I aspire to be like her. She is a stranger, a nice lady we met recently at the county clerk’s office at 501 Low Gap in Ukiah. She is also an angel, apparently placed on earth to be in the right place at the right time. But more on our human angel later.
Our family has had a lot going on lately as my daughter Cassidy and her fiance Cam decided to go ahead and tie the knot now instead of waiting for their planned June 2022 wedding. For several timing reasons we went about figuring out how they could arrange for a civil wedding at the county clerk’s office. As an ex-children’s ice show producer, I offered to help with the wedding, both the December 2021 version and the upcoming June 2022 wedding reception, since “productions” are my forte.
It started a few weeks back when we called the number given online and set up an appointment for a marriage license. We confirmed the licensing address at 700 Franklin Street in Fort Bragg. We set the date for procuring the license and the performance of their legal marriage ceremony for December 1, a Wednesday. The clerk we talked to reiterated that the ceremony would have to be performed at the outside window, with the officiant being indoors. Agreed. We were planning to meet for the marriage, just the couple and the parents of the bride and groom, for the auspicious occasion.
Cassidy and I had the fun task of wedding dress shopping. I drove from my home in Philo and picked her up in Fort Bragg on Sunday, and we headed out. As we got to the 101 at the top of Highway 20, I got a wild idea to turn left, north, instead of right, south, as we originally had planned to head to Ukiah. Within moments we found a fun boutique in Willits called MAZAHAR with its items displayed on the sidewalk. We stopped and went in, impressed by the steampunk/goth vibe and amusing and beautiful displays. A lace Victorian gown on a mannequin in the window stopped us in our tracks. We were looking at it when the shop owner came over and spoke with us. “We have a few others like this,” she said, and we couldn’t believe it: 10 similar lace dresses with embroidered linen underslips hung on the display rack. Within moments Cassidy picked one out that fit her perfectly, that could be beautifully accessorized in a myriad of ways, and that made us both smile widely when she put it on. Sold.
Whoever says wedding dress shopping is a painful ordeal is clearly mistaken. That took literally ten minutes.
We continued on our way and picked up a few more items in Ukiah (and printed up the marriage license at Staples) and had everything we needed except the shoes. I remembered I had to stop at Rite Aid or CVS and had forgotten to do so in Ukiah. We were on our way home in Willits passing a Rite Aid so I pulled in to the lot. Right next door to Rite Aid was a Goodwill thrift shop. We went in and found the perfect shoes ($8) and a white silky shower curtain for three bucks to use in the back of the truck bed as a bed liner. We had a resourceful plan to cut the cake on at the Headlands in Mendocino, the place we were planning to do a quick toast to the bride and groom after the civil ceremony. (We were in the throes of inventing a new thing, the truckbed Tailgate Wedding Party). On Tuesday Kaya, our work exchange tenant and friend, even spotlessly cleaned out the back of the Dodge Dakota so we could actually eat off the truck bed, as was the cake-cutting plan.
Wedding Day Wednesday came and I kept thinking about that aforementioned outside window the clerk on the phone had mentioned. I couldn’t envision a window at the 700 Franklin Street building. My spidey senses were going off. I was supposed to leave for Fort Bragg soon, and swing by Comptche to the family home where Cassidy had a room and where her dad Mike lives. I was supposed to get Cassidy’s passport out of the dresser drawer and some jewelry that belonged to my mom. I was about to leave to head to Fort Bragg when I just had to stop and make a phone call. I contacted the county clerk and asked to confirm the address of the scheduled wedding.
“501 Low Gap,” the woman on the phone said. I was shocked.
“In … Ukiah?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Yes!” the lady said. “They only perform the wedding ceremonies in Ukiah, not in Fort Bragg.”
Aside from the simple-to-find wedding dress and $8 shoes, the biggest miracle that occurred in getting my daughter married on a Wednesday in December happened when I called my ex-husband Mike at home in Comptche and reached him. He is notoriously hard to get a hold of. I couldn’t believe it when he answered the home phone.
“The wedding is in Ukiah!” I explained. I told Mike that we should get Cassidy’s passport in case they needed two forms of ID, and asked him to bring it. I knew asking him to find the jewelry would be too much. He said he would look. He couldn’t find it immediately and he told me he was “dumping the drawer contents onto the bed” and would let me know.
Meanwhile, I grabbed a portable file in my office space and began looking in Cassidy’s childhood folder I used to keep these types of documents in, but couldn’t find anything except a photocopy of her social security card. I remembered clearly giving all those items to her when she moved out of our family home in 2019. I contacted Cassidy, and Cam’s mom Dennette, to announce the change of venue. Everyone involved knew of the new spot. Cam’s 6-year-old daughter Iris was now a wildcard and may become a no-show because of her school schedule, but we all took the change in stride and had a new plan to meet at the county clerk’s office in Ukiah at 1: 30 p.m.
Once in Ukiah, Safeway was the first stop. Cassidy and I had already purchased fancier-than-usual paper plates and plastic cutlery for the cake cutting on Sunday, but I still needed to get a cake and sparkling cider for a toast. The first cake I saw was red velvet (Cassidy’s favorite) with white frosting and a red rose (her theme colors and her flower type). I also got red roses with some white baby’s breath and asked the bakery department clerk to write “Cass and Cam” on the cake. I realized I had to still get the sparkling cider, and lo! Right in front of the cake counter was a case of it. I grabbed a couple bottles and we were nearing the home stretch.
On the way to the Low Gap offices we detoured looking for a nice place for the tailgate cake cutting. We found a beautiful spot called Todd Grove Park by driving around. We memorized where it was, as it was the new substitution for the Headlands. It had a low stone wall, green grass, beautiful trees. It was perfect for both the tailgate event and photos.
Arriving soon after at the clerk’s office, Kaya and I got to work creating the bouquet. He’s quite handy, and I was pleasantly surprised when he randomly pulled a set of pruners out of his pocket. He owns a succulent business and keeps them on his person. It was exactly what was needed to turn the long roses into a hand-sized bouquet. I added something old, borrowed, and blue: the sky blue beads from my own wedding dress from years ago, and a new cloth bag to hold them in that we attached to the flowers. We finished up the bouquet as everyone from Fort Bragg and Comptche arrived simultaneously: Mike, Cam, Cassidy, little Iris and Dennette.
As we stood out front, Cassidy looking radiant in her wedding dress holding her flowers and Cam looking debonair in his suit, a sweet woman pulled up in her truck and went into the building. Her cute dog stuck his head out of the truck’s window. She saw us all and offered to take a group photo. We agreed happily and she got a good shot. We thanked her as she went into the building while Cass and Cam nervously waited for their 2 p.m. appointment to get the paperwork done before the ceremony.
We were standing in the same spot when the nice lady with the sweet dog came back out of the office. She looked at Cam and Cass and smiled. “For the newlyweds,” she said, and reached into her bag and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and pressed it into Cassidy’s hand. It was a miracle for sure. Such a genuine act of random kindness and also a gesture of hope for humanity. The couple was truly blessed by this deed. We were all floored and humbled. Cam and Cass used the money to pay for their marriage certificate and ceremony, which costs about that amount. And that’s why I aspire to be like the stranger I met on the steps of the county clerk’s office. I too someday want to hand someone a one hundred dollar bill straight from the heart and give it away with a blessing and a smile. What a wonderful kind of person to be.
It took a long time for the paperwork to be completed but afterward yes, we found the large outdoor window! And there my daughter married the man she loves and they said “I do” and became wed. It was a lovely ceremony.
As a group we caravanned to the park nearby and yes, we did it. We had a tailgate wedding celebration complete with cake, sparkling cider, and the best fanciest plates, cutlery, napkins, and champagne glasses the Dollar Store has to offer. And it was perfect. The sun was streaming through the trees, passersby smiled, and all was well with the world.
Later in the week a couple more miracles happened. The next morning, I found Cassidy’s actual social security card on the floor by the couch where I had been looking for her documents. I would swear that it wasn’t there the night before. And another miracle occurred when our photographer friend Gineve enhanced the best wedding photo taken of the couple in front of the open window at their civil ceremony. As Gineve enlarged the photos to edit them, she looked closely and noticed something unusual: There, hand-printed on a board inside the clerk’s offices way behind the couple, was the word LOVE written in between them. Only a photo with that precise angle would have allowed for it, and only by digitally blowing up the photo would those words ever be noticeable. When Gineve pointed it out, she even asked if it was intentional! I said no, the fates had done it. We were all flabbergasted. And we knew that everything was happening exactly as it was supposed to, and that we were lucky to experience so many tiny miracles, including the human angels that were part of our two families joining up on a Wednesday in December at the marriage of Cassidy and Cameron.