Why do weddings make me cry?

My daughter is getting married next May, and sometimes just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. So happens spring will also bring publication of my novel—the culmination of years of writing, some publication, lots of rejection, and always, always the tenacity to keep at it, a bag of emotion all its own. Then there’s the sorry state of our country, not to mention the seasonal melancholy etched into every falling autumn leaf.

But this is mostly about weddings and the emotional undercurrent they give rise to. I was weeks from turning thirty-five when I got married, an age at which the thought of being ‘given away’ in a walk down some carpeted aisle didn’t quite cut it. My husband-to-be and I found a venue styled to look like a turn-of-the-century French ballroom. Very hip. Very Greenwich Village. Very us. We did all the legwork, thankful to have very accommodating parents with simple requests. In the mixed metaphor that was, and continues to be, our lives, we were married by an Orthodox rabbi. The wedding may have been larger than I would have liked, but my family was large. I say ‘was’ because the generation that would comprise my parents’ siblings, cousins, friends, etc., is mostly gone. My husband’s parents, whose circle of family and friends was much smaller by comparison, could care less about what would seem to be a proportional imbalance. They were just glad that their son was getting married, and to a nice Jewish girl, who would in two years’ time give them their first granddaughter to dote on.

And dote they did. And on a spring night barely six months from now, that first granddaughter will find herself under a makeshift Chuppah at a Malibu ranch. We’re counting on her only remaining grandparent to be at the wedding. She’s 91, sharp and healthy, even if a little frail. She lives in northern California, the wedding will be in southern California. My future son-in-law’s grandparents plan to fly in from New York.

Like my wedding, my daughter’s is looking to be larger than she would like, and we’ve all done our best to pare the guest list. This is never an easy task, and one that feels even more emotionally complicated in a time when friends are more like family than the relatives I feel distanced from.

You can’t go home again. But you can feel the ache of what that thing called home, for all the convoluted emotions it encompasses, gives rise to. “You will have only one story,” says Sarah Payne, the fictitious writer/mentor to Lucy Barton in Elizabeth Strout’s tender and touching novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. “You’ll write your one story many ways.” I don’t know that I have only one story, but I do know that the complexity of mother-daughter relationships keeps surfacing (hopefully in different ways) in my fiction and essays. Then there’s the more general exploration of familial ties: what happens when that thing we think of as family disperses almost to the point of dissolving?

I tear up during the ceremony at any wedding I attend. Down-the-aisle love songs have a way of tugging at my heart, hitting that nerve that sits on the edge of love and loss in the way that weddings do.

For better or for worse, a wedding is an affirmation of love. It reminds us what it is to be young (or old) and truly in love.

It’s another link in a chain of rituals that bind us.

It’s a reminder that the circle of life is held together by new links forged from broken ones.

It tells us that our children are grown now, moving on.

All those months, the planning and attention to details—the venue, the food, the entertainment, the guest list, the dress (a tradition with a history all its own)—

—to be funneled into a celebration, one day only, that embodies the future and the past.

Suddenly it’s here. We lift our glasses to the bride and groom. We smile. We laugh. We cry. We dance.

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Space fantasy 2

As a young girl growing up in Brooklyn I craved space. How else to explain my taking up residence in the Loew’s Kings ladies’ room during movie intermissions? It had a plush sitting room where I could pretend I was holding court before (or after) going into the bathroom proper. Then there was the furniture department of Macy’s, down the street from our family candy store. I would wander over there, settle myself in any of the arranged living room settings. It was the cusp of the ‘60s, a time of social upheaval, yes, but the world clearly felt safe enough for a mother to give this kind of license to a ten-year-old.

An entire past comes to dwell in a new house, I wrote in a previous piece that touched on the places my imagination took me as a writer-in-the-making longing for a room of her own. Today I have that, and much more. And I still marvel at how any change, even for the better, is tinged with something gone.

My house, a veritable work-in-progress, is no longer new, but every phase of renovation brings a new way of being in it. This time—I could shout at last!—it’s a kitchen upgrade. The kitchen always had its charm—colorful cabinets, a floor like none other, which had messages (some coded) cleverly laid in decals by my husband. There’s history in these floors and walls of the warm home our house became.

But modernization and efficiency in storage were in order. Exciting, yes, to envision, even if it feels overwhelming: clearing out the kitchen, organizing the contents of drawers and cabinets into boxes for some semblance of easy access. It’s the little things—not wrapping each and every coffee mug in newspaper—that keep the ache at bay; we’re not moving out, we’re just moving things to another room.

In the interest of change, I’m experimenting with a little blog music more regularly. Click on the audio widget (upper right) and enjoy what you hear while considering ten things to remember when you renovate a kitchen:

  • It’s temporary.
  • You will cry as you pack boxes to put into your dining room and living room and wherever you can make them fit, and think about all that has taken place in the kitchen as it was.
  • You will feel disoriented. Which cardboard box did I put the boxes of pasta into? Where are my mixing spoons?
  • You will walk back and forth a lot, in need of things—a towel, a fork, a knife and cutting board—not within immediate reach.
  • You will remind yourself of the privilege that is your life and makes this upgrade a possibility—then take a step back to consider that, for too many people, this is not even an option.
  • You will suddenly remember how well you managed in that ridiculously tiny kitchen in your studio apartment, back when.
  • You will cry.
  • You may even curse.
  • You will be distracted from rituals and routines that require your focus: writing, reading, yoga, meditation.
  • If you’re lucky, you may even welcome the disorientation for whatever new insights it brings.
  • And when all is said and done, you’ll marvel at something that seemed to take so long becomes another thing completely in an instant.

So here you have it—a glimpse of what was/what is/what will be my spiffy, new kitchen.

 

The best (photo), I might add, is yet to come.

 

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November 9th 2016

The context of what I want to share doesn’t matter. For all I remember it was probably a really bad haircut. But today is a really weird day. And everyone who reads her writing always says that my mom has a way with words, so here are some words from her to me that I found in a card she wrote me three years ago on this pretty stationery. That’s why the context doesn’t matter, because it really can apply to anything. Like today.

white_water_lilies_by_claude_monet_1899_pushkin_museum

“The only thing certain in life is that the sun will rise every morning and set every evening. Every day really is different — which does not necessarily ease the pain on days when the clouds are hanging low over your head but it helps to be reminded of it.” She also says that our sufferings and joys are all one and of course, when we need to laugh, there’s LD (my father, who reminds everyone of a very popular comedian with the same initials).