Cockaigne

An indulgence that I gave to myself a few years ago was a subscription to the Sunday New York Times. I rarely get it all read, and I have too many Book Reviews and Sunday magazines scattered around my house to realistically think that I will ever get them all caught up, but, whatever. When and what I do read is always a treat. A favorite for me is the Vows column where each week, a recent marriage is highlighted. I am not really sure how they are picked, but there is a great deal of diversity in them. These are not only the well-heeled society affairs that you might expect. There have been stories of ex-cons, ex-addicts, childhood sweethearts, late in life sweethearts, mixed religions, differing cultures … you name it, it may have been there. One of the ones that has stayed with me most recently was a young couple from Joplin, Missouri. The bride’s home was destroyed by the tornado that struck the town. Her wedding dress was found hanging in a nearby tree. Their marriage – with the memory of the devastation still fresh – brought joy to many. Every wedding has a story.

This weekend I went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to celebrate the wedding of my niece and her fiance. Their story is that this was a location special to them because of the years of family vacations there. Two children of Kansas have the life memories of happy times on the beach with family. Their photo albums are filled with year after year of growing up there. When they decided to marry, this is what they wanted. The wedding was beautiful and the church and reception were filled with friends and family who love the couple and love the family. The bride and groom were lovely and gracious and joyous after having been given the opportunity to spend the days in preparation with special people in their lives. It was very much them, and very much their story.

I think back on my own wedding and it had a little bit of the flavor of the wedding this weekend. We married the week after we graduated from college. With that timing, we got to spend the last days at college celebrating with our friends – both our transition to the post-college era and our transition to being married. Many of our friends travelled to be with us to celebrate our marriage. It too was joyful and memorable. It was held at a ski resort on a June day in western New York. The building it was in was brought to the United States from Austria in 1964 to be part of the World’s Fair in Flushing, NY. After the fair, in 1966 it was moved to tiny, little Cherry Creek, NY. There, in 1982, it would host the wedding reception for a girl from Sinclairville, NY and a boy from St. Louis, Missouri. That is a good story.

Last year I went to the wedding of two of my best friends. For this wedding, Dan got to brew a special beer – including an even more special, limited brew for the wedding party. That beer was bottled and delightfully labelled. I got to make the brisket that was served at the rehearsal dinner. The wedding was held on the groom’s family farm – in the family for over 100 years. The bride emerged from around the house on the arm of her dad and walked across the yard to the area where her husband-to-be waited. They were married by a specially-ordained minister. The threatening skies overhead remained calm until the party was over. They had their story.

I rarely remember dresses or meals or toasts or flowers at any of the weddings that I have attended over the years (including my own). What I do remember are the ones where the bride and groom are so obviously happy and in love. There is a comfort and easiness in those celebrations that is infectious.  I saw that this weekend with my niece and new nephew. They made the happy story of the day theirs, and I know that it will follow them in the memories that they will continue to make.

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