Kate Coleman: Family circle continues with wedding

December 05, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN

I've been a guest at many weddings, but most of them -- the nuptials of friends and relations of my own generation - took place 25 or 30 years ago.

There have been a few in the meantime, but the matrimonial cycle is restarting in earnest. Our children are coming of age, and we who are now the older folks are joining in the celebrations with a different perspective.

Since May, I've had invitations to five weddings. I made it to three - one in Maryland, one in California and, a month ago, my niece Amy's in New Jersey.

It was wonderful.

The early November weather was perfect - warm, but with a crisp touch of autumn.

The ceremony was simple and reverent, the readings powerful, the music lovely.

I was touched by many small details. Amy had two maids of honor - her sisters, Julie and Holly. In a sweet gesture, Amy's parents - my sister Patti and her husband, Richie - linked arms with bridegroom Brian's widowed mom, and the three walked together out of the church, all beaming.


I had the slightly surreal experience of seeing Amy's 18-month-old smile on the face of the beautiful and all-grown-up bride as she and Brian were presented as husband and wife for the first time.

And then, the wild rumpus started.

It really wasn't wild, but my brother-in-law's trademark Russian jumps added more than a little excitement to the dance floor. At his age! (I can say that because he's a couple of years younger than I.)

A large part of my joy was in having a chance to catch up with my cousins.

In recent years, I've seen them only at funerals. My dad, his siblings and their spouses are gone. My mom, her sisters and their spouses have died. Uncle Henry, Mom's younger brother, is the sole survivor of that great generation. I sat next to him at the reception and enjoyed his characteristically witty comments - when I could hear them over the music.

Yes, I have entered Old Fogeyland. I actually asked the disc jockey to turn down the volume. I wanted to talk to these people.

All the cousins on my dad's side of the family still live near my hometown. Three of my dad's sisters' daughters weren't able to be there, but it was wonderful to see Jayne and MaryLou. My three Ronan "boy" cousins were there. Their childhood home was an easy bike ride from mine, and, back in the day, I parlayed that convenience into hours of fun.

There were countless birthday and no-occasion gatherings - sometimes with silent, 8 mm home movies, often with Nana Nette's potato salad or Uncle Jimmy's pasta fagioli, and always with lots of laughter.

My maternal cousins lived beyond cycling distance, but I remember many fun backyard cookouts and Christmas dinners with that side of the family. Cousin Tony and his family moved to North Carolina a few years ago, but he and his wife, Peggy, were at my table. Cousin Joan and husband Steve traveled to the wedding from Richmond, Va. - reportedly in record time. And Cousin Hank and his wife, Gail, came to the wedding from California.

I enjoyed watching the dancing. Gail even had Uncle Henry out there.

Then the DJ spun Sister Sledge's 1979 hit. You know how it goes - kind of staccato: "We are fam-i-ly. I-got-all-my-sisters-with-me."

My sister Eena gave me a beckoning wave. I succumbed and made my way to the dance floor - in a power wheelchair.

I soon perfected a 360-degree move. As I whirled, I saw the faces of my "fam-i-ly" dancing in a circle around me.

I grew up surrounded by people who loved me, and I loved them right back.

The circle of loving remains unbroken.

Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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