Caution

First was the wedding of my oldest brother’s widow, days after I closed on the small office building that housed our two businesses for more than 25 years, a windfall that would make my non-income-producing lifestyle possible for the next few years. I was 15 months into grieving but felt safe in the deep embrace of my loving family.

Then, after the rehearsal dinner, complete with the kind of wild dancing littles which he would have adored and joined, I cringed at the cold hand closing around my heart, felt toes barely gripping rocks at the edge of a deep emotional abyss in my gut and psyche. Tears rushed as I emptied the small vintage bag I’d carried. What I found pulled me up sharp: In the bottom of the bronze satin lining stretched eleven shiny dimes – and one brand new penny.

Marty would never stop at ten. No, one more *and* a penny. The coins were definitely not in the bag hours earlier. I checked but the lining was untouched. No rips, no tears. The mysterious magic got me through the sweet midday ceremony the next day intact. 

The second came a year later. I was seeing Practice Boyfriend and thought myself blissfully happy. This time, the son of a dear friend was marrying a woman who is an ideal partner. With a couple of high school girlfriends, we watched beachside with big smiles. And for me, only a few tears when they said the vows they’d composed. Fun party ensued. I did it all.

The most recent wedding drilled a new sinkhole in my soul. And it came as a total surprise. Wedding vulnerability was in the rear view, right? Certainly.

This wasn’t just any wedding: it was *the* wedding of the season for a certain set and my FriendBoss was Mother of the Bride. Consequently, I’d been working on aspects for the five months I’ve been gratefully in her employ. I knew most details. I was excited. I felt pretty in my new dress and shoes. Finally, a party to enjoy. 

But first, the ceremony. In an elegant sanctuary constructed in 1926, dark beams were covered in garlands and wreaths. Every detail from flowers to candles was perfect. Everything glowed and twinkled. Bride and proud father streamed to the altar and those traditional, familiar words began: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together …” and damn if the waterworks didn’t start. Full on. Confusing because I was elated for the couple and the parents and the friends assembled.

As the words flowed, so did I. Not wishing him back, but remembering our wedding day. How supremely happy we were. How lucky we felt. Remembering the wedding of the bride’s parents. Wishing all of them only sunshine and butterflies and roses. Hoping that’s most of what they find. Wondering about the kind of dark questions that don’t belong at any such a ceremony. 

On to the *the* party of the year. Again, every detail a study in perfection. FriendBoss is perhaps the most brilliant creative I’ve ever met and she thought of everything.

But I just couldn’t keep my wavering at bay. I felt alone and lonely, totally out of place. I waited as long as I could stand it before slipping out the side exit and walking the short blocks home in my black velvet coat and my cute flat shoes, carrying my mother’s ancient alligator purse, blinded by tears that weren’t happy but weren’t exactly sad. But there are a lot of them. Weird.

Full of regret and remorse that I left early, not that anyone in the crowd noticed. Maybe I’ll do better at the next wedding. Maybe I’ll remember to use a bit of caution.

Lesson for those on the path? You *absolutely” NEVER know when “it” will hit. And when it does, roll with it. Or duck out the side exit. 

2 Comments

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  1. Perhaps you’ve just become “someone who cries at weddings”? Time is so darn trixsy. xo

  2. Katharine Meacham January 5, 2023 — 8:03 am

    Sweetheart. Yes. Your eloquent portrait of the artist as a widow at a wedding supports my theory that the A.A. Milne poem, “Lines & Squares” is a metaphor about grief. Those bears just lurk around the corner ready to pounce on the silly who steps on a line instead of in the square-ambushing the “this time I’ll just enjoy the wedding” loving guest.

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