” at Macmillan Publishing.

Image may contain: text that says 'BY DIRECT WIRE FROM WESTERN SIGNS -DayLetter UNION (10) Deferreda NWOM QL202 TWS PAID 3=NEWYORK 220P MRS MARGARET MITCHELL MARSH= EAST SEVENTEENTH ST= MY ENTHUSIASM YOUR NOVEL SHARED BY OUR ADVISERS WE WOULD MAKE ITS PUBLICATION FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ADVANCE HALF SIGNING BALANCE DELIVERY MANUSCRIPT ACCOUNT PERCENT ROYALTY FIRST TEN THOUSAND THEN FIFTEEN STOP MY RENEWED CONGRATULATIONS AND ASSURANCES UNDERTAKE PUBLICATION WITH TREMENDOUS ENTHUSIASM AND LARGE HOPES STOP DO WIRE APPROVAL COLLECT THAT MAY SEND CONTRACT IMMEDIATELY= S LATHAM.'
Source: Margaret Mitchell House Archives Retrieved from their Facebook page

Margaret Mitchell wrote the book based on her correspondences with exclusively white Southerners while writing for The Atlanta Journal. After the book’s publication and shortly before her death the majority of these correspondences were burned, leaving historians unable to confirm the contents. An additional interesting detail to note is that one article on Margaret Mitchell notes that she was even raised by her family to believe that the South had originally won the Civil War.

I am under the firm belief that the only reason “Gone With The Wind” became popularized to the extent it did was due to the campaign efforts of the Daughters of the Confederacy, the marketing efforts of New York’s Macmillan Publishing, and the planned success of its film adaptation. Margaret Mitchell was a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy and received an award from them for “Gone With The Wind”.

These marketing efforts extended to include multiple celebrity endorsements from former residents and veterans of the Confederacy, including Helen Keller. Although, the Daughters of the Confederacy did campaign against the casting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the film adaptation.

Margaret Mitchell receiving United Daughters of the Confederacy citation
Here’s Margaret Mitchell receiving her award from the Daughter’s of the Confederacy. Source: https://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/digital/collection/lane/id/14324

Given the timing of the publication of “Gone With The Wind” it comfortably fits in among the 1930s Era of the American Eugenics Movement and the rise to power of Southern Confederate “cultural preservation” groups. It advanced the antebellum narratives that they wished to push and helped to define the vision of the Old South that they claimed they wished to fight to preserve, while silencing Black voices during the early days of the Civil Rights movement. It is important to note that the majority of marketing efforts to use the book and film as pro-Confederacy propaganda did not take off until after Margaret Mitchell’s death, particularly during the 1960s in response to the Civil Rights movement.

TL;DR

  • American Small Towns = Gene Puddles = One Of The Sources Of Material For American Gothic Literature
  • Gene Puddles = Close Knit Families That Are Deeply Flawed But Love Each Other Unconditionally
  • Glorification Of “Good Ol’ Days” Is A Problem And Does Not Belong In American Gothic Literature
  • I Don’t Like “Gone With The Wind” – This Is A Personal Opinion

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As Always, Thank You For Reading – Without You These Words Are Floating In A Void Of Approximately 1,200 Petabytes.