A Meeting of Spirits
Sister Alma Rose and I flew (on an airplane) to a wedding last week. Sister Alma Rose said it was okay for me to write about it as long as I didn’t use people’s real names. I don’t know why; it wasn’t like it was supposed to be a SECRET or anything. I mean, they sent out scores of wedding invitations, and the invitations didn’t say, “You’re invited to a wedding, here’s the place, here’s the time, but we can’t tell you who the bride and groom are. It will be a SURPRISE!”
Sister Alma Rose, however, usually has a good reason for saying what she says and doing what she does, so I will use pseudonyms for everyone as she requested.
The groom, “Lance” (not his real name), is Sister Alma Rose’s godson. Lance and his bride, “Alexandra,” had lived together for four years with their beautiful son, “Rex.” Sister Alma Rose did not understand why they waited so long to get married — Sister Alma Rose is a big fan of marriage, plus she absolutely adores Alexandra, as evidenced by paying her the highest possible compliment of allowing her (Alexandra) to marry her (Sister Alma Rose’s) godson — but anyway, Lance said that now they can put a big tattoo on Rex’s forehead that says LEGITIMATE. That Lance, he is such a jokester.
Lance and Alexandra had a secular wedding. Sister Alma Rose doesn’t know the meaning of secular. She considers practically everything to be sacred — picking your nose, cleaning the oven, whatever — and she told me that when two people pay thousands of dollars to make a commitment in the presence of their friends and families to become married, and, with their son and any subsequent children, to be a family… and then immediately celebrate that union by eating dolled-up chicken breasts and sweet little salads with pansy petals in them, drinking inordinate amounts of wine, and dancing endlessly to music played by a cornball deejay who made sly, unfunny witticisms about “the wedding night,” and so forth… there is no way that that ceremony and that celebration are not sacred.
But, Sister Alma Rose goes on to say, every true friendship, sometimes even a chance encounter, can be “a meeting of spirits” and therefore sacred.
In any event, the marriage took place in a lovely garden and the reception was in the adjacent ballroom. I guess a lot of people get married there, because there were two efficient “wedding planners” at the rehearsal, which was the night before the wedding, and the wedding planners were telling everybody when to walk down the aisle and where to sit, and nobody was paying attention because everyone had temporarily reverted to seventh grade, and we all assumed that something would go wrong anyway, which, if it doesn’t, it’s not a real wedding and there’s nothing to talk about for years and years afterward, and besides, there was going to be a lavish party involving lots of food, beer, and wine immediately after the rehearsal, so let’s get this over with, was the prevailing attitude.
The lavish party was at Lance’s “Aunt Amelia” and “Uncle César’s” lavish house, about which I remember nothing except that it was lavish and there seemed to be a lot of gorgeous marble everywhere. The reason I don’t remember much about the house is that it was so full of happy people, each one kinder and more gracious than the next, which was a miracle in and of itself, because in a gathering of that type you can expect an assortment of ex-spouses and current spouses and significant others and “blended families” and so forth. But everyone seemed to have left his or her baggage at the door, because, as Sister Alma Rose said, (1) no one wanted to mar the occasion for Lance and Alexandra, (2) all the current and former couples are, for the most part, mature adults (except on solemn occasions like weddings and funerals) and get along pretty well anyway, and (3) the bride and groom and the hosts set the tone for the party, the tone being, as Sister Alma Rose put it, “generosity of spirit.” The hosts were Lance’s dad, “Ken,” and Ken’s wife, Tomoko (and that IS her real name because I can’t think of any other Japanese women’s names at the moment), Lance’s “Aunt Savannah” and “Uncle George,” and, of course, Aunt Amelia and Uncle César.
After the party, the glowing bride-to-be and her friend “Christine” took Christine’s daughter, “Claire,” and Rex to the hotel where they had a room. Claire’s dad is Lance’s brother, “Max,” who stayed at Lance and Alexandra’s house with his sweetie, “Justine,” and their one-year-old son, “little Max.” Are you following along here? Sister Alma Rose and I stayed there, too, along with several other delightful people, and it was just… well, delightful. Even the day of the wedding was pretty relaxed, until everyone realized how late it had gotten and all dove for the shower at once because we were supposed to be at the wedding place by 4:30 for “pictures,” which, of course, took ages and consisted mostly of waiting and trying to not sweat.
Lance’s mom’s name is “Peggy” (not really). For the actual wedding, Lance escorted her to the front row to sit next to Ken and Tomoko. Then Lance went and stood at the “altar,” so to speak, so handsome and grown up in his pinstripe suit, and Peggy broke into heaving sobs, and of course, although Peggy and Ken have a cordial relationship for two people who used to be married and haven’t seen each other for ten years, she couldn’t very well bury her face in Ken’s shoulder. Sister Alma Rose was about to go up and sit next to Peggy (“Every groom’s mom needs a shoulder to sob on,” she whispered to me) when there was a pleasant distraction.
Lance’s irrepressible best man, “Tom,” entered with Alexandra’s sister “Jeanne” on his arm, and Tom is such a goof, and I mean that in the nicest possible way because I adore Tom, that he had talked Jeanne into walking down the aisle in that kind of step-touch, step-touch way of walking that I don’t think anybody does any more, not even in church processionals or at graduations, so Tom and Jeanne cracked everybody up and Peggy stopped sobbing.
She got a little weepy again when her grandchildren Rex and Claire, both age 4, ringbearer and flower girl respectively, ambled down the aisle. Claire apparently forgot that she was supposed to be scattering flower petals until she got to the front, so she just sort of poured them into a little pile by Peggy’s feet and went over to sit with her mom.
The officiant — I guess that’s what you call the person who performs the marriage ceremony if he or she is not a minister — was wearing a toupee, which was not very well affixed, and it sort of slid precariously around on his head, looking like a wandering tribe of spiders, and Sister Alma Rose and I got the giggles, and the officiant talked on and on about nothing, which, if it’s not a religious ceremony, what is there to talk about anyway? And we’d think he was just about done secularly sermonizing, and he’d take a deep breath and go off in another direction, and he kept stuttering, and I thought that Sister Alma Rose was going to cause herself grievous bodily harm, she was trying so hard not to laugh out loud, but she just coughed a lot instead, as though she were trying to dislodge an entire yam from her throat.
AT LONG LAST, when the officiant asked Lance the usual wedding questions, such as, do you, Lance, take Alexandra, blah, blah, Lance answered, “ABSOLUTELY,” in no uncertain terms. Alexandra gave the more conventional “I DO,” but just as loudly, so that nobody present, or within a radius of three blocks, was left in doubt of their commitment, which was sealed with a very lavish kiss.
But the best was yet to come — the dinner, the champagne toasts, the wedding cake, and the dancing. Even though the deejay was a complete dweeb, as I have said, he was really into being a deejay, and at one point all the dancing stopped and the deejay, along with Alexandra’s other sister, “Felicia,” and the three groomsmen, did this choreographed skit to music from the movie Grease, completely unrehearsed and very silly and fun.
Emotional boot camp
Sister Alma Rose mostly talked to Peggy, who was still in shock brought on by seeing both of her sons in pinstripe suits.
“For ten years,” Peggy said with a sigh, “I had a sweet-natured daughter and wondered what all the fuss was about when it came to parenting. Then I had Max, and eighteen months later I had Lance, and the very first time I put Lance into his playpen, Max dropped one of those big Tonka dump trucks onto Lance’s head, and I should have seen it as a harbinger [except she pronounced it “hairbringer”] of things to come [which is, of course, redundant]. When the boys were teenagers and the phone rang in the middle of the night and I picked it up and a voice said, ‘Is this Mrs. Jones?’ [not her real last name], I would say, ‘That depends,’ or, ‘Who wants to know?’ I spent so much time in courtrooms and principals’ offices and teacher conferences that I bought a couple of modest Amish-looking dark-colored dresses with white Peter Pan collars and referred to them as my ‘mother-of-the-felon’ wardrobe.
“Raising children,” Peggy told Sister Alma Rose, “is like emotional boot camp. I don’t think that most people, before they become parents, have any idea how far they can stretch without breaking… or that, if they DO break, God puts the pieces back together.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, though,” Peggy said wistfully, “being a mom is the best, and I’d gladly do it all again, except without Tonka trucks.”
We took an early-morning flight home, and Sister Alma Rose was so tired that she fell asleep several times right there in her seat on the plane and woke herself up saying something that related to whatever she was dreaming about while she slept. The first time, she said, loudly, “It’s TEN dollars, not THIRTY dollars,” and the second time, she sat up very straight and announced, “I am NEVER going to go into REAL estate.”
Now we are home, and I am missing Lance and Alexandra and Rex a whole lot, and so I went outside and made a big chalk arrow on the sidewalk and then under it I wrote, “This way to Lance and Alexandra and Rex’s house,” and for now it’s enough just to know that we’re all on the same planet.