It’s summer. At least it is almost summer. I love everything about summer. Almost everything anyway….there are the wedding invitations.
I don’t mind weddings. They possess a great joy and an even greater levity. There is that moment when it actually happens….that great meeting of two times separating the “fumbling toward ecstasy” from forever. There is that proclamation and that kiss which is different from all other proclamations and all other kisses. And there is the humor of the thing. All that time spent saying “oh you will marry her,” and hearing “I don’t know,” or “I don’t think so” or some other malarkey or claptrap. I mean people aren’t stupid. Couples, at least the best couples, are apparent to everyone but themselves. Weddings are a way when we can look at the bride or groom with a snide smile that says, “I told you so.” Then after the fact we can get back to not having to say again, “are you going to watch the game or are we going to have to spend the night talking about Annabelle or Meredith or whatever her name is.” (At least if you are a guy; I’m sure women have an equivalent experience.)
I don’t mind weddings. It is the invitations that bug me, for every invitation involves not only a wedding, but a reception. That is what kills me. Receptions involve dancing and I don’t dance. More precisely I can’t dance. It is not as if I have not tried; it is simply beyond my ability. The moment I feel most sorry for the groom is when he has to dance. At that moment all of my fondness for the ceremony flies out the door as I think “what if he is like me.” Fortunately I have never met a groom who has been unable to dance, which is weird because most I know can do very little in the way of dancing at any other moment in their lives. I have a theory that there must be something about the woman who is now his wife that makes the thing possible, but I do not know for sure. Even if that is true, it does nothing to help me.
And now it is wedding season and already two invitations.
At a coffeehouse in Lincoln Square I hear “when a friend gets married, you go to the wedding.” I can’t argue. She is right and her words remind me of a cute little animation by Torril Kove. (Kove is actually referring to funerals, but if you want to see the best animation ever, do yourself a favor and click here.) Of course I remind her that a wedding involves a reception and a reception means dancing and I can’t dance.
I get a look of perplexity and maybe even a little pity. Then I get a “what do you mean? You do hike don’t you.”
“Of course,” I tell her. “But what does that have to do with dancing.”
And she knows a little about me when she replies, “the Appalachia and the Rockies have been your venues and God has been at the top of your dance card. When you have been there you have danced with God. That is what hiking is, after all.” She continues “when you are at a wedding it is no different. You dance with those closest to you; you dance with the bride and you watch the groom dance with her. All of these are in the image of God. A wedding is like being in the mountains and being with these others is like being with God.”
It then hits me. It is summer, after all. I will be in Midewin and the cornfields of Ohio. For all I know I may even be in the Selkirk or New Mexico. I will dance there. In the tall grass my feet will kick up crickets and grasshoppers in the day and at night the fireflies will be my partners. Overhead the stars will dance in the sky. And I will dance. It is summer after all and every cruel and cold thing has lost the fight to retain winter with its chilling uncertainty just as every wrongheaded argument as to why two people cannot be together has lost to that reality as to why they can or must be. When I am in these places, I will think of the invitations. I will think at those times that the receptions must be like the trails that bring me back to vigor and youth every summer. The mountains and fields which draw me close to God are the same as the church halls and banquet rooms that are not so much about dancing in an awkward and improper way as it is about holding onto those which cast the reflection of the One that is larger than us.
Yes it is summer and suddenly I do not hate the invitations anymore. I think my theory must be right. The ineloquent grooms can dance because they do not lead. Neither does the bride. The One in whose image they were made has the lead. He will always have the lead as they laugh and cry together, as they watch the sunset together and have children, and grow old. At those receptions they will dance together for the first time in a new way. I will dance with them. Never mind that my step be off quilter or that I will not have the lead. I am sure I will not be the only foolish looking one there.
Besides their dance card is full anyway. It will be that way forever. For very many summers they will kick up grasshoppers and watch their children catch fireflies. All those moments will be dances. And they will have to go to more than a few receptions themselves where they can be reminded that as they place their arms around yet another bride and groom, though they may look foolish, they really are not that way at all. And they may find me there looking more than foolish. And as I hold onto a white gown and hear, “you are not very good at this, are you,” I can reply, “that is okay, you are, just like the One who made you.”