I attended a wedding over the long weekend. Like many others, this wedding had its trappings both traditional and unique. What was special for me as a spectator, was that it was the first wedding I’ve attended since my own.
Mine was years ago, and like a fairy tale; it was far more beautiful than I could have dreamed as a little girl. We were married in a very old church on a bluff overlooking miles of rolling vineyards and lakes. With no electricity or running water, and constructed of entirely imported stone, there were arches and parapets and wrought iron gates over elegantly cascading stone steps in this church, all perched unexpectedly amid the amply-tufted trees, trembling in an almost secretly celebratory, vibrating way, in the rippling breezes atop the bluff. I will never forget the look on his face when he saw me, in my dress, in the doorway: his face reddening, his jaw tight. His eyes almost lighting the room. How I loved him! How full my soul was in those moments!
He died three months later. Our wedding photos arrived just before the funeral. In my state of… whatever it was… I guess weddings and traumatic death got fused in my neurons. I’ve had trouble with weddings ever since.
I could not help but revisit this torrent of memories while I stood at the edge of another lake this past weekend, watching the setting sun make radiant the drops of fresh rain everywhere, and glistening in the tears on the bride and groom’s faces. It had rained at my wedding too. I wanted to tell them that it was good luck, but what if they remembered my wedding, and it made them feel unsettled? Should I address the elephant in the room, or was I the only one who saw it there on that day?
I did great for most of the night. I made pleasant conversation with strangers, remembered to listen well and ask about details, think quickly to find related things to discuss when we began to grow uncomfortably quiet. I walked around and chatted with the families (whom I adore so deeply), ate my meal, took quiet, calm breaths. Smiled. Then someone pulled my partner and I onto the dance floor just as a song was ending, and “At Last” began. This stupid wedding cliché of a song was apparently the key to Pandora’s box. Although I was not crying, tears were spilling all over my face. My partner pulled me outside. We talked. My partner, just by being himself, reminded me how much I love and appreciate him. Others joined us, others who walked The Camino with me and knew me well, and knew me before my partner knew me. Things were said like how far she’s come, and what a dark place she was in. Other things like, now you have this beautiful baby, and this man who adores you came up as well. I felt like the idiot drama queen who makes every high school dance all about her. I smiled and nodded enthusiastically but the tears just kept streaming. I wiped off all of my carefully applied make-up, as I hastily caught the tears running across my cheeks, lips, chin and chest. Somehow I smeared mascara up over one eyebrow. We decided to thank the family and say our goodnights.
Naturally, after we arrived at the hotel I came down with a puke bug and spent the next six hours miserably failing to contain my business, like some terrifying salad-shooter scene gone horribly wrong. And the garbage cans at the hotel were wicker…
(No, really, it was a bug. I know it was, because two days later my partner was reenacting his own interpretation of the scene.)
And then we got a video text that our baby had taken those iconic first steps while we were away from him for the first time ever.
As the haze was clearing, it seemed that, just as before – just as always – life in all its beautiful, horrific and miraculous ways, was simply marching on. Literally so, for our baby. Forward we will go. At least the first of this kind of milestone is finally under the belt now, and it passed with folks who are like family, and sincere and real and open kinds of people, who very likely were not judgmental about my total meltdown.
In fact, it’s really rather fitting that my companions from The Camino and I walked this part of the journey together. My dear, dear friend has added one of us to The Way, (and erstwhile gave me some exposure therapy) while we celebrate the two of them joining their journeys awhile. I hope it lasts forever. I hope they never, ever understand what I will always be going through. I hope the bends in their road are as beautiful as they are surprising, and I hope that the darkest part of their nights are filled with a billion guiding stars.