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The practice

Archie woke up on the morning of July 12th happy. We had finally arrived in California the night before, after 13 hours in the van crossing the bulk of Utah and the entire east-west stretch of Nevada.

The plans for the day included the wedding rehearsal and a barbeque. We wouldn’t have to be at the wedding site, which was about 20 miles away from the lodge where we were staying, until late in the afternoon. The day was ours to hang out in the mountains and relax. We tried.

Throughout the morning, Archie grew increasingly restless and agitated. He would cry inconsolably until he’d fall asleep, only to wake and pick up where he left off. Nothing anyone could do would make him happy for long. Lee and I took turns comforting and rocking. I gave a dose of infant Tylenol to him. It didn’t help much. I began to worry there could be something very wrong with Archie, and I had my theories.


1. An Off mosquito repellent fan was clipped to his stroller earlier in the day. It worked very well to keep mosquitos away from him, which was important because he is too young for spray-on repellents. I was seized with the thought he had breathed in the chemicals and was having a toxic reaction.

2. He had some interesting diapers along the road, filled (and sometimes overfilled) in interesting ways with interesting colors which spawned interesting places he had to be changed in creative and interesting ways. Could it be dehydration? A stomach virus?

3. Teething.

4. An earache, compounded by going from high elevations to low to high to low and now back to high?

5. ???

I had to know.

It was time to leave for the rehearsal. Everyone was stressed out by that point. We had to drive curvy mountain roads for about 20 minutes to get into Grass Valley, then we had to drive for and additional 20 minutes to get to the wedding’s location. Archie screamed every moment of the drive. There was no cell or wireless service until we got into town. The moment I saw bars appear on my phone, I began searching for urgent care clinics. One was located about a block from where we stopped to wait for Lee’s parents, who were caravanning with us.

The entire time we drove, Lee and I bickered about what we should do. Hospital? Urgent care? Was it the mosquito repellent? I was sure it was, he wasn’t so sure. He kept asking me what I wanted to do. I didn’t know and I wasn’t appreciating the second-guessing! We were far from home with a miserable young baby and I wanted everything to be okay, instantly. I felt inexperienced, clueless, and adrift and Lee wasn’t helping. He kept asking me to decide where to go and I wanted him to decide. Finally, in front of all our kids and my sister and brother in law, I told him he was being a jerk, and I cried.

The rehearsal demanded my husband’s presence. He was in the wedding. I didn’t have to be there, though, so I told him to drop me off at the urgent care I found and I’d call when we were done. A plan. My sister-in-law, Nini, offered to go with me. I agreed it would be good to have her there.

We were dropped at a strip mall urgent care. It was busy for a late Sunday afternoon. They weren’t in network with our insurance, but it didn’t matter to me at the moment. It didn’t take long for Archie to be taken to a room, but we waited and waited. Nini ran to a nearby grocery store to get some diaper rash cream after I changed Archie and noticed he looked a little angry downstairs.

He calmed down and smiled after nursing. A medical assistant came into the room to take his vitals and history. He was an older man who took one look at the ear thermometer and another at Archie and asked if I would take his temperature for him. Uh. I guess.

So I played medical assistant. 97.1, which he wrote on a paper towel.

A doctor examined Archie, who was smiling and grabby and babbly, the picture of sassy infant vigor. We were sent on our way with no diagnosis other than a shrug and instructions to watch him. I called my husband to tell him Archie was okay and could we be picked up?

He came. I apologized. All was well. We talked about why we fell apart.

We made our way to the home where the wedding would take place. The rehearsal was long-over. Family and other members of the wedding party were eating when we walked down the path. Spread before us was an expanse of bright green lawn, rimmed by tall trees. The sun was low in the west. Kids ran around, flying on swings suspended on trees, over hills, over a stream. It was a happy picture.

“The practice wedding is cool!” my nephew, Ethan, said.

Yes. A rehearsal is a practice wedding. It takes about a half hour for everyone to get it right. Or close enough.

There is no such thing as a practice marriage. We’ve been married for almost 13 years and I still fell apart and called my husband names in a Safeway parking lot for reasons I understand but don’t really understand. If only we could sort out all the negative issues we’d ever encounter in under a half hour, then enjoy a nice dinner with friends under a young starlit sky.

I’m not sure I would like that, though. A marriage’s strength lies in overcoming challenges together, growing through moments of being humbled and hurt and restored—sometimes all in one bad afternoon.

The next night, after the wedding vows were made, my husband and I danced.

(photo from shortly after Archie woke up Sunday morning…he fell apart soon after it was taken)

7 comments to The practice

  • edj

    I thought you were going to say that he was fine as soon as he got back in the car! I have had my kids be horrible the day AFTER a long trip too.

    But your post was about so much more. And you’re right–somehow, going through bad times together can make us closer.
    .-= edj´s last blog ..In Search of Stuff–Part Three =-.

  • Oh Gretchen, this is a beautiful post. You are right, there is no such thing as a practice marriage. I can completely relate to how you felt an reacted as I’m sure most of the other women who read this can too. I would like to point out that you had three factors working against you:

    sick baby

    Any one of those alone have sent me to tears and testiness. 🙂 I love the way you wrote this.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..Tub Talk =-.

  • ann

    My husband and I have been through a similar situation, sick baby while on vacation. It’s hard. And we did the same thing, bickered at each other about what to do, each of us wanting the other to make the decision. I’m glad you danced. <3
    .-= ann´s last blog ..Revelation Song =-.

  • As always, great post. I’m glad Archie is okay. And I’m glad you danced too.
    .-= Kristin´s last blog ..Can I just say? =-.

  • Sick baby and no explanation always brings up tension between Kyle and I. Sick baby away from home AND a wedding? Oy.

    You are so right, though, about the way marriage grows in the yuck. It’s hard to remember that when things are unfolding, but each of those breaking points gives us practice in extending grace to one another – and receiving grace from the other as well. In fact, so much of marriage is about practice . . . practice forgiveness, practice faithfulness, practice empathy, practice joy. So, so much I could not have possibly dreamed of learning as a starry-eyed bride.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..Points to Pick with Ezzo: Part 3 =-.

  • Oh I have felt that sick-baby-not-at-home stress too. And my husband has been a jerk, although I think I called him something worse. The ability to forgive and be forgiven is one I am still working on, even after 22 years.
    .-= Jenni´s last blog ..Death: A Metaphor for Life =-.

  • What a poignant and powerful post, one that I can totally relate to (as probably any married person can). It seems like this whole year has been both hard and meaningful for Jason and I. In fact, I was just in the midst of writing about this topic when I popped over to read this post. Marriage is work, but the work is what makes it beautiful.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Dancing Down the Aisle =-.

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