Michael Perry: Sparkling at the wedding dance
It was that stage of the wedding dance when the all of the neckties — and a few hairdos — had gone loose. Some of the older aunts and uncles were gathering their coats, a spraddle-legged father sat cradling a toddler asleep against his collar, and the desserts table was devastated, but the dance floor was full and thumping, young to old.
As I surveyed the scene from beside a table of empties and half-empties, it occurred to me how the impression and import of a wedding shifts with perspective. Leaving aside the obvious significances for the couple featured, I thought instead of the pre- and gradeschoolers, for whom the day must seem a mix of pageant and play-acting, culminating in being allowed to eat sugar and run in the house; bound of course to end in a crash, but worth every giddy bit of it. For the middle-school and teen set, it is training grounds for carrying themselves in adult forms of celebration, a chance to experience new formalities absent the pressures of the homecoming dance. For the emancipated singles it is a full-on blowout, an occasion for hope or despair or confirmation, and — in the case of at least one of my newest relatives — a chance to not only loosen his tie but wear it as a headband. For the elderly and wise, perhaps a chance to share a smile for youth, but also for being past all that.
For the participant parents, the day is a stew of hope and joy seasoned with unease and sadness; the relief of responsibilities discharged leavened by worries and uncertainty. In other words, parenting as it ever is.
Finally, for those of us toiling through the middle (we assume) stages of marriage, much of what we feel depends on how things are going. Speaking for myself there is a renewal of gratitude for my wife and all she has given me, for all the ways she has bettered (as opposed to bested, although you would not be wrong) me, for the ways she allows me another shot at the runway when I land short, and that she lets me dance with her even though I pretty much can’t. There are also more bracing thoughts, especially when confronted by the newlywed sparkle; when have I last seen that sparkle? When have I last earned that sparkle? Anything beyond that is between my wife and me—for better or worse.
And so we danced. By evidence and definition, I cannot do that verb, but those were not the standards of the evening, and so I hit the floor — and not just for the usual two slow ones with my wife. I herked and jerked and now and then tried to count it out, and did a very Scandinavian salsa merengue, but mostly I just joined in joy with the happily disheveled crew, some from near, some from far, some never met before and some never to meet again. The wedding was a ceremony for two; this second ceremony — of cellphones forgotten face down amidst the crumpled napkins, of high heels kicked to the corner, of pulsing light and sound while outside the world spun round — was for everyone in the couple’s orbit, doing our best no matter how flat our feet to dance two people happily into the future.