(Note: Yes, I have finally decided on the right blog template, and it’s not changing. Until I have my own site, anyway. Thank you for your patience with my inane indecision.)
In the past six weeks, my boyfriend and I traveled miles up and down the east coast, gas station employees’ accents changing as we crossed state lines. Now, after five weeks in the Ontario woods (and a few days in Boston), we have reached the stinking summer streets of New York City. Funny thing is, in that distance we covered, the only moment I really felt like I was making a true, lasting passage was at a friend’s wedding.
I went to a couple of weddings as a kid, but, due to the fact that most of my friends aren’t conventional (or functional) enough to do things like get married, this was my first “adult wedding.” The first where I drank free martinis, danced inappropriately to Shakira, and was asked: “And when will you be tying the knot?” It was the first time the sight of a young woman in a wedding gown made me cry.
Grandparents and diamond advertisements tell us that this will be the stuff of our lives— birthday parties, anniversaries, engagements and honeymoons. I’ve always felt an odd combination of disdain, alienation, and wonder for all of it—wonder at how all of this meant so much to people. After my parents tore their marriage apart, after I was shuffled from one apartment to the next until, at 17, I threw myself into a world that seemed a mess of expectations and disappointments, I watched the ceremonies of people’s lives from a lonely distance. On the other side of a foggy window, I watched as women looked giddy at their engagement rings. I wondered how people took those awful family portraits at Sears and framed them on their bedside table. I wondered how they could hope for so little and so much.
Yes, I was a kid. A kid, it’s painfully obvious, who was scared shit of life. A kid who shaped the dream of her future around adventure and travel, but who wanted, at the root, to understand the meaning of that one-syllable word that everyone else seemed to know so naturally: Home. Home is what I wanted but thought I’d never find in my moving and traveling. So I looked ahead at the uncertain path before me and said: “At least I’m not ordinary.”
But I’ve changed a lot since those days, and I’ve come to understand that there is bravery in the ordinary. At the wedding in Boston I realized that maybe the most important passages we make are not our trips around the world but our rites of passage. Maybe what really sticks with us are these moments, ceremonial or otherwise, when we cross the few important thresholds that mark the maps of our lives.
I’ve come to believe that there’s a kind of grace that exists in life’s commitments that exists nowhere else. And travel, strangely enough, has taught me that. Everywhere, I’ve witnessed different versions of the same ceremonies, witnessed the ways in which people love and know each other. I have learned the pain of goodbyes and joy of reunions. And all of it has led me to this: I want to marry the man I love, have babies, a home. And I want to fight to keep those things from unraveling. As my boyfriend says, half-cynically, half-sweetly: “What else is there to do?”
What else is there to do. This is the question that used to haunt me, and now brings a smile to my face. Six years ago, my father moved half way across the world; my boyfriend will literally be shipped off to war sometime this year. I live for the moments I have with these people, and the love that deepens through that time. It’s a love I didn’t know all that well growing up, the kind of love not of Neruda poems but of family dinners, of kids’ macaroni art. It’s the love that made the macho groomsmen tear up at my friend’s wedding as his little boy, the ring bearer, escorted his little girl, the flower girl, down the aisle. It’s the love that filled the hall with children’s screams and cries as the couple tried to say their vows, that rendered the groom so nervous and emotional he couldn’t repeat half of what the minister told him to.
I know I sound sentimental as hell. There’s really no poetry for this stuff, “no vocabulary, as T.S. Eliot wrote, “for love within a family, love that’s lived in but not looked at, love within the light of which all else is seen, the love within which all other love finds speech. That love is silent.”*
There’s certainly no blogging for it either.