Jason and Suzanne planned a perfect wedding weekend and, although sometimes things don’t go as we envisioned, I have to assume this weekend — the people, the place, the weather, the general oozing-huggy-happy-to-be-part-of-this-love euphoria that we all experienced in their presence — did make their dreams come true. I hope so, because it sure was amazing for the rest of us.
Their weekend, however, didn’t make me think about marriage so much as it made me wonder why we don’t do this more often: gather and stay put for awhile. Not just for the feast. Or for the ritual. Those days we spend setting up tables, checking to see if we have enough chairs, ferrying food back and forth from my mother’s kitchen to my sister’s. Why don’t we also come together with enough time to do what we did as part of this memorable celebration?
For example, why don’t I play volleyball with my great nieces and nephews more often? Sometimes, they can even get a volley going!! Sure, they use their feet (Turns out, Erika has some formidable soccer muscles). They catch the ball and throw it back (Evan says it’s because he confuses this game with football practice. Megan just likes to control the scene), but we’re not exactly keeping score. We’re barefoot in the sand, calling out to each other. Some of them are young enough to have those grins full of randomly sized teeth (like Emma who leaves the court every once in awhile in search of toads, and Chad who is making progress with his serve). Others are old enough so that their voices crack every once in a while or they surprise me with some real physical power (Austin who didn’t like being on the losing side, especially when the winning side was me, Dave, who’s had several reconstructive surgeries, and the mother of the groom in a dress and sparkly flip flops). When we gather for Thanksgiving, the kids have their own table. At Easter, they’re outside hunting eggs. But on Saturday, we had the volleyball court to ourselves.
Shouldn’t we carve out time for regular rounds of cornhole? My nephew Brett is sweet and quiet — and a menace with a bean bag. My sister Babs (whose generosity inspires her to send cards for every occasion to every person in our family. We don’t have a family tree; we have a forest.) will not take pity on you just because you’re niece is marrying into our family and you’re assuming this is just a warm and fuzzy get to know you kind of game. For some reason, Christmas Eve doesn’t bring out the same competitive edge in people.
I’ve walked with my sister Patty before. Mornings in Westerly, we trace our favorite route through the cemetery. But the morning’s walk this time included her son Carl and his date, my brother-in-law Bill and his daughter Heather who’d already run a few miles, and the groom’s sisters Mariann and Amy-Jo. Seeing wildlife was out of the question. We made way too much noise, but my daily walks through my own neighborhood now seem a lot less cheerful.
And then of course, there’s the dancing. My mother is so busy making 7? 9? 15? different kinds of fish on Christmas Eve, there is no way we can wheel her out into the center of the floor and dance the tarantella around her. It also struck me how long it has been since I’ve seen my own children dance. Rainy Saturdays in our den before they started school most likely. My nephew Jay leads a mean conga line. I still like to slow dance with my husband! The bride can swing dance despite her train! How would I ever have known that if not for the dj, the dancefloor, the time? A bonus: once everyone gets dancing, selfies also get more fun. Before Saturday, the last picture I had of my cousin Rob and me together was when we were teenagers standing beside a cow that was about to be auctioned off in North Carolina.
Our days wound down around a roaring campfire. Before they retired to a giant conference room with enough air mattresses to transform it into an indoor trampoline space, the kids played manhunt and roasted marshmallows, the adults — well, let’s just say they had their own form of dessert. Beside my own loved ones were members of Suzanne’s family to whom we all felt a real kinship. Not only were they nice people and good sports, they had some role in raising the newest member of our own family, someone we are thrilled to formally welcome into the group.
We’ll remember this wedding for many reasons, but whatever wedding presents Jason and Suzanne received, they could not equal the one they gave to us: time to be together.