Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On the Way to the Wedding - Part III

Sunday, July 8

We, the wedding party, mill about in the Dawes Room at the Millenium. Having vast experience in a life of corralling Sylvestros, I understand the wisdom of this pre-ceremony gathering of essential personnel. Christopher, dear soul, pulled in earlier to rehearse “The Wedding Song” with Dave, Steve and Trevor. Scott, the best man, is on the hunt for the officiant, as Jeff has not appeared.

Tucker and Lisa are with us, having spent the past two hours in bridal gown and Brooks Brothers suit out and about Boston with the photographer in search of optimal photo settings. According to the schedule, the “First Look” - each of them at the other in their wedding finery - took place at 2:15…and oh, they must have loved what they saw. My son is handsome in his navy suit and a smile so broad his face can barely contain it. And the bride? As stunning a princess as she’s always wanted to be, Lisa’s blond hair is swept back in a loose twist, her white skin shining porcelain against the cream of a strapless dress graceful with trailing pearl vines and flowers. “Magnificent,” Mom comments later.

Jeff has been located and goes to take his position while we line up. We snake down a back hall through the rear of the ballroom where we wait behind a black velvet curtain. Briefly, I scan the tables set around me – white tablecloths with sparkling tulle toppers; orchids afloat in tall, clear, vases; a tiny chocolate bunny at each place, its wrapper tied with blue ribbon monogrammed with Tucker and Lisa’s names. On chrome wands, vintage postcards of Boston indicate table numbers. Every detail I see evolved from a fun idea to a checklist, to an internet search, an email, or phone call, to an errand, an agreement, and a purchase…and finally to this moment, this table, this wedding.

Then, we are walking down the aisle, Tucker arm and arm between Dave and me, to the front of the ballroom where Casey, Scott, Jeff, Sheryl, and Laura wait. Mom and Ma are already seated in the first row, having been ushered in, each by their two strong, grandsons. Dave and I hug Tucker and sit; I lock glistening eyes with my mother, and she smiles and nods.

Something is missing. What is it? Cameras! Dave and I are always squinting through a lens to capture an expression, and here we are in prime seats, our boy before us, his face alight, and we have only our eyes and hearts to freeze the moment. Maybe this is better, I think. Nothing between us. Hold on to this.

I lean across my husband to better see Tucker’s face as Lisa leaves her parents’ arms to take her place before my son. I think of the words to the “Wedding Song” that the Sylvestro men will sing at the end of the service, “A man shall leave his mother, a woman leave her home. They shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.” This is such a symbolic leap: Tucker left home long ago, as did Lisa, and yet, I feel the difference this day will make. They belong to each other now.

In his words, Jeff, as officiant, weaves images of the past, present, and future as he asks those gathered to represent Tucker and Lisa’s support system throughout their marriage. “I say ‘represent’ because there will be others, not yet known, who will support them in the future. And I say ‘represent’ because there are pillars in Lisa and Tucker’s support system that – having made important contributions – have already passed from this world.”

I love Jeff’s message as he reminds Tucker and Lisa that their youth and beauty on this day will be “something your children marvel at in photographs from long ago.” This draws a knowing laugh from every parent in the crowd. I wore my mother’s timeless long-sleeved satin wedding gown on a sweltering day in June, but my bridesmaids were swathed in colonial gingham - blue and white Gunnie Sax dresses; totally seventies, costumes as far as Casey and Tucker are concerned. In a decade or two, will the chic strapless ocean-blue dresses worn by the bridesmaids today seem dated to their children?

Jeff also muses that the day will come “when your buoyant good nature doesn’t always shine through, when the challenges you face are not easily surmounted, when your current optimism may seem like reckless disregard for the slings and arrows you will face, when you may not be graceful, or kind, or at your best, with each other… But, let me assure you - from my 30+ years of experience – that those times of difficulty will matter just as much as the blissful moment…we are now witnessing. It will be those difficulties that will temper your marriage and strengthen you as a couple.”

In reading a poem by Stephen Merritt, Laura, Lisa’s little sister, enunciates with attitude and a cock of her head, giving the surprising words and loving message exactly the sassy punch the author must have intended:

“The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing.
It’s full of charts and figures
And instructions for dancing,
But she, she loves it when he reads to her
And he, he can read her anything…”

Casey thought she’d make it without tears through her reading from the Buddhist Association for Peace, Culture and Education. After all, it sounds so intellectual. But she slowed at the lines, “Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead in the same direction…If you genuinely love someone, then through your relationship with him or her, you can develop into a person whose love extends to all humanity.”

Jeff is not a minister, but a friend who loves Tucker and Lisa. Who better to make a benediction on their wedding day? He says, “I think I speak for all of us who have gathered here, that we wish unto you:
the unfettered optimism of your youth;
the soaring heights of passion you will know;
the successes you will celebrate and want to shout from the rooftops;
the intimate moments when you will make each other laugh so hard you will cry;
the heart-skipping moment of excitement you will feel when hearing the other’s key in the door;
the moments when each of you will marvel at your luck at having found the other – and gotten them to marry you.”

Jeff then asks Lisa and Tucker to pronounce their vows, and I wonder what I would have said to Dave in 1975 if I’d not simply repeated, as many brides did, the traditional lines from the Bible. Would I have been as honest, funny and endearing as these two?

In stating her vows, Lisa grins at Tucker as she tells of her childhood wish to be a princess, and her search for a prince. “After kissing a few frogs, I met you. You weren’t what I thought I wanted - you were too tall and a vegetarian. But you were so much better in ways I could scarcely imagine… I adore you. I look forward to throwing my arms around you each and every day when you get home.”

I love hearing this, and the image of my son coming home to such a greeting.

She speaks of accommodations both have made, “You’ve gotten into snow sports, taken dance lessons and given up the only thing you could bake - amazing bread. I’ve learned to cook vegetarian food, and beta-tested your work projects. I promise to nourish our love with gluten-free vegetarian food and enthusiasm for your work.

I love hearing this, her efforts and adjustments, and her appreciation of his.

“In marrying you, I’m taking the sage advice from my grandmother to “Marry an engineer, they make good husbands,” and Nora Ephron, “The secret to life, marry an Italian.”

I love hearing this, having done so myself…well, the “marry an Italian” part.

She speaks with love, admiration and humor. Tucker is beaming and the rest of us are laughing at all the right places…and there are at least two mothers brushing tears from their eyes.

In his vows, Tucker, too, comments that Lisa was not what he thought he wanted. “You’re an unrepentant carnivore, far too sweet, and much smarter than me. But you are perfect. You always find ways to surprise me, and I love learning about all your contradictions. You have a PhD and are a belly dancer. You are a huge nerd who was a dating machine in college. A classically trained soprano who sings in a rock band…and every day I can’t wait to see what else.”

I love hearing this – my son’s infatuation with Lisa’s qualities, contradictions, and talents. Belly dancing!? Who knew?

“When first we moved in together, Sheryl gave me a warning, saying, ‘I love Lisa, but she’s hard to live with!’ It took me a while to get used to finding surprises like bottles of laundry detergent in the middle of the living room floor, coat hangers in the kitchen cupboard, and a coffee table perpetually covered in research papers. But now it wouldn’t be home without them.”

I love hearing this. Dave makes me crazy with his disregard of time, his trails of keys, wallets, phones, and glasses. I make Dave crazy with my anal punctuality, and my annoyance over his trails of keys, wallets, phones, and glasses. But without those trails and my pleas that he put them away, it wouldn’t be home.

“You and I make a great team. Granted, a team that overcomplicates everything we do, but the end result always makes it worth it. When you told me about your idea to make our own wedding rings, I thought there was no way I could be marrying someone that cool. Today, I am looking forward to a lifetime of surprises and other mischief with you.

“I want to pick you up and spin you around every day when you get home, and have the most beautiful bride in the world by my side in 50 years… just like today.”

I love hearing this, the love my son and Lisa feel for each other.

As Jeff had earlier, both acknowledged life’s hard times, saying, “During times of loss, you’ve been there to comfort me. I promise to support you for the sad times and celebrate with you the joyous ones. I adore you and promise to love you forever.”

* * *

The final items on Lisa’s “make-a-wedding” list are now largely in the hands of the bustling staff soon to serve salads. With my toast done, I am released, free to revel. For Tucker, he is married, and beaming to be so, but he is also a man steeling himself, for he has a dance to do.

Drum roll!

As soon as the guests are seated in the ballroom, the new husband and wife are introduced. Barely have they crossed the threshold, but Tucker unbuttons his jacket, flings it to Sheryl, and extends a hand to his bride. From the speakers, James Taylor croons, “Whenever I see your smiling face, I have to smile myself, because I love you….” And we spectators have to smile as well at the choice of this jaunty love song. Immediately we see this is no fox trot, but choreographed maneuvers! The dancers step and turn, hands clasped, arms raised; Lisa sways smoothly, grinning and gorgeous; Tucker’s eyes are bright: the boy is concentrating.

We whistle and whoop. Whoo-Hoo!

Lisa loves to dance, and having just learned of her belly dancing ability during the wedding ceremony, her grace and sense of timing are no surprise. But Tucker? We, his family, watch him, amazed and proud. “He must really love her to do this, Mom,” Casey whispers beside me.

To our whistles and applause, Tucker swings Lisa off the floor, into his arms, and twirls her. “I want to pick you up and spin you around every day when you get home,” he had said in his vows, and by God, we see this was no idle promise; he can do it! As they wrap up the dance, Lisa’s expression is joyful exhilaration; Tucker’s shines his elation…and relief.

Hand in hand, they retreat to the head table to sit before a wall of windows overlooking the brick buildings and slate roofs of old Boston. Scott and Sheryl, the best man and maid of honor, take their places beside the bride and groom to pay tandem tribute…or whatever they have planned. “Roast” and “toast” rhyme, after all, separated by one letter only, and traditionally, a microphone in the hand of a college buddy can be a tricky combination…

The two friends take turns; it’s a conversation, really, a rolling, revolving, dialogue of revelations. I know about the week of photography in Death Valley when Tucker and Scott slept in a jeep, but Lisa’s training with M16s in ROTC? This is news. Belly dancing and M16s; she’s a woman of surprises indeed. We wedding witnesses wince when Sheryl refers to Lisa’s splits from a string of nice guys as “clubbing baby seals,” but in universal agreement, we raise our glasses because Tucker did not fall to that fate.

Doug, Lisa’s father, is introduced next. He holds up a tiny envelope the color of tea. When he was in the army, such diminutive missives from his daughter, alias Princes Precious Heart, brought closer “that magical place called home.” Out in the field, with little more than “stinky boots and a wet green sleeping bag” he learned that home isn’t a place and it isn’t stuff.

A glimpse of “the soft warm glow” from a house passed one evening crystallized his sense of home as “a symphony of the senses…the touch of a wife’s skin, the taste of a special meal, the subtle aroma of a lover, the sparkle of love and happiness in her eyes. It is the cacophony of home: the soft sound of breathing next to you at night, the voices, the laughter, the cries, and maybe, the patter of little feet.”

Everyone in the room is silent, listening. No one is sipping a drink or lifting a fork. Many dab tear-filled eyes in picturing Doug, years ago, receiving that tiny envelope from his little girl. Others may think of soldiers missing their families right now.

“So, my grown up daughter,” he continues, “beginning this special day, you and your dashing husband, your true Prince Charming, are starting a home…Now that you are married, it is not about either of ‘you’ anymore. It is about a brand new wonderful home called ‘us.’”

In unison, we lift our glasses.

Here in the heart of the Red Sox nation, it is apt that Dave, upon standing for his toast, weaves baseball into his words. He first remarks on the joy of melding with the Meckley clan, then addresses the diversity of Tucker and Lisa’s strengths and interests as demonstrated by a sampling from their bookshelf: Intuitive Biostatistics, Spain and Portugal, Gore Vidal’s Burr, and the ever-entertaining Principles of Population Genetics. “Just as a combination of good pitching and good hitting makes for winning teams,” Dave says, “you’ll rely on each other’s extraordinary prowess and love during tight games…To a long and happy marriage!”


And now, we dance! Tucker and I turn and dip to Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like a Rock;” Doug and Lisa circle to “Unforgettable.” Like a tribal wave, everyone surges onto the floor for “We are Family,” and so easily I picture Dad in our midst, eyes closed, elbows bent, doing his rhythmic rumba. Cousins, sisters, brothers, nephews, parents, aunts, and uncles; friends from as far away as California, Texas, Germany, and Indonesia; we’re belting out songs, snapping, and stomping. Even eighteen-year-old Jared, generally impassive as his age demands, grins gleefully at our admiring astonishment when he breaks out major moves.

Out in the foyer, it is a carnival, as well-dressed guests don sombreros, fake mustaches, and jesters’ caps to mug and grimace in the photo booth. Matt’s Groucho Marx cavorts with Campbell’s Batman, while Granpa solemnly selects a white spangled cowboy hat and owlish red glasses. Millie favors a feather boa and the Statue of Liberty’s spiked crown. Little Ava is all but hidden in the Cat in The Hat’s striped top hat. Bunny ears, pig snouts, stolen kisses and surreptitious boob grabs are snapped with a flash and printed on filmstrips.

What an odd omission, through the anxious lead-up of lists, worries, and decisions; I’d never imagined the happiness this day would hold. During the service, Jeff had spoken of times to come “when the challenges you face are not easily surmounted,” and around me, the answer to tackling them unfolds. I inhale deeply, striving to draw the day into my soul. Tucker and Lisa’s joy in each other, the hugs and hoots, toasts, and dancing…and yes, merry celebrants in funny hats and fake mustaches; memories to sustain, as surely as breath.

For Brendan Stewart's professional "Symbol Photography" photos, click here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On the Way to the Wedding - Part II

Saturday, July 7

I am trying to stay in the moment and drink in the presence of my loved ones and the flow of this time together in Boston, but still I am anxious about my toast and the rehearsal dinner. Dave is delivering welcome bags with maps, water bottles and oat bars for guests staying at hotels other than the Millenium. He has checked in with me a few times- teeth clenched, voice tense - to report that his GPS failed while in a tunnel and as a result, he has gone to Logan Airport twice by mistake. Twice! He is not happy.

According to the “Ladies’ Schedule,” the bride and her attendants are currently seated in padded vinyl chairs with their hands out, fingers splayed, feet soaking, awaiting manicures and pedicures. Casey’s boyfriend, P.J., arrived shortly after she departed for the salon, and has already made a hit with the Ingersolls. Tucker is at the apartment, packing for his two-night stay at the Millenium. Scott, Tucker’s dear friend and best man, is cutting and pasting Lisa’s vows on index cards, adding a sprinkle of red glitter to amuse the bride.

The “Gentlemen’s Schedule” allows the rest of the men freedom until the rehearsal.

When Casey was active in theater, dress rehearsals were often discouraging. She liked to think the false starts, forgotten lines, mis-cues, and bumbled blocking were good omens, a rite of passage that assured a successful opening night. For weddings, the rehearsal is a one-shot deal, so it’s bound to be confusing. In a church, the routes and positions are well-established: groom and best man to the right of the altar, bridesmaids promenade down the aisle and proceed left, bride makes her entrance on her father’s arm. None of these is assumed in the ballroom of the Millenium once we are gathered at 5:00.

Where should everyone stand? Should Tucker and Lisa be centered for optimal guest views, or should they angle left and center under the curving gray struts that span the ceiling? My nephew Trevor, from the Sylvestro side, leans forward to whisper, “Better for photos if they stand to the left.” He shows me a picture he has already taken with his phone during all the various trial runs onstage, um, I mean, at the front of the room. Trevor’s correct. The struts arch with cathedral-like grace above the couple if they stand to the left.

So Casey and Scott squeeze closer to the wall. Sheryl, the maid of honor, and Lisa’s sister, Laura, inch left as well. As if trying a dance-step, Tucker’s friend Jeff, the officiant, agreeably steps left and right and left again.

Behind Casey and Scott, black leather guitar cases lean against the wall. They are in the way, which sparks some… discussion. Toward the end of the ceremony tomorrow, Dave, his brother Steve, and Steve’s sons Trevor and Christopher, will play Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song,” a Sylvestro wedding tradition since the seventies.

Christopher, a professional musician, is playing with John Mayall tonight and so, can’t make this rehearsal. I am not allowing myself to think about whether he will arrive on time tomorrow. Worry has peeked like a naughty child under my mind-curtain and I have snatched it back in place. No. Not even going consider it. He will be here.

For the past fifteen minutes, I’ve kept an eye on the time during the “You stand here while we say this. No wait. This would be better. When should we do this?” I’d like to stay until all is resolved, but Dave and I have to go to Legal Seafood to prepare for the welcome dinner.

We zip to our room to collect cameras, centerpieces, easels and the two 2’ X 3’ collages swathed in cardboard and a black garbage bag. We look like refugee artists as we grapple with our ungainly supplies and wrestle them into the cab.

The heavy-lidded, swarthy driver does not look at us as we tell him our destination. He has ear-pods in his ears and is speaking a foreign language. He leans heavily on his elbow against the car door and I almost worry that he is drifting off, but for his continued stream of conversation. I am pretty sure he is not talking to the cab dispatcher, and since I am already nervous, I wonder if we are going to the right place.

We are not, as it turns out. Yes, he has brought us to a Legal Seafood Restaurant in Copley Square, but it is not the one in the mall. We had not specified the mall; I knew there was more than one Legal Seafood in Boston, but more than one in Copley Square? This, I did not know.

We have plenty of time, but now I worry how many guests might make an unwanted tour of the Legal Seafoods of Boston. I must let this go and have faith in the unfolding, although, as I’ve said, I am not good at this. Our cab pulls up at a curb beneath an elevated glass tunnel between two buildings. The cab driver exits the car and points at an entrance across the road and then at the tunnel. Whoa. Complicated. And here we are with our easels and collages.

Dave strides off and I scurry behind him in my wearing-high-heels tip-toe trot. “What if this is the wrong place?” I ask as we ride an escalator, cross the glass tunnel, navigate a busy mall, and scan for signs. Brookstone. Gap. American Eagle. And then, I see it! “There! Legal Seafood!” I point, relieved and triumphant. I imagine Dave’s mother and my own making this trek. Not easy. It would have been far too daunting for Dad.

A smiling hostess greets us at the restaurant and leads us past crowded tables of couples and families digging into shrimp cocktail, stuffed lobster, and mussels in garlic and wine sauce. They look relaxed and happy. I envy them their simple evening. I bet none of them has to make a toast tonight. My friend Gail has cautioned me not to judge my interiors by others’ exteriors, so I throw in some self-scolding, just for spice. “You are richly blessed this weekend, surrounded by loved ones with the joy of a wedding ahead! Who knows what these people may have to deal with. Honestly! Enough about the nerves!” I make myself crazy.

I have also been concerned about adequate seating. Tucker and Lisa want this to be a night of mingling, a chance for the soon-to-be joined families to get to know each other. I fully understand their intention, but I am a sitter myself. Don’t like standing. So I worry that guests will be uncomfortable. Seventy-two people responded to the invitation to say they were coming; we have seating for forty-four.

The hostess leads us to a quiet room, bright with natural light from a wall of high windows. A padded bench skirts one side. (I wonder if the bench was included in the seating estimate? I’m guessing it could hold twenty-five people. Good.) Tables cloaked in white linens with black napkins are arranged to leave space for movement. Three smiling women in black shirts and trousers step forward to meet us: our staff for the night – Brynn, Annalice, and Jackie. “Anything you need, let us know,” says Annalice.

“Would it be possible to add a few more tables and chairs?” I ask.

“Sure. Not a problem.” And off they go, returning with supplies to seat an additional ten people.

“Do you want a drink? Something to eat?” Jackie says. So kind! I rattle on about our cab ride, my anxiety over guests getting lost, seating, and my toast (endlessly fascinating topics) and she clucks sympathetically. So tolerant!

Brynn and I set out the centerpieces – ocean-blue bags stuffed with tissue and starry foil garlands – and Dave assembles the easels and collages.

Weeks ago, Lisa’s father, Doug, had scanned a collection of three decades of photos of Lisa and her family, and her mother, Jan, sent me the thumb-drive. Of course Lisa was not solely the thirty-year-old woman Dave and I met in 2009, and as I’d clicked through the pictures, my sense of this girl my son so loves expanded as each shot filled the computer screen: a chubby baby in her mother’s arms, a cocky five year old in a black leotard, a ballerina beneath a parasol, a graduate surrounded by proud grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and her sister, Laura. My feelings for her deepened in seeing her different stages and the loved ones who nurtured her as she grew into the woman Tucker has chosen.

I spent some sniffly, sentimental hours flipping through piles of our photo albums selecting pictures of Tucker: a skinny baby with spiky Sid Vicious hair, a round-faced toddler with kissable cheeks, a determined young man in a white uniform breaking three boards with his hand in Tae Kwon Do. Dave and I had a date-night at CVS to print out copies, and then I spent the next few days in happy absorption assembling the collages, photographic puzzles of the people and life’s pieces from which Tucker and Lisa have evolved.

Brynn and Jackie help us move tables and chairs to show the collages off to best advantage. Shrimp, lobsters, and clams on crushed ice, grilled vegetables and swordfish on skewers, beef sliders, a chowder station, and green salad have been set out on the buffet. Everything is ready - it is going to be fine.

And it is so much better than fine! Loving friends and family filter in, only a few having checked out the other Legal Seafoods in the area. With warm smiles, hugs, and wonderful words about my boy, Lisa’s aunt Joyce and Uncle Bob introduce themselves. Lisa is like a daughter to them, and Joyce will be arranging the flowers for the wedding tomorrow. Granpa Meckley and Millie, Lisa’s grandfather and step-grandmother, enter with a woman no one knows. Not surprisingly as they are in their eighties, Granpa and Millie had been disoriented in the mall and this kind person helped them find their way, made sure they were in the right place, then disappeared.

Tables fill, glasses fill, hearts fill. Tucker and Lisa, the night’s celebrities, enter to applause, whistles, and whoops. In keeping with the marine setting, Lisa wears a gauzy dress of swirling blue, green and white, “my mermaid princess dress!” she says with a grin.

Many are enjoying the food. My nephew Campbell, a boy who, but years ago, would eat only chicken tenders, is happily sampling the seafood. It looks delicious, but I can’t eat. Too nervous. Just do the toast, I mentally hiss. Okay! I snap back at my inner harpie. I tap my glass with a spoon (so loud!) and everyone turns expectantly.

While rummaging through Tucker’s baby book and my underwear drawer for a theme on which to build my toast (doesn’t everyone keep mementos in their underwear drawer?), I had found an essay Tucker wrote when he was eleven. Called “The Me Nobody Knows,” the piece charted young Tucker’s career plans from working part-time at a private airline, to owning one, to – obviously - working for NASA and building a HUGE starship cruiser.

I speak about my son’s dreams, my admiration for his and Lisa’s resilience through this stressful year of work, wedding plans, Lisa’s celiac diagnosis, and my father’s death. In closing, I read my 11-year-old’s observation, “most of this will happen in the future, so I can’t be sure of any of it…” and raise my glass to this dear couple’s having found someone to be sure of in each other: “someone who loves you dearly, who shares your creativity, ambitions, heart, and sense of adventure…and someone you know will be steadfast and resilient when you need them.”

My father would not have let this evening pass without a toast, and my sisters and I are his daughters indeed. Rita stands next with a memory of musing why the sky was blue, only to have Tucker provide the precise scientific explanation…when he was four years old. She observes that Lisa, a doctor in pharmaceutical sciences, might have known the answer when she was even younger. Francie, too, relates an anecdote recalling a wintry Vermont afternoon in 1982 when my father was left to babysit for Tucker while the women of the family went shopping. We returned just in time to grab two-year-old Tucker as he toddled toward the fireplace. Dad was unrepentant. “He would have figured it out when he got hot enough,” Dad said. We raise our glasses with Francie as she wishes Tucker and Lisa happiness and observes, “You and Lisa will be figuring out many things – together – in the years ahead.”

The party is effervescent as bubbles in a glass of champagne. Faces flushed red with heat and hilarity, Rita and Francie laugh with Lisa’s cousin Jayne. P.J. and Casey, neither of them short in stature, chat with Rita’s 6’7” son Jared, their heads tilted wayyyy back. Mom is engrossed in conversation with Scott and his wife, Abby (who later tell us they want to adopt her). Dave’s mother, Ma, is watching as her great-grandchild Ava snuggles with my sister-in-law, Debby. Lisa’s mother, Jan, and I find each other in front of the collages and with shining eyes point out pictures and reminisce.

Ultimately, the festivities wind down, and Dave and I, Jan, Doug, Tucker, and Lisa – the parents and tomorrow’s bride and groom – are the last to leave. The corridors of the mall outside Legal Seafood are bright, but empty and quiet. We are brimming with joy at the fun of the evening and the warmth between the two families.

Tucker and Lisa walk slightly ahead, holding hands. They slow until I am in step with them. Lisa says, “You know the picture on the collage where I’m wearing a tiara and holding a trophy? I’d just sung ‘Part of Their World'
from ‘The Little Mermaid’ in a contest, and I won!”

Naturally, I clamor for a glimpse of that performance. Like water in a tide pool, Lisa’s mermaid dress eddies and flows about her feet. Tucker beams at his beautiful girl. Softly and sweetly, in a clear soprano, Lisa sings as we walk past shops shuttered for the night.