Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dearly Beloved

I was sitting on the floor coloring Jake’s shoes with a black crayon as he sat beside me waiting to polish them with a paper towel.  “Why are we doing this, Nona?” he asked. 
“Because I can’t find the black shoe polish and I figured a crayon would work.  It does.”
“No, I mean why are you polishing my shoes anyway?  They were okay.”
Why?  We were going to a rehearsal dinner last Friday and then to the wedding the next day.  I was in Missoula acting as nanny for grandsons Jake and Christian as my daughter performed her bridesmaidly duties in the wedding of her good friend, Delani.  Aubrey was also making the cake, so had quite a bit of running around and this-and-that to do.  The boys and I were hanging out together and I was trying to get them spiffed up for the event.  Finding shirts that fit and pants without holes in the knees, socks that matched and shining their shoes took a bit of time.  I also wanted to give them options, and they were really getting into the spirit, first holding up one shirt and then the next, considering if they matched the rest of the outfit.  It was actually pretty fun, but it took a while.  As I ironed and Jake polished his shoes I started thinking about what we were doing.  It really was quite a bit of fuss.  I had lost a couple of pounds, made myself a new dress and gotten my hair cut and styled. And I was just there as what Aubrey referred to as a “plus one.”  Why had I gone to the trouble?  I have been taught to honor events by dressing my best and taking care with all the preparations.  Here I was, trying to pass this on to the grandkids. 
Preparing for a wedding is such a daunting task.  I am overwhelmed by the energy that goes into the process.  Five months ago, Aubrey agreed to make the cake.  She planned and discussed, sought advice and practiced.  She fretted and stewed and vacillated from confidence that she could duplicate Delani’s chosen cake one minute to doubt that she could pull it off the next. 
She baked the layers days before.  I watched her make filling and icing and fondant and then more icing.  She worried that the piping icing would not be black enough, the fondant smooth enough and the top flat enough.  She cut cardboard rounds and wooden dowels. 
Then she gingerly transported the thing to the reception hall and finished the filigree piping just before the ceremony.  All that time; all that energy.  And that’s just the cake. 
After the first dance, the first kiss and the first toasts; after the friends and family were tiring and the flowers were wilting and the cake was reduced to crumbs, I took the opportunity to stand back in the corner of the reception hall to survey the scene.  I wondered about all the time spent wrapping chocolates with labels bearing the names of the couple or bundling heart-shaped coasters for party favors. 
How many collective hours were invested in winding white lights around pillars and posts and ironing table cloths and arranging flowers or candles and tying ribbons to programs?  How many fittings of tuxedoes, bridesmaid dresses and the wedding gown?  How many hours spent finding the perfect shoe, curling hair just so, fretting over the right make-up and polishing nails?  I wondered if it was really all worth the stress, time and money. 
But, as I watched the smiling faces of friends and family I couldn’t help but be swept away with the whole celebration.  Earlier at the ceremony, the minister asked all friends and family to affirm that they would support Delani and Christian throughout their lives.  No one hesitated.  In fact, one of the fellows sitting near me almost shouted, “I will!”  But, really the minister didn’t have to ask.  Just by showing up in their finery, bearing gifts and well wishes and toasting their good fortune the crowd showed their encouragement.  Most of these people already had a huge part in making the day particularly fine.  They were the very ones who had arranged bouquets and printed programs and hung rice paper lanterns.  If actions speak louder than words, the entire group had been shouting “I will!”  for months.
Isn’t that really what it’s all about?  We honor our loved ones by making an effort to help, to cheer, to support or to simply show up for the events that matter to them. 
I’ve been altering a wedding dress for another friend who gets married later this month.  She came for a fitting the other day, and in response to my queries about how she wanted the dress to look she kept saying, “Shelley, do whatever is easiest.”  That’s not what it’s about for me.  I will do whatever it takes and spend however much time I need to make it as perfect as possible.  I do this because I care about and I love my friends, and because they deserve my best effort.  And in doing so, perhaps I can give them a boost.  Maybe I can inject some of my energy into their new beginning.  At the very least my friends will know that I am behind them, cheering them on.  Goodness knows it’s hard enough to enjoy a lasting marriage these days.  We need the best possible send off as we embark on a new relationship. 
So, Delani and Christian…my heart was warmed by the outpouring of love I witnessed last weekend.  I wish you love and happiness without bounds.  And in times of doubt I urge you to revisit your lovely wedding in your minds so that you can again be lifted up, have your faith restored and your resolve renewed. 

As for me, I will remember that joy is found in simple things when I think about those two little boys dancing with abandon in their shiny black shoes.


  1. Sorry about the white boxes behind the text...can't seem to get rid of it.

  2. Yes, it certainly was a labor of love. I like your perspective on things. I'll certainly say a resounding 'I WILL' to this lovely couple!