O Pandemic Wedding, O Happy Day

(This piece was debuted at Whiskey & Words, Madison, Wisconsin, October 21, 2021 for The Madison Reading Project)

As one could expect in times of change, there was a strong wind.

And oh, how it blew.

This story is personal.

This story may be entitled.

But it is mine.

It isn’t just that it was a wedding.

Or a wedding in blue.

And outdoors, at a park.

By a pond.

With seriously menacing geese.

It was an August wedding. A wedding in a pandemic.

The storm is coming.

This is our life now.

He asked me at the beginning, her husband.

Should we tell people we are engaged?

Should we tell?

Yes, yes, tell the family, I told him.

The winter has been hard.

People have been low, isolated.

This happy news, I say, will bring them joy.

People need joy. Spread the joy.

For joy is resilience, I said.

And so they told.

And joy did spread.

Like raspberry jam.

We were sticky with it, the joy.

And so it begins in the story that was our life.

A boulder, it is said, once released to go down the hill it will move faster and faster and faster. And it did.

All at once, it seemed, this one needed a suit. A dress. Another kind of dress. A pair of blue shoes, a pair of rain boots thrown into the car. For good measure.

A tent, a tent floor. Lights.

Goody bags for guests — and masks to put inside.

And COVID tests — but no, perhaps not.

But local pretzels and chocolates — and local — hand sanitizer.

In the comedy that no one will write the bride’s father — on the morning of the wedding say to his wife: “my throat is scratchy. I am running to Walgreens to pick up some quick COVID tests. Should I get a bunch to hand out to the guests?”

In the comedy that no one will write, the wife thinks: “Gee willikers! Is this our life?” But out loud she says, (in the comedy that no one will write) “No you cannot stick that thing in your nose to test for COVID in the kitchen – in front of the bride – and the makeup artist. And God. And everyone.”

And in the comedy that no one will write the studio audience will laugh and begin to clap.

That may or may not have actually happened.

My mother-in-law had once told me that at life cycle events everyone is always on their worst behavior.

But I never dreamed that the one with the worst behavior would be me.

From the get-go – a little more than four months before the wedding the bride told us – everything has to be blue.

Blue dresses, blue flowers, blue shoes.

Blue skies.

Yes — there are urban legends about how many dresses and shoes had to be purchased online and returned until I found just the right ones. There have been epics written by my UPS man and all manner of snacks I had left out for him, beseechingly – yes, sorry – one more pickup.

And thanks.

And next time should I leave you a bottle of wine? Some Cryto? Weed?

The changes that happened in that time were a microcosm of everything happening in our world. Everyone was starting to act like they had been shot out of cannons. Their arms in the air, running for the surf – “I’m out! I’m free!”

Like a blue bird under a blue moon.

Something rare was happening.

But storm was coming.

The wind told us of change.

The changes happened slowly – and then abruptly.

O pandemic wedding. O happy day.

If we were masked it would be a masquerade. But we were vaxxed – it was a vasquerade. I was watchful. Contained.

Aware of the wind and the light and the joy but watchful for loose napkins.

And virus flying about.

Waiting for the flying monkeys to arrive.

With their darkness.

Even in our joy there was brokenness. There always is.

We have to bring that brokenness along with us.

We are beautiful even in our darkness.

I did not join the conga line after dinner.

But I watched.

For days afterwards I wanted to make sure everyone was feeling well.

Blue skies, blue shoes, blue dress, blue guilt.

In heaven there was a battle.

A promise.

One angel, beseechingly – sky daddy – oh sky daddy – hold the rain.

Hold it a little longer.

There is illness and there is loss.

But for one day, one moment.

Five hours – let there be joy.

Oh joy – respite from worry.

Like a crow. Watchful.

Severe storms were predicted. They were named thunder and lightning and separation. We had been told of a shelter nearby. And we had thirty umbrellas. And sake.

the wind blew – oh how it blew.

And our skirts flew about.

And our hair.

And our promises.

The bride reached for my hand.

But the skies held.

O capricious day. O wedding day.

Somehow in times in our lives when we feel less in control, in times of uncertainty, a wedding is a bridge.

A bridge that carries us between two lives — from the land of anxiety & loss to the land of uncertainty. But a bridge is a bridge. A bridge is solid. Or rickety. But it promises a second place on which to land.

With a bridge there is a promise that we can and will move forward.

Planning such an event is a way to fool ourselves into believing that we actually have any control at all – over anything. Because of this, each piece feels significant. We step on the stones that will take us into our future – they are named prosecco, garlic potatoes, sugared almonds, blue shoes. Bubbles to send off the bride and groom into their life together. A satin catapult projecting them into their future.

We were finding joy where we could. On an August afternoon.

In the comedy that no one will write the bartender approaches me and tells me that she has never seen such a happy wedding. She has never even seen a conga line at a wedding, she says. How is that even possible, I think?

While the world is in flux we sing a song of hope. Hard times call for serious dancing. The joy is in the singing, the dancing. And in the blue.

As the sun sets on the lagoon the garlic potatoes have been eaten. The cake has been cut.

There is laughter and still a conga line.

And the wind has finally died down.

And just as quickly as the day has begun – as the boulder has rolled down the hill it is dark.

And the lights are shining – in the tent.

In their eyes.

And we have crossed over the bridge.

Into our new lives.

In the comedy that no one will write the audience stands and applauds. In the dim light the parents clasp hands and take a bow.

Because even comedies end.

They wipe their eyes.

Loading the now-wilting flowers into the car.

They drive home.

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