Mary Lou Sanelli
Mary Lou Sanelli

can always tell when my husband is thinking about his work. He gets this look, this focused look, before an added measure of silence travels through the walls of our home — or in this case, our hatchback — to reveal that the man is now as far away as a nearby person can be.

So, naturally, he doesn’t respond when I mention the dark clouds forming over Naches in eastern Washington, the town where we are headed to celebrate our friend Jenn’s wedding. It worries me to look at those clouds, so I look down. My thoughts revert to the bride.

It was me who introduced Jenn to her first husband, a man who turned out to be a real piece of work, as the saying goes. Just remembering how much tension there was in that marriage can still send a stab of guilt straight to my stomach. Photographs from that time show Jenn smiling, always smiling, determined to believe that everything would be alright.

And if life were literature, it might have been. After their last fight, he might have walked out to the family SUV, sat there for a while listening to the Seahawks game, and then walked back into the house to make up. My husband would do that.

Instead, Real Piece Of Work flew to Chicago to live with his mother and never once paid child support for the three kids he left behind.

So, no, everything was not alright. It wasn’t alright more than any other not-alright marriage I’ve ever known. It made me realize that once you’ve lost respect for one another, you are never going to get it back, no matter how badly you want it back.

Looking back, I remember thinking that because they were instantly attracted to each other, they’d make a great couple if for no other reason than I’ve always wanted life to be more romantic, more charmed; so why wouldn’t mutual attraction bring them all the good things we see in movies and read about in books?

Probably why my dad says I watch too many movies and read too many books.

Of course, there are plenty of stories written about disastrous attractions, too, but we still wanted to tamp down, if not extinguish, the thought of a failed marriage. Despite the statistics, despite the ever-widening social acceptance; in the minds of most of us, there is still little so sad, so grim, so agonizingly stressful as love that has failed.

But Jenn has been doing fine. Not with a lot of extra at the end of the month, but fine. And now, she is reaching again. Reaching for trust, for stability, for a man she says is “a good one this time.” She is brave.

Braver still to plan an outdoor wedding.

We hit rain. First it spat at the windshield, then silvery drops jump off the roof. How could this happen? After months of intense heat and wildfires burning?

They say a rainy wedding is good luck, but, honestly, everyone’s wedding enthusiasm was deflating fast. So the wine flowed faster and faster, until it reached a few of us at the speed of thinking, hey, it’s only rain, let’s dance!

I took only one photo of the bride and groom. No photo can pin down the joy of the moment we wind up missing because we are too busy taking photos. I’m sorry, but the whole non-stop-photo-sharing that is beginning to pass for culture, well, when it comes to this constant bombardment of images, the entire iPhone-owning human race (other than me) is wrong.     

Over by the pie table, (Jenn’s weakness is pie, not cake), the conspiracy theorist among us said something about how “they will try to take away our guns next,” so I foolishly quoted the numbers I’d read — there are instances when everything around you grows suddenly shaded and still, and reading these numbers was one of them — that over the last year we have experienced the biggest rise in murder since the start of national record-keeping in 1960. “In King County alone, 73 people have been fatally shot, another 283 injured.”

Facts are my weakness.

Nah, she didn’t care.

So I reminded myself: Stop it. This is a wedding!

“You know what? I’m headed back to the mud.”

Which sounds, I know, like an exaggerated thing to say about a dance floor, but in this case it was literally true.

Because dancing always makes me feel good and it makes me laugh. And I need that. We all need that. We’ve had enough of the other. Sickness and fear have deflated our most everyday actions.

Because we have come to Naches to be the best possibility a celebration holds.

Because Jenn is in love.

Because I had nothing to do with it this time.


Mary Lou Sanelli works as a writer, speaker and dance teacher. Her latest title, Every Little Thing, was nominated for a Pacific Northwest Book Award and is available at Magnolia's Bookstore, Queen Anne Book Company and  Elliott Bay Book Company.

She'll be signing copies from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Artwalk Thursday at White Heron Cellars in Pike Market. For more information, visit