It was a large, avant garde wedding. I only knew the groom and his immediate family. A Power Point slide show photo montage of the bride’s and the groom’s lives was projected onto a large screen. I sat on a portable, plastic chair and scanned the room in hopes of seeing anybody I might know.
Then a two-year-old girl stood at my feet wanting my attention. As discretely as possible, we played “patty cake” with our hands. Her mother told the girl to be careful. Before I knew it, the girl had formed an imaginary “spider” with her left hand creeping up my sport-coat’s lapel. The mom was embarrassed and picked the child up to cradle her. The little girl then quietly sobbed.
I’m unaccustomed to the curiosity of toddlers, especially regarding the children of strangers, so the scenario felt awkward. The little girl’s efforts to make friends with me were charming. It was almost as if she sensed me feeling out of place at the wedding. Given the wide age gap and being total strangers, an appropriate, meaningful friendship was just out of reach for both of us.
I rarely think about my personal limitations as much as I used to. I’ve come to accept my desires and yearnings as a normal part of life. Everyone has someone or something that is just out of reach. Perhaps we may finally grasp it or perhaps we won’t. The emotion is vague, like a light breeze that is neither cool nor warm. That is what I felt at the wedding.
So, there I was, sitting in the audience at the church, wanting to chat with the father of the groom. Of course protocol and etiquette ensured that my friend had to be seated at a place of honor in the front row next to his sister and his two other children. Although I was the groom’s former mentor and honorary “uncle”, my place was five rows back from the front. I was informally thought of as “family”, but tradition and custom stated I was not. Instead of fully participating in the celebration, I was relegated to the role of spectator.
The sensation of feeling out of place continued at the reception in the “Fellowship Hall” of the church. Family reunion events like weddings and funerals are understandably very cliquish. People want to be with family and friends they rarely, regularly see. The wedding party of bride, groom, parents, and siblings were busy mixing with all of the guests. They were also seated in special places of honor according to well-established rules of etiquette.
I wandered around the hall with a plastic cup of lemon water in hand. I finally spotted a middle-aged woman sitting alone at a round table at the rear of the large room. I made a bee-line to join her and perhaps engage in conversation. The woman was the mother of a friend of the bride. She was reluctant to talk to anyone but her husband, who was elsewhere in the room. Other friends of the bride stopped to briefly chat with her, then they moved on.
Eventually, a young man and his slightly older husband seated themselves next to me. Derek was a college friend of the bride and his husband Ayush was attending this wedding because spouses attend family events together. I felt gladdened by the prospect of having LGBT dining partners. The couple was visiting from New York City. I enjoyed hearing their Brooklyn accents. I was astonished to find out that they had rented a car to drive from New York to Nebraska in order to attend the wedding. Derek confessed that he has a strong fear of airplanes.
Due to the fact that the two men were friends of the bride, they excused themselves after dinner in order to mingle with other friends of the family.
Finally, the bride and groom walked up to me for a brief, polite conversation, then they moved on to touch base with other guests. The same happened with my friend, the groom’s father. He spent several minutes updating me on the state of his family and career. Then he was called away by his former wife about some matter of personal importance. Then I was again alone in the crowd.
While the middle-age woman conversed with her husband, and the gay couple from New York chatted with friends of the bride, I decided to unceremoniously leave the building.
I quickly walked through the light rain to my car and slid behind the steering wheel. I sighed in relief, then switched on the engine so I could go home to decompress.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes John Steinbeck. “Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the Bastard Time.”