Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Wedding

We greeted each other with unspoken, almost unbelieving, relief. The scene bathed in the sensation of deja vu. BC (before Covid) deja vu.  

As we had driven up to the venue, we were first stopped, our temperature taken, questions we had become all too familiar with, posed. We had to submit proof of having been fully vaccinated before permission was granted to proceed. We were given strict instructions of when and where we were allowed to facially disrobe. There were those walking these grounds who would gently remind us to comply.

It was a moment of birth and rebirth. The celebration of the union of two people and a simultaneous reunion of almost 150, none of whom, in the midst of the worst storm of our lives, could have ever anticipated we would be able to spend the first day of May, 2021 gathered like this.  

It is hard to even contemplate that number without mentally trembling. The past year having scarred all of us so. Having taught us to fear the very thought of mass assembly.

The ceremony took place embraced by the warm hands of the late afternoon sun, with immaculate blue sky, surrounded by massive rolling hills of green, the wind which had howled so fiercely having gently laid down its sword.

As I took my seat, I looked for familiar faces, at least as much of those faces that were not hidden. I wondered if my broad smile could somehow be seen, or at least felt, by those whose eyes I was able to capture with my gaze.

The chairs were arranged in rows, social distancing not mandated for this part of the day. Still, even with this sudden reintroduction to "normal", even as we all shared an immunity, or at least as much as these vaccines afforded us, there was a lingering sense, a hint of a warning, to be careful. It is just part of my DNA now.

When was the last event you attended where, upon entry, you were offered face masks with the initials of the bride and groom? Throughout this crowd, those who had not dressed with masks to coordinate with their outfits donned these identical attire. 

I don't remember my first words of reintroduction to my friend who I  walked over to greet. It is strange, because I would have thought that would be seared in my brain. I think the collective, universal struggle was an unspoken given. Within seconds, conversation took on a familiar pattern. We talked of where we had ridden out the storm, what contact we had been able to have with our children, with our grandchildren. If there was one overriding theme in our words throughout this evening, it was of how grateful those of us were who had been able to be around family, to watch our grandchildren in the intimate hours, days and months that permitted us this strange luxury of enormous amounts of time with those we loved the most.

We were assigned pods for the evening, a group of eight with whom we were to share our table for the duration of this event. Dinner served in a very open air tent.

And while there was clearly an overlay of the surreal, so much of what unfolded over the next few hours was  remarkably ordinary. The ceremony itself short and touching, with no mention of the enormous good fortune that permitted us to be there. The speeches over the course of the night echoed in tone all that was familiar in other similar settings BC. At our table, the same bad jokes still wafting through the air, the same considerations about the food as we had discussed a lifetime ago before the world caught fire. The same contemplations of the hour as the meal ended, some among us considering when, politely, they could say good night.

Masks were off at the dinner table, in myriad meaning. And, if you didn't know better, if you hadn't just lived through a year in Hell, you might find that nothing about this scene struck you as anything extraordinary. Just a typical, if glorious, passage of time.

There was though one final reminder that we were emerging from a wholly different universe. In the dancing, when we were to unleash all we had bottled up for a seeming eternity, each pod was assigned its own small rectangular space in which to gyrate. Markings on the floor delineating the outside limits of your individual contortions. By this point in the night, this was only honored in theory, not execution, as the sense of collective safety seemed the overriding sentiment. 

As we said our goodbyes to our hosts and headed to our cars and the different reality that awaited, I focused on just what it meant to have the privilege to enjoy an evening that had forever seemed our inherited right. Our erroneous assumption that life's terrible tragedies would fall outside our bubble. That we had taken so much for granted, that we had believed ourselves protected, shielded from the miseries and traumas that somehow we perceived belonged only to someone else, somewhere else.

I am so grateful for the gift of the ordinary. For the beauty of everyday existence. For the return of a smile no longer hidden behind a wall of our pain. For a time when everything old is suddenly new again. For life.


Anonymous said...

Truly the meaning of "how sweet it is


Anonymous said...

Sounds beautiful. So nice it was outside.


Michael Gansl said...

It's indeed great to get back to a more normal world, although it is still a bit weird to only dance with your pod mates in a prescribed section of the dance floor!