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.
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:
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.
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