He was a bundle of excitement and energy – a high-pitched voice that we constantly mocked, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!!!” over and over until he got eye contact and full-faced attention. Extra smart and outspoken, Jesse always started the school year enthusiastically. About the third week of school I would invariably get a call from the teacher.
“Can we have a little talk about Jesse?”
They either loved him or he drove them crazy.
I loved him. My sweet little bundle of baby boy was as honest as daybreak and as out there as the sunset, showing off every color, every shade, every nuance until his head hit the pillow at night with a thunk. Out. He drove his sister crazy. They shared a room and every night Molly would pray, “Please don’t let Jesse wake me up.”
I got divorced when he was two. So then began the round of split weekends, every other weekend with a dad that lasted until he was 18 years-old.
Junior High held some rough years and my second husband, Mike, was a God-send. They really liked each other and things smoothed over a bit. And actually it worked both ways. When Jesse was acting out and angry at the world, he committed his heart to Jesus Christ and learned self-control and surrender. Mike was completely impressed.
“Jesse showed me Jesus,” Mike said. “He showed me how to put my faith in God.”
The God in him stuck. In high school he passed out Christian pamphlets in Downtown San Diego. At UC Berkeley he joined a Christian fraternity, but worked in the summer at the local Ashram, asking his questions. He got a great high-paying job after college, but quit after six months, seeking something to satisfy his soul.
Jesse spent a year at a School of Evangelism – always questioning, not secure that he was hearing the voice of God, then following Jesus to a Mega-church conference in Atlanta for work. Just after Mike died, disillusioned with that sub-culture, he moved to the English Avenue neighborhood, with daily drug deals, boarded houses and families in need of love and light. He had 3,000 Facebook friends, girls who adored him, but he didn’t respond. He was on a mission.
So when Annabelle started showing up on his Facebook timeline when he was about 35 years-old, I didn’t think that much about it. Then he brought her to San Diego for Christmas.
The family fell immediately in love. In walked a tall, stunning, articulate, faith-filled woman who had a quirky side and great sense of humor. And beautiful, great style, with a passion for the English Avenue neighborhood. They could not have been a better fit. Before they left, I pulled him into my bedroom.
“Here, take my diamond ring. If you’re smart, you’ll give it to her and cherish her rest of your life. She is a gift to you,” I said.
It was still a few months until the perfect proposal was worked out and the ring was hers. Both sets of parents were anxiously praying until we got the word – a wedding in October!
Being the Mother of the Groom is a different ballgame. Especially at a distance. I planned a rehearsal dinner in a city I’ve never seen, with people I’ve never met, while the kids wanted it outdoors and catered by Chipotle. Some of the family was coming from England – would they even like Mexican food? I hurled myself into gear, sending boxes of candles, borrowing 10 serape tablecloths, shipping those white Mexican wedding banners and twinkle lights across the nation, along with lanterns, bowls and a box of colorful maracas to let the guests take home. We sat around under the lights, the children at the fire pit making s’mores, and heard the story of Jesse and Annabelle’s romance from a number of perspectives. Indeed, it seemed that heaven came down.
The wedding itself reflected their values. A beautiful, historic venue. Guests as diverse and supportive as could possibly be. The couple washed each other’s feet, prayed over their future and danced ‘til they dropped – all sweetened by apple and peach pie.
My little boy had somehow become an entrepreneur, a leader in his community, a husband, and a Godly man. I still hear echoes of the “Mom, Mom, Mom!” and know that it won’t be too long before they have their own bundles of love piercing their ear drums on a sweet front porch overlooking the neighborhood where they are changing lives in Atlanta.