Coming Home

Chapter Five

Christmas breakfast was interesting to say the least, Sam had noticed me crying when Mark gave me the documents concerning his adoption and he had immediately come running to where I had been sitting on the floor and wrapped his arms around me, asking what had made me cry. I hugged him and showed him the papers, telling him that Mark had actually made me so very happy and that these were tears of joy, of complete happiness, just like when he had gotten his ponies the other day. I explained that Mark had already started the adoption process with Mr. Martin and if he wanted, he never would have to leave us. He could stay with us forever and ever. He would become our son, and we would become his Dads. He hugged me again and said that was so cool and then he went to Mark and hugged him too, thanking him over and over again. After our joyous tearful family moment, Mark decided to fix us a special breakfast while Sam and I picked up the loose wrapping paper littering the room.

He whipped up an eggy casserole and Sam declared it YUM. I told Mark he had another great recipe to add to his growing repertoire and he could add that dish to the menu any time. After breakfast, we all cleaned up and got dressed, and we went out to the barn to take care of the animals there. Sam taking a small bag of apples for the horses and his ponies, and Mark grabbing a few cans of cat food for the new mother. He had picked them up at the convenience store down the road; when we ran out of tape last night while wrapping some of the last gifts.

The animals were all glad to see us and Sam told each one of the equines Merry Christmas as he fed them an apple each while Mark and I got their feed ready and put out fresh water. Then we checked out the new family and mother and her kittens seemed to be doing just fine. We gave her more food in her bowl and Sam went to the water spigot, rinsed out her water bowl, and refilled it with fresh water. We then cleaned out the horse stalls and carted the dirty straw out to the pile out the back of the barn. Sam spread new straw for them with Mark helping and before long we had the barn occupants all settled and we were on the way to the house to get cleaned up again, but for church this time.

We decided to attend Mass locally, since the little storm last night was still making itself known this morning and we arrived at the church just off the town common just as it started snowing again. We were shaking flakes off our coats on the big front porch of the church when we were approached with Christmas greetings by Helen and a slim dark-haired woman we were introduced to as Terry. Terry was the woman who ran the Riding Center and would be keeping Sam occupied after school with equestrian lessons three days a week and supervising the group of kids at the Swim Center the other two days. She and Sam were talking horses and ponies in no time and Helen congratulated us on acting so fast to get permanent custody of Sam, so Mr. Martin must have notified her already. She told Sam she was happy he had found a safe place to live so soon, and Sam told her that his new Dads were the best ever, that he had asked God to let him stay with us and he wanted to thank him today for making that happen. She told him he was in the right place for that, we all entered the church, and we shared a pew with them.

As more people came in, more and more people stopped to tell the women Happy Christmas, and it was evident that a lot of them were same-sex couples with children and Helen whispered to me that a lot of the children were who Sam would be getting to know in his after-school activities. She explained that Noah Majors and Chris Sargent were the parents to over 10 boys and now the boys were mostly all grown with families of their own and they all lived in her neighborhood, off the road where the Riding Center and the Swim Center were located, just behind my property. It was a nice way to spend the late Christmas morning and we certainly met a lot of the families in our neighborhood.

When the mass ended we made our way home, Mark began our turkey roasting, and Sam and I were given veggies to prepare for our feast. Once our KP duties had been fulfilled Sam and I saddled up and we rode around the corral, Sam proving he had listened to my father the day before. I risked calling my dad while we were out and he answered, sounding pleased to hear from me. He greeted me with," Merry Christmas Robby". And I, of course, returned his greeting and told him he was going to be a grandfather very soon, or at least much sooner than we had thought the other day. He was thrilled for us and said he was looking forward to it.

We groomed our mounts before feeding them again and Sam checked the water left out for the cat. I had warned him not to touch the kittens, but he was becoming friendly with their mother who actually purred at him when he gave her fresh water. Mark was caught up on dinner preparations so we chilled out in front of the family room TV with another old movie, "Miracle on 34th Street". All three of us dozed off during it, and the buzzer on the ovens woke us about 4:45 and Sam and I set a festive table for Mark's holiday feast.

The aromas were heavenly with the scent of the roasting turkey, the French meat dressing (two kinds of sausage meat-both pork and beef- combined with ground up saltine crackers and spices, cooked with the neck of the bird in a separate dish from the bird, but he said he put two cups of it into the bird's cavity to add flavor to the bird as it roasted). Baking potatoes, both white and sweet, and our favorite fresh green beans.  The meal wasn't great, it was magnificent, and we stuffed ourselves stupid, too stuffed to move for about a half hour after our last forkful. We were too stuffed to even think about cutting into the pie he had slaved over, until dinner had settled a bit more, then after clean up we settled in the family room for the news and another Christmas show.

We told Sam that although we had tomorrow off from work we were going to have to run an extra mile in the morning, since we hadn't run today, and especially after such a big meal, and we asked if he wanted to join us. He said he would, but for us not to expect too much and get mad if he couldn't keep up. We told him that we'd switch off every now and then so he wouldn't be alone out there and he seemed glad we weren't just going to run off and leave him in our dust (so to speak).

We all got up just as the sun was coming up and dressed for running in the winter, I locked the house, and we were off. We started by stretching and we explained to Sam why that was important to do and then we were off at a very slow jog just to see how he was doing. He was doing well and he was surprised when he realized we were already at the parking lot for Antonio's restaurant. I asked how he felt and he said he felt great so we all crossed the road and returned, passing our drive and continuing on for about another mile down the country road and paused at the entry to the Brown's farm and there we ran into Mr. Brown, clearing some snow from around his mailbox and newspaper tube. The snow wasn't that deep, but apparently, there was enough already built up that it was coming pretty near to blocking these receptacles. We waved to him as we passed and he waved back, but his little tractor made so much noise that talking was useless. Mark had a spurt of energy and ran full out for a bit and then he ran back and I took off for a sprint and returned to the slow jog      and we alternated for about another mile until we turned around and jogged slowly with Sam until we reached our front porch. I fished the keys out of my fanny pack and we stretched again and cooled off before entering the warm house.

In the shower, Mark and I played "drop the soap" for a while and as we finished dressing we heard Sam singing in his room as he finished dressing. I couldn't tell you the country style song he was singing, but he had a nice singing voice and I was pleased he felt comfortable enough to sing in the house knowing we could hear him. He told me later it was by a gay country singer named Steve Grand and I should look him up. His music was so good and he was quite a hunk. I passed this information on to Mark and after Sam had gone to bed we looked up this paragon of Sam's and sure enough, there were a lot of revealing photos of him online, nothing really bad, and several links to his music. I was kind of pleased that Sam had a gay "Idol" and one so talented to boot.

It was discussed what to do about Sam while we were at work Tuesday through Friday that week and we decided to take Sam into the office with us. At least until we could determine if there would be enough to keep us both busy to warrant both of us going in all week, if not we could alternate and one of us go in and the other stay home with Sam. It turned out that Sam spent the first two days with us at work, entertaining the secretaries and the researchers in his office, one of the ones vacated by one of the former partners. He was there when the sign company arrived on Wednesday to change all the signs to the new company name, Downing & Ducharme Inc. He was very proud of us and used his phone to snap a few pics of the new signage on the entry doors and some of our office doors with our titles of Co-President on them. That night he asked if he could stay home and I told him I'd stay with him and we'd find something to do to keep busy.

We made the most out of the day. We visited the school he would be attending and met with a guidance counselor who set up his schedule for him and signed him up for the bus service that was run by a parent of a student in the upper grades at the high school next door. It turned out he was the spouse of the elementary school principal and they had adopted their son after their marriage some years ago. Both men were from our neighborhood we were told. Sam thought that was way cool. We then went to the Riding Center and met with Terry about the after school program and Sam was really excited about that. He would be dropped off here on the school bus and Terry or one of her staff would drop him off after their social hour or we could pick him up any time after whatever lessons he had that day. The fee was modest and I paid for the rest of the school year.

When we got home, there was still plenty of daylight so we saddled up and since there wasn't much snow left, we went for a ride on the paths between the fields and when we reached the back of the property I pointed out the lane that ran to the streets the Riding and the Swimming Centers were located at. I told him it was a walking path only so he couldn't ride his pony there and back and in this weather, it would be a really cold hike. He agreed and said someday in better weather he would like to walk it, I told him we would and we turned around to head back to the barn.

By the time Mark had arrived home, we had collected the mail and even were able to put dinner together. We made our own pizza on a pre-made crust I had found at the market. We all agreed it wasn't an Angelo's pizza, but it was darn good. On Friday Mark stayed home and I made an appearance at the office where Sheila told me what a nice boy Sam was and that there had already been 5 responses to our ads in the local college's publications and they were on break until after the first of the year. The applicants were midterm graduates, just as I had been and Sheila had vetted them all and thought they all deserved interviews. I asked her to set them up for next week, but please, not all in one day, and schedule Mark and me for interviewing them together.

The rest of the week went well and we split our time with indoor and outdoor activity as the weather indicated. On Saturday night, we all took a nap before dinner and we were able to sit up and watch the ball drop at midnight. We were all ready for bed after that and we tucked in Sam and then tucked into each other in our own bedroom to have our own New Year's rockin eve. Monday was another holiday day and everyone was up and ready in the morning Tuesday for work and school. Sam was a bit nervous, but he had met a few of the kids his own age at church the last two Sundays, and the day I took him to sign up for the after-school programs at Terry's. These were the kids he'd be riding the bus with both in the mornings and in the afternoons so he was mostly anxious about the school, but when we went to pick him up he was so happy and excited about his new school and that a lot of the kids he had met already were in his class.

I was happy that Sheila had scheduled no more than two a day as far as the interviews went and although there was one guy who turned out to be a real prick, the other four were great and we actually hired all four and they would all start the next week. We were hoping for six so Sheila kept our ad in the college papers for another two weeks. I didn't want to mention this but the one guy we didn't even spend 20 minutes with became quite combative when he noticed our matching rings on our left hands and had the gall to ask if we were "queer for each other". I didn't hesitate and told him, yes, we were, and just what business was it of his? I then went on a rant about how he was the one who had applied here and if he was the bigoted piece of shit he presented himself to be he had no place in our company, or anywhere where decent law abiding humans were present. Mark had called the tower security office and two officers came to escort the guy off the property, making note of his license plate and snapping some pictures of him as they escorted him to his car. It was funny, he didn't even ask for his parking ticket to be validated. Mark stewed for a while and began calling the other investment companies and the banks that offered those services to their customers and within an hour the guy's name was blackballed in the entire area.

Friday morning the office received a call in response to the ad and the guy was currently working at a bank in the investment and trust department. Sheila took the call and spoke with the guy and came back to me in my office to tell me about the caller. He was a few years older than I was and worked at the bank in Amherst my accounts were in. In fact, he was the investment counselor for my trust fund and he wanted more freedom in the investments he was allowed to make and felt stifled in the bank's conservative environment. She told me he would be here at four and be our last appointment for the week. All went well with this interview, and toward the end of it, he nodded at our hands on the table and asked us if we were married too, like he and his husband, as he held up his ringed left hand. Mark grinned at me and told Brian we were engaged and planned to marry soon, as we had a nine-year-old at home we were about to adopt and we wanted no questions about single men adopting a boy. Brian told us he and Todd wanted to do that also, but Todd was an unemployed teacher who had been outed at his last school and accused of molesting a boy, but had been cleared of any wrongdoing, but hadn't been able to find work since.

I asked Brian if Todd was a good horseman and I think he at first thought I was asking something inappropriate. However, he realized what I was talking about and told me that Todd had a cabinet at home full of the equestrian trophies he had earned since he was a kid and he still rode his own horse at home in Maine when they visited there, they currently lived in a small apartment in Amherst near the bank. I wrote down Terry's number and told Brian to have Todd give her a call, she was one of the owners of The Riding Center in Granby where we lived and she had just told me a few days ago she was looking for another instructor. He thanked me for it and I then thanked him, for I thought he was one of the bank employees who had earned me enough money to start this company with Mark who had been partners with the former partners we had bought out. Mark raised his eyebrow at me, I nodded, and he then offered Brian a position with our investment team, starting as soon as he could. Brian thanked us profusely and then said if we meant it he thought he could start at the end of the next week, so to prove it to him we asked Sheila to join us with a contract package and see to Brian being on the payroll starting next Friday. She arrived, they filled out the forms, the employment contract, shook hands, she told him to report to her next Friday morning at 8 am, and she'd get him settled. He turned to us and thanked us again and I told him to make sure Todd called Terry and he told me he'd call him right now and give him the number.

Terry called me that night and thanked me for giving Todd her number, she knew of him from the riding competition circuit and had hired him over the phone, he was going to start with her the next day. Saturday, as we were tending to our animals in the barn, Sam was telling us all about his school and that the bus driver and his principal were married and they sometimes kissed if they thought no one was looking. It was so cool. And he loved the riding lessons and the swimming class, and his teacher at the pool had a really tiny swimsuit and looked hotter than his idol, Steve Grand. He said there were about twenty in his classes and they had two teachers at the pool (the other one was OK, but he was old, about 30 he thought) and at the riding school they had about the same number of students but they had four teachers for their class. He was torn between both activities, but he thought he was learning a lot in both.

He told me his classes in school were going great, as his classes at his old school were just a chapter or two ahead so he knew what was expected in each class. However, as he collected his textbooks he was rereading what he had already had in his former classes and even reading a little ahead, but not too much, he said, he didn't want to be known as the class smarty-pants. He sounded a lot like me when I was that age.

Sunday at mass Terry told Mark and me that she had hired Todd full time and he would be one of the trainers used with the after school program class Sam was in. And she was currently looking for housing for both Brian and Todd, as they were going to have a hard time commuting to their jobs as the winter went on and their little apartment was not going to be available at the end of January as their lease was running out. In addition, the landlord had already told them it wouldn't be renewed, as there was structural damage to it that needed repairs and then the rent was going up to help defray the costs of the repairs which could take over a month to complete.        

Monday we got up and ready for work and school like we had been doing this for years and after seeing Sam off on the bus to school, Mark and I drove into the city and opened up the office with Sheila and her staff right behind us. About 10:30 am, Mark received a call from Mr. Martin who informed him that the incorporation papers were now all recorded properly and we were fully operational as a corporation. On another front, the adoption paperwork had been accepted by the family court and we were having a hearing before the presiding judge a week from today, and we had to appear as well as Sam. Mr. Martin would accompany us at the hearing and represent all three of us. Mark thought we should be married before the court hearing and I didn't care what kind of ceremony we had, just as long as we got married! We decided to have a civil ceremony with just us before a justice of the peace at town hall. We'd take Sam out of school for the day as we thought he should be there with us.

I mentioned this to Terry when we picked up Sam that afternoon after his class at the riding center and she asked if we had settled on a day for the marriage. We told her we thought Friday would be good for everyone, as Sheila from the office had indicated she and all the other employees wanted to be there. However, we didn't know how much room there was at town hall for a group of at least a dozen, but we would ask when we stopped on the way home today to get our marriage license. It was about a quarter of five and we had to get moving, so we signed Sam out and explained to him that we were taking him with us to get our marriage license, and that was why we were signing him out early. He was excited for he knew this was a step toward his getting adopted.

We arrived at the municipal complex just in time and we had our paperwork all filled out and our fee paid and license issued just on the dot of five. Sam hugged us and we thanked the patient clerk who had waited on us and she smiled and told us that Terry had called and warned her we were on the way. Sam asked if we could stop at the library as it was just down the road from the town hall, so we stopped and saw they were open until 6 so we went in and got Sam a library card. He told us that the uncle of a bunch of the kids on the bus and in all his classes ran the library and he said they told him about the great movies they had here to borrow so we went in the children's wing and sure enough, there were hundreds of movies for the children to check out. Sam picked out four he thought he'd like and when he went to check them out he was waited on by a man Terry and Helen had introduced us to in church, but we didn't know he ran the library, or that he was a son of Noah and Chris. Ben and Sam were discussing his selections and Sam felt even more confident in his selections.

Ben told him as he left the counter to be sure and bring his library card with him when he returned the movies next week; as he would need a new card when his name was changed. Sam looked up at him and Ben just said, "You know, after your adoption, you might want to have one of your new father's last name, like I did." Sam thanked him and ran over to us where we had been checking out the community bulletin board. He asked us what was going to be his new last name after the adoption. I told him we hadn't had time to discuss that yet, but we could discuss it over dinner at Angelo's if he wanted.

Sam told us he liked the way our names looked on the signs at our office so he wanted to be known by Samuel Downing Ducharme. He liked the way it sounded and he liked the way it looked. Who were we to argue with that?

When we got home after stuffing ourselves with Angelo's Veal Parm we took care of the animals in the barn and began to get ready for a couple of hours in front of the TV before bed. I was telling Mark about Brian and Todd and their rental situation when Mark asked what we were going to do with the bedroom off the hall from the kitchen. He said it was a really good-sized room, with its own bath and French doors out to a patio in back. I told him it could make a good temporary home for Brian and Todd and Sam agreed with me. Mark said he had Brian's number somewhere and he went to his briefcase and came back with the contact sheet Sheila had made up of all the employees we had contracts for, and since Brian was starting Friday he was included on the list. Mark put the house phone on speaker and he dialed their number. Brian answered and Mark first told him about our wedding on Friday, asking him to attend, even if it was his first day working for us, and to ask Todd if he might be able to get away from Terry's for the service as many of the staff were bringing someone with them. If he was able to get away, we'd like Todd and him to come by the house after to look at a space we might be able to let them use until they found something more permanent.

At our first staff meeting, that first full week of the new year, spreadsheets were handed out by our research team. They told us that the new companies that had been researched as investment possibilities had all had very good end of the year reports. They were already researching 20 other companies, some in the tech field and some new startups that looked promising so far. I was pleased that my instincts were right and new possibilities for further growth were out there and just waiting for the types of investment we could supply, and primarily that these types of investments could potentially offer big returns and be very profitable for our clients.

Later that Tuesday morning Terry called and said not to make any further arrangements for our wedding on Friday afternoon as she and Helen had taken it over and we were to direct anyone we had already invited to go to the private lane one down from the road where the Swim Center and the Riding Center were located and there; just inside the big iron gates they would see a small stone chapel, and that was where the ceremony would be performed by Noah Major's cousin, Father Peter who was visiting this week and had arranged to be able to do the service for us. I couldn't thank her enough, and she said that she and Helen had decided we were like brothers to them and they thought our day should be a bit more than just standing in the town hall in front of a stranger. Now we could stand in front of a stranger, but in a very pretty chapel and in front of God and declare our love in front of seated friends.

I ran next door to Mark's office after expressing my eternal gratitude to Terry and Helen. When I told him about what Helen and Terry had done, and set up for us, he hugged me and said it was just what we wanted, what we probably would have eventually done, getting married in the church, and this would allow us to exchange our own vows. We printed up a map and directions to the lane with the chapel and made enough copies for everyone in the office and passed them out. We put one in Brian's new mailbox so he'd have a copy too.

Helen met us at the riding class that Wednesday and took us three to the chapel where we were given our instructions for our own wedding ceremony, but they were well given, and gratefully received. Sam was given the jobs of ring bearer and as both of our best man. We would enter from each side and meet in the middle, entering as equals, with Sam waiting for us at the center of the altar with Father Peter. At that point, Father Peter had arrived and with him was a very distinguished looking gentleman, about Mark's age. He greeted everyone by name and shook Mark's and my hand, congratulating us on our upcoming nuptials and Helen introduced him as Noah Major.

He was a legend in town, having created the business and medical center just up the road and he developed and donated the entire government center and enticed the Massachusetts Museum of Art to open a branch on the site of the old government buildings at the town common, bringing millions into the town's coffers every year. He was married to the most successful and popular doctor in the entire area, Chris Sargent. They had built the Riding Center, the Swim Center and the Fitness Center all on the lower road from where we now were. He treated us as equals and we fell into an easy conversation while Father Peter and Sam were being put through their paces by Helen. Noah asked how we had come across Sam and we related our story and that our adoption hearing was this coming Monday and that was one of the reasons we had moved up our wedding, so we would both be able to adopt him as a couple, rather than having to do it individually as singles. He told us that he never regretted a one of his adoptions, but he warned us that it could become a lifelong hobby, rescuing children from their own misguided parents or from a life in the government system, but he couldn't think of anything more rewarding, as he and Chris were now grandfathers to over ten children.

With our impromptu rehearsal over and thanks, again all around we ventured home where Mark and Sam did the barn chores and I prepared a great meal of meatloaf and baked potatoes with, of course, green beans. Sam had a little homework to do, so after dinner we (Mark and I) went to the bedroom in the kitchen hallway and appraised its condition. As was the rest of the house, this room was impeccable and really larger than our master bedroom. There was a connecting door to the hall bathroom, a very large walk-in closet, and a fireplace in the sitting area at the far end of the room. We thought it would be suitable for a couple, at least until something better came along for them.

We then went down the hall to the big storage room and we went through the boxes against the back wall where we had found the paintings. Nothing very special there, just some older kitchen utensils and crockery, some boxes of old linen and bed sheets, several boxes of books and photo albums, until we uncovered a gem, a box full of pairs of Staffordshire dogs, probably once used to grace the mantles in the house, each pair individually wrapped. Even I knew these were quite collectible and possibly valuable, come to think about it the old kitchen utensils could be collectibles too, and I suppose those old embroidered linens could be classified as collectibles too. We decided to consult an estate agent to see about the value of the items in the storage room, and maybe an art appraiser for the artwork we had discovered. Mark said we should also have a security system installed, and we could take care of all that after our wedding and the adoption were done and done, so I made another reminder note in my phone for the next Tuesday.

Sam came down and asked if someone would check his homework for him and Mark asked what homework, and Sam told him it was geometry and history and Mark said he had lived through more history so he'd take that and I could have fun with the geometry. I made a face at him and he chuckled to himself as he and Sam went up to tackle the history portion. It's funny, I never thought about our age differences. I know it sounds strange, but I never looked at him and thought "old". I guessed I just found him so appealing and sexy that it never crossed my mind, nor did it make any difference he was more than twice my age.

When Mark had finished with Sam and his history homework, I went up and helped Sam as much as I could with the beginner's geometry he was working on. Thank god, it was the beginner's course, or I might have been sunk. I hated it in school and I guess I hate it now. We got through it and then Sam pointed to his phone on the charger on his bedside table and asked if he could call a friend from his class on my phone to double check the answers he had come up with on the homework. It was still early enough for that so I gave him the phone and asked him to bring it to me when he was done with it.

He came down about a half hour later with a very satisfied smile on his face saying that he did very well, then he snuggled in with us to watch the end of a show. With the show over, we trooped upstairs, and I thanked him for the safe return of my phone as I kissed his forehead while tucking him in and then Mark did the same and it was lights out for our near to be son.

Thursday we did some grocery shopping and we picked up the dry cleaning so we'd have clean suits for our ceremony. We were tempted to let Sam stay home with us, but he was going to miss school tomorrow so we spent a day by ourselves and took the quarter horses for a ride through the paths between the fields, holding hands when there was space for the horses to walk side by side. During lunch, I thought out loud about Mr. Martin and how could we not invite him to our ceremony, after all, we got engaged in his office. Mark said he hadn't thought about it either so we called and asked him to please make some time to spend with us at the chapel on the Sargent/Major property about 1 PM the next day, as we were getting married and wanted our lawyer present. He said he wouldn't miss it for the world.     

We went to pick up Sam a bit before five as this was a swim lesson day and Mark wanted to see the instructor with the tiny swimsuit. The college-aged instructor was indeed a hunk and we watched as he interacted with all the kids at the snack bar during their social hour. Most of the students were still there and Sam wanted to show us something he had just learned and he went to the low diving board and did a somersault low dive with hardly any splash at all. The instructor came and introduced himself, he was Jose and he was the son of Kevin, the school bus driver and Matt, the middle school principal and the boyfriend of Alexander, one of Ben Major's sons, the librarian. He told us that Sam was a natural on the diving board and he was going to try him on the higher two boards soon, but he wanted him to have a bit more experience in the pool first, maybe in a few weeks. He congratulated us on our big day tomorrow as he left us and we just figured Sam must have said something.

With all three of us home and without school or work to go to Mark made that eggy casserole for breakfast, as this was a very special day for us and after making sure our shirts were wrinkle free we relaxed for a bit, but when Sam mentioned lunch both Mark and I were a bit too nervous to eat so we had a couple of shortbread cookies still left over from Christmas and a small glass of milk each. Sam ate two big roast beef sandwiches and a pile of unsalted chips along with a big glass of milk, and then it was time to get "gussied up" as Mark liked to say.

We were inspecting each other down in the front hall later, just about to take off for the chapel, when the doorbell rang. Sam told me to answer it so I did, and there was my father, all dressed up in his suit and carrying a bunch of flowers in his hand. He greeted a stunned me with a hug and a cheek kiss and then he did the same to Mark and Sam. He told me he wouldn't miss this for the world and told me Sam had called the other night to fill him in, and since he could get away for the afternoon he wanted to be here for us. He pinched off the long stems and placed a flower in each of our lapel holes. He said he thought they were appropriate and Sam asked why and Dad told him they were called" bachelor buttons". He told us Sam had explained how everything was going to work, he was going to ride with us and then get himself a ringside seat (no pun intended, that's what he said!).

We arrived at the chapel to find some cars already there, and there was also a big marquee off to the side of the chapel, with tables and chairs and people working in there, setting place settings, and making up a buffet table. Sam said he had to go meet Father Peter and gave all of us a hug and took off. Dad walked up the few stairs to the chapel after doing the same, going in to find a good seat. Mark and I hugged and kissed and then each of us went to a side door on either side of the front of the chapel, ready to make our walk across the front to each other when we heard the music start. It was supposed to be a recording of Ed Sheerin singing "Marry Me" but what I heard sounded like a live performance inside as people were coming in and finding a seat. The song was being sung so well that I almost missed the beginning of the last line but I heard the crowd (crowd?) standing. So I figured Mark had opened his door so I opened mine and caught his eyes as he saw mine. We then slowly walked toward Sam (who looked so grown up!) and Father Peter, never noticing that the entire chapel was full, and people were standing in the rear, until we met in the middle and Sam pointed out to the pews and Mark and I saw the crowd.

I was nervous enough, but Sam came and stood between us as Father Peter blessed the three of us and began a short wedding mass. It was all over in an hour and we three were walking down the aisle, many of the crowd clapping and wishing us well as we walked to "At Last", an Etta James classic, but sung by an unknown voice. We learned later that Noah's brother Sean and his sister Linda were doing the singing. I was surprised there hadn't been a song by Steve Grand but when we were finally able to be led to the marquee we were shocked to find the whole set up was for us. Helen, Terry, and Noah, with Sam's help, had arranged everything for a late lunch for our employees, the riding instructors, the swimming instructors, our lawyer, my dad, and everyone at home at the two lanes the Sargent/Major clan lived on, many of them the parents of the children Sam went to school with. The song played as Mark and I walked in holding hands was Steve Grand's "Stay" and more than half the room was singing along with the recording the DJ was playing.

Once we got inside Sam arranged us three with Dad in a receiving line and he greeted all our staff at the office by name with the exception of the five new ones and he went nuts when he was introduced to Brian and Todd. Apparently, Todd was a dead ringer for Steve Grand and Sam was thrilled to meet him, knowing he might be living under our roof for a while(with Brian, his spouse, we had to remind him). Dad was pleased to meet everyone, but as it got closer to four he had to leave and we understood that as the day got older, Yolanda got drunker and he should be home to tend to her. He gave us another envelope, as he left and there was another large check in it, "for your wedding" he had written in the memo space.      

We visited with everyone and Sam delighted in introducing his new Dads to his schoolmates and their parents. We had the adoption to look forward to right after the weekend.

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