Passages, Vows, and Love that’s Lived In

My friends Joe and Kelly Lepain

(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.)

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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.

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* Kudos to Julie Schwietert for including that great quote in her blog about parenting, 9 mos. And one more photo for fun.

8 Responses to “Passages, Vows, and Love that’s Lived In”


  1. 1 laurenquinn July 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Beautiful post. I’m going to 3 weddings this summer, and you’re totally right about grace in the ordinary. I feel kind of cheesy about how sentimental the weddings so far have made me. Guess we’re just getting old, huh?

    Excellent theme choice, btw. ;)

  2. 3 annie q. syed July 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Simone….it has been a while you posted. Lovely to read and pluck your insights and apply to my own.

    Modern Love

    Found the above article, tweeted it yesterday, on point serendipitously given your post.

    ~annie

    p.s.
    trying to talk to you on twitter now but you are not seeing the mentions! must get hootesuite or tweetdeck!

  3. 4 Robin July 3, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Nice post.

    I’ve enjoy my life, but I will say that the best part of my life is right now. I’m a wife and mom.

  4. 6 Maria O July 4, 2010 at 3:23 am

    Simone…

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts about Joe and Kelly’s wedding. You definitely have been travelling a lot and being a stay-at- home mom with my third child on the way, I envy your freedom and unstructured life, but reading your blog reminds me the want and need in all of us to have a home, a husband and children who make all the ordinary things in life magic and love you no matter what….and that is what life is all about! Many good wishes to you as you begin again…doing whatever your heart desires!

  5. 7 Alexis Grant July 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Beautiful! Sounds like this wedding was a rite of passage not only for the bride and groom, but for you, too.

  6. 8 Claire July 11, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Great post. As someone newly married, 40 days and counting, I get the range of emotions described in this post. I too went from wondering how people could put all their hope and plans into this one milestone, to bawling at the sight of a hopeful bride on her wedding day. then all of a sudden, i was that bride. terrifed yes, but content nonetheless. my life had been shaped around the travel and the adventure, and now i am learning to incorporate both. i used to think you could only have one or the other. it’s not true-the adventure is where you create it. and isn’t it much better with the one you love?


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About Simone Gorrindo

Simone Gorrindo is a freelance journalist, poet, and travel writer who can't stay put.

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