Ben & Reina’s wedding

After twelve years, Ben and Reina were finally marrying one another, and we all could not have been more pleased.

I’ve known Ben twenty-eight years, and so you’d think that by now I’ve seen and heard it all from him, seen every emotion, but this wedding was rich with epiphanies and self-realizations brought on by witnessing my oldest friend share new material.

This may have had something to do with the rehearsal dinner, which fell on a full moon, a blood moon no less, and as the planets would have it, Leo was doing something spectacular- so I hear, and on the final day of July, the cosmos wished rebirth, new direction, and other notions of starting fresh. Reina, being a most spiritual being, could not have timed her wedding better!

We often think of starting fresh as starting over, like to rid ourselves by way of a reset button, but we never actually have such an opportunity because no matter how new the chapter, we have a life that began with chapter One and we simply could not have gotten to the current page without backstory.

But a fresh start is like a garden: same soil, same hands planting seeds, and seed coming from past crops, but the season is new, the plants are new, the fruit of our labor is new, even if we’ve eaten kale before. To put it another way, starting fresh is also like not baking a frozen pizza, but rather starting with fresh ingredients. Starting fresh, therefore, takes more effort, and it is actually bloated with past experiences, those that inform us how to try it another way, how to operate from new angles, and how to- (to push the metaphor farther)- use old ingredients to develop some new and tasty spin on what we’ve had for dinner before.

After twelve years of togetherness, of living together, of sharing the same dog, the same silverware, the same vacations, what could possibly be new for Ben and Reina? From moment one of the rehearsal, the activities stripped the mundane from our lives; this episode of wedding was like going to the garden of Ben and Reina and seeing a flowers coming from the plants you swore would have by this time turned into weeds.

The rehearsal for the wedding began at the alpaca farm in Bridport. The land opened up into a crisp, green field with one plot cut short. This was where the wedding was going to take place, with thirty chairs and then standing room. Down the road farther, the parking lot flooded around the middle of the house, an odd construction none of us ever fully understood: all rooms seemed to lead nowhere, and no patio led to the deck on the other side. The house was dark and quiet, whereas the backyard had an in-ground pool and massage chair and looked mighty unique to the farm, full of sunlight.

Around the corner, an open, clean barn was now set up with tables and chairs, and family members were setting up pictures of the couple when they were younger. As I entered I was overwhelmed by the amazing faces I’d known for two decades, and marriage or not, this was a reunion not to be missed. I’d never met Oscar, the rotund, adorable son of Beth and Mike, and when I asked their daughter, Eilie, if she remembered me she stated, “Sort of… Yeah, I think I remember you,” and scooted her six-year-old giddiness through her relatives.

We all looked older, and it took a moment before I realized how much older I must look. Many of my friends, especially those there, hovered around age thirty, and Ben had turned thirty just the April prior. But what did “older” mean? Wrinkled, wretched; soggy and sloppy or refined and wise?

There comes a funny point when “older” simply means “older”, and not taller, skinnier, or anything else. Older was just what happens over time, and Time had been going whether I spent significant portions of it with Terry and George (father of the groom), or otherwise, and Time is like Loki, one constant trickster, because I spent many, many hours of my formidable years with the Thyngs, and even with the Guarnaccias- enough that in my mind I had picture portraits of how everyone should look and behave. So much was able to stay the same, and so much to change.

Take Ben’s nephew, Zach. He’s now sixteen and sixteen is the age Ben remains in my mind’s eye, so I had a hard time realizing Zach was grown enough to have deep conversations with him. And then Dino was now a man. He’s actually been a man for years, but I used to see him more often, you see, and so now getting some lengthy time talking to him I could see that Time had happened to him, too. He was older, and it was nice to see, because I’d been looking at age recently, now that thirty hovers as this impressive milestone in life, one I never understood. “Why is thirty such a big deal?” I used to think, and now I know. Thirty-year-olds don’t behave like their younger selves anymore because they don’t want to and can’t so much even if they wanted to!

Reina was now older, too, but flipping through photographs of her she has changed the least, likely because of her eyes and smile. She will certainly be one of those elderly feys who still manages to steal the room whenever she enters. Her light shone even brighter because it was her wedding. She was tan and rehearsed, ready and poised, and Ben was more nervous than I’d ever seen him before, and yet nervous in a different way, a way that was excited and able. The nerves clung only to his desire to enjoy himself along with all his responsibilities.

I’d never had the pleasure of attending a wedding of someone I was so close with, except for my sister, Elizabeth, and even then I was much younger and not contemplating things like mortality, love, and responsibility. Beyond that fact alone, I’d never had the pleasure of knowing and cherishing both bride and groom as much as I did Ben and Reina. I’d known them so long that I was there for both of them equally, which is a rare treat- you’re often sitting on the bride’s side or the groom’s side, but to stand in the middle meant that I had perspective all around me, a deeper knowledge of marriage in the modern age.

And I dismissed marriage years ago- not for me! Then I fell in love and am now engaged and many of my close friends are married. Some have already been married for years. Now, you don’t ever need to get married. You don’t ever need to fall in love to live fulfilling, healthy, happy lives. You don’t ever need to go that road, even though it’s often in most people’s Life Gift Baskets, but there is a reason people are still getting married, and it took almost a decade for me to uncover this:

Love is unbelievably powerful.

When you’re younger you have more taken care of for you and you may take family and friends for granted, but as Time goes on friends move on, family changes, people die and are born; they get sick and better, rich and poor, and they find new jobs and retire, and you experience loss, sadness, joy, and honor in forms you never could have dreamt as someone in their early twenties, and no way as a teen. This is one of the greatest things about getting older. Emotion and feeling become something you can take time to understand. Worries aren’t so petty.

Sadness becomes beautiful, now how about that?

And I was incredibly sad at the wedding because it was such a beautiful experience. Everything worked. The weather was sunny and warm. The breeze lifted dress hems and suit ties and coats like we were on an action movie poster. The ceremony passed without a flaw. The sun stayed out for a long time so that we could play lawn games outside. The food was delicious. The speeches were classic to each speaker’s nature, and Ben and Reina were so happy that my heart felt painful against my chest.

We do have troubles in life. We don’t have enough money, (few of us do). We may not like our jobs. We may struggle to make rent. We may have illnesses which prevent us from enjoying parts of life. We wrestle with fears, be it fear of heights or fear of abandonment. We do lose people… for all sorts of reasons. I am so grateful for opportunities like this wedding, however, so that we are forced to slow down and take stock of our blessings.

Love, love, love. It makes no sense at all, but it is universal, and when we tap into it we feel like we took a deep swim in a clean lake. And people, good people. Absolutely shed yourself of bad people, but the good people we don’t even need to hold onto because when we let go of them they remain in our inner circles. And joy, which can include sadness. Intense feelings and space to meditate on them.

Yes, I got sloshed, and I sat in the sunshine, and I danced with my fiancé and filled my belly with pizza. And marriage happened to be the reason for celebration that day, but I’m learning that celebration for our lives is something worthy of doing daily, even for a moment. For a moment every day, like at a wedding: eat cake and dance, say a vow or be inspired by someone else’s. Take pictures with your friends. Dress up and smell good. Shake hands and hug people. Reconnect. Fall in love all over again.

Congratulations to my dearest friends. A toast to your fresh start.