While being 2700 miles away from home has given me the chance to refocus, the chance to break free from what was familiar and comfortable in order to grow, it also means having to miss out on certain things I’d never imagined myself not being present for. Birthdays, celebrations, family gatherings, and the most heartbreaking, homegoing services for my loved ones. I’m nowhere near the point where I can drop $400-$500 for a cross country flight for every occasion, and accepting this was very crucial for me in making the decision to move this far.
So, I’d pretty much come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to attend my cousin Damon’s wedding in Pittsburgh. As much as I love weddings and spending joyous moments with my family, flight prices weren’t on my side at all. However, one of the biggest blessings came through in the form of a discounted standby ticket. My friend was able to get me guest pass tickets at the last minute, which would allow me to fly back east for way less than what the airlines were asking.
On the plane, I found myself completely elated - I couldn’t wait to touch down and reunite with my family!
I told my dad (so he could pick me up from the airport) and no one else. As much as I wanted to say, “Guess what Ma, I’m coming to the wedding!!,” I decided to keep it as a surprise from her, my grandma, and my aunts. My dad came up with the grand escape scheme that had my mom thinking he was out “helping my uncle fix his water pipe” -- meanwhile, he was really on his way to the airport to pick me up.
I was so sure my mom had a clue. “She’s probably been trying to call me all day while I’ve been in the air, wondering why my phone is off. She probably put two and two together!” I thought. Let me tell you - she is quite the detective. She had called me literally as soon as I touched down and switched my phone from airplane mode. I didn’t want her to hear the flight attendant in the background, so I played it off by saying “ooh I just got home. Gotta go to the bathroom, let me call you back.”
In spite of it being 1:00AM, with an early morning wake up call for the wedding the following day, everyone was still awake when my dad and I pulled up to my grandma’s house.
It was my mom who opened the front door for us. I trailed in behind my dad, so I wasn’t the first face she saw. When she made out the unknown figure and realized it was me, she nearly fainted! “OHHHH my baby!!!!!” Her jaw practically hit the floor in shock and tears welled up as she hugged me for a good half a minute. My grandma and aunt were also totally oblivious and each had ear-to-ear smiles, more words of astonishment, and long hugs.
After a long, long day of traveling, I finally made it, and I couldn’t stop smiling. This was the first major surprise I’d ever planned, and it was completely successful!
The next morning, we were all up bright and early for the 11:00AM wedding-brunch. The ceremony took place in downtown Pittsburgh’s Grand Concourse, a historic railroad station turned premier restaurant, located directly along one of the city’s characteristic three rivers.
I heard lots of delightful chatter as guests entered, awed by the building’s lavish interior. Its high structured ceilings, stained glass windows, towering marble columns, and dominating grand staircase combined create a distinguished atmosphere, reminiscent of antique opulence. I find it really fascinating when old buildings are revived and transformed into modern spaces, while elements of its original state are still kept apparent.
On each of our table settings was a “Brunch Pass - Guide to Alecia & Damon’s Wedding,” a humor-filled FAQ about the bride and groom and their wedding day. Its tone heavily reminded me of Very Smart Brothas, a witty online magazine the groom and two partners founded in 2008. (VSB - Hilarious. Brilliant. Must read. I’m very proud to say that my cousin is the one of the creators of this ever-entertaining site).
My cousin, Reverend David Young, joined Damon and Alecia’s hands in marriage and led the exchange of vows on the landing of the staircase, elevated for everyone to see. It’s a wonderful thing to witness two humans in love with one another on such a level that makes them want to spend the rest of their lives together.
Damon chose an intelligent, big hearted, beautiful, fun-loving woman, and I know they are in for a happy, family-oriented future.
After the vows, it was time for the food. The fantastic brunch spread included the works -- bacon, eggs, pancakes, an omelet station, salmon, prime rib, shrimp cocktail, and more. The food was oh so delicious. Whew Lawd! I had to take a second and reflect back on that magnificent meal. I really enjoyed the unique experience of attending a wedding that also served as a fancy brunch ceremony.
Of course, I had to flick it up -- both in the super-fun, prop-filled photo booth, and outside capturing the downtown surroundings. Pittsburgh is a special place for me, beyond being the home of my favorite football team. My dad grew up in the heart of the city, and my mom, in a small town about an hour outside of Pittsburgh. It’s a second home, and more than any other place, it signifies family. It’s where both sides often travel to for reunions and other family events, and my many many days spent there has always been defined by quality time of love and appreciation.
My weekend spent surrounded by those individuals was perfect. It felt even better being able to be there when for months, I thought I couldn’t go. I got to attend an unforgettable wedding ceremony, go clubbing with nearly my entire family at the after party (imagine how entertaining that was), and spend my last moments at my grandma’s house before she moves out of the only home I've known her to live in. Most definitely a weekend well spent, and one of the most special weekends of the year.
Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Young... May you live, well, forever young!
P.S. Don't forget to check out VerySmartBrothas.com!