That, my friends, was a wedding.
I have had so much fun over the past few days, and only wish it could have been longer; still there was enough sheer enjoyment packed into a roughly 72-hour period to last me a while. Visiting with my father and stepmother (only not enough), enjoying philosophical conversation with my aunt Kalista (only not enough), spending some time with my cousin Gretchen and her adorable little toddler boy and her mom, my aunt Adair (only not enough), hanging out with my very cool cousins Ivan and Irene (the bride) and meeting Irene's husband's wonderful family - only not enough!
Ivan and I marveled over last night's happenings this morning, as we strolled through downtown Chestertown, Maryland sipping coffee from a local coffeehouse. "I've never been to a wedding where the dance floor filled up so quickly before," said Ivan.
"I've never been to a wedding that got busted up by the cops before," I added.
Not that it actually got "busted up." One cop arrived. And what he thought he was doing, I'm not sure - the farm where the wedding was held wasn't in earshot of anyone else, and it was obviously an elegant affair - the tent, the linens and glassware on the tables, the bottles of wine - although it was pretty late, most of the remaining guests were now hanging out by the bonfire, except for two or three who were cartwheeling naked through the moonlit field.
I said it was a wedding.
If he'd been a British copper, he'd have shouldered his way in proper "what's-all-this-then" fashion; but only being a yokel from rural Maryland, he did the best he could: shone a flashlight into the perfectly well-lit tent, said rudely that any noise was too much noise at 1:30 in the morning, and then left. Whatever; the party had moved out into the field by then anyway, there was still plenty of wine, and we all thought it was screamingly hilarious. "Did you see what a stupid hat he had on?" asked Ivan.
The wedding itself was quite amazing. My cousin Irene is beautiful, gracious, funny, and altogether wonderful; and if you want to know what kind of person she is, she is the kind of person who can simultaneously finish her dissertation for her Ph.D. at Yale (last Wednesday!) and plan the kind of wedding that makes you proud to be a member of the human race. She's half-Vietnamese; her husband, from Johannesburg, is half-Zulu and half-Sutu; they live in Brooklyn now, and their friends, the wedding guests, are from everywhere. The union of the two families is like a symbol of world peace, understanding, and common humanity. I wish I had better words to describe it.
But it was unquestionably modern. "I am a gender activist," said one of Tumelo's aunts, giving a toast at the reception, "so we did not sing many of the traditional wedding songs." In the old tradition, the new bride, as the junior female member of her new husband's family, waits on everyone - rises early, sweeps the floor, chops wood to build a fire to make tea for her husband's parents, and in general gets stuck with all the dirty work until someone newer comes along. Tumelo's female relatives happen to find this attitude a little sexist. Everyone applauded.
I have to say, I drank a lot this weekend. When I arrived at the farm Friday night, after a 4+ hour layover in Newark, and an hour and a half drive from BWI, Irene offered me whiskey. Fortunately, she then offered wine instead. Saturday night I accepted some, but couldn't muster the courage to take more than a couple of sips of it; several friends were over, and when one of them broke out the wine, I cheerfully poured my whiskey into poor Ivan's glass and had that instead. Last night, at the wedding, I got drunk. On wine. It was an outdoor wedding, and I think some very small bugs might have gotten into my wine. What the hell, I drank them. Everything was wonderful!
Then, this morning, there was a brunch at a historic hotel in Chestertown, with its ripply old brick sidewalks, stately houses and storefronts, and heavy overhanging trees - so picturesque! And we discovered that it's true, a Bloody Mary really does help with a hangover. Who knew? (Aside from everyone but me, apparently.)
On the other hand, because Irene and Tumelo and their immediate families only eat fresh, organic, wholesome food, I ate better over this past weekend than I ever do, and I feel rather wonderful actually.
I left a little later than I meant to, but made it to the airport and through security just in time to rush aboard my flight and make it safely home, via Houston instead of Newark this time, which is better. Newark has extremely long lines on the taxiway just to take off. I disapprove.
We're doing it all again, because Irene and Tumelo are having a second ceremony in Johannesburg in 2010. Bring your dancing shoes!