The last time I went to a wedding, I wrote about what it feels like to be the only single gal in attendance (It was fun, but self absorbed displacement was the theme). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/oritte-bendory/how-does-it-feel-to-be-a-_1_b_959085.html
Tonight I went to a wedding too. I didn’t have a date with me, but I didn’t fret. I had a lot on my mind so I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I finished the first draft of my book last night (yeah!) and had a loss in my family that trumped self-pity and over-preparation.
I didn’t fret over what I was going to wear, or whether I was going to meet someone. All that mattered to me was being there for my friend on her momentous day. We had gone to high school together and she had endured some hefty challenges that led her to this moment.
She’s Jewish, from an observant family, and the love of her life wasn’t when they met. But he converted. Like, full on. When you sit at a wedding and see two people make vows to be together for the rest of their lives, it means a lot when you know they’ve gone through a religious obstacle course to get there.
I got married in my twenties. Most of my friends did. For me and my ex-husband, our checklist fit. We were age appropriate, our families meshed, and we had the same backgrounds and religion.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Having similar backgrounds- where it feels second nature- is beneficial. It eliminates the barriers to entry. But when you have barriers, and your commitment to one another - your love - overcomes those barriers...Well, you could say that I might have shed a few more tears at this wedding than I did at my own.
When I walked into the lobby full of people mingling pre-ceremony, I wished I had arrived later. I moved around, pretending I had somewhere to go. I sat down on the couch and checked my phone with purpose. I didn’t know who I knew, and how the night was going to go.
“It’s time to go upstairs for the ceremony!” I realized with relief. I slipped into a seat on the end. And then someone waved to me: a friend from high school I hadn’t seen in twenty years. I jumped up, grateful to have a plus one, or a plus three (she was with some other high school pals of ours). We immediately began talking about our mutual grievances from that time – how our high school experience was unlike the people we’d since met who went to public school, who didn’t have Rabbis as their teachers. I’m not bashing this form of education, because I know many for whom it’s been fruitful. But for me, it wasn’t.
You could say the evening was a collision of my upbringing, my marriage, and where I am today. When the bride circled the groom seven times, I remembered circling my husband in the same manner, and sensing my sisters’ and mother's presence behind me. When the Rabbi talked about the union of these two people, I vaguely recalled a Rabbi talking to me over ten years ago.
When I was the first to rush to lift the chair that the bride was seated on, and carried her to greet her new husband floating atop the sea of people in his, I remembered myself being lifted up on my wedding day.
When the bride was lowered back down, she spotted me and hugged me. “Did you get the necklace?” she asked. I shook my head no, feeling confused and remiss in my guest of the bride duties, before she was whisked away.
We have the opportunity to be there for others - to connect. And at the same time reconnect with ourselves. I was seated at a table with a woman I hadn’t seen in years, who used to be a close friend in high school whose house I’d slept over twice a week. I kept a toothbrush there, and knew what shelf the peanut butter was on in anticipation of our late night pig-outs. And now, we were catching up on our lives, in our late thirties. She married with children, and me- not. But I wasn’t sad. We talked about loss, and love, and life, as the bride - our mutual friend - was preparing to give her speech.
We talked about what matters in relationships, day to day. How the inked boxes on the checklist blur and evaporate over time. We agreed that you aren’t taught those things in high school...or in any school. You learn it through living.
Later, when I came back from the bathroom, my friend was talking to a woman I didn’t know. “Who's this?” the woman asked my friend. When I told her my name, her face lit up. “I have something for you! I couldn’t find you before!” she said, pulling something out of her bag and then opening her palm. It was an amulet - part of a necklace. I realized it was a diamond studded “Chai,” which in the Jewish tradition, means “Life” (“18”). She looked at me and said, “The bride wanted you to have this, but I couldn’t find you. She wants you to find peace and happiness, as her single friend here who deserves it.”
I thought I was emotional during the ceremony, but this gesture took the cake (as the waiter deposited a slice of wedding cake in front of me…).
I guess the bottom line is that in friendship, as in love, the unconventional and the unexpected means a whole lot more. And (hopefully) lasts for a long time too.