The Wedding that Stopped Time


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Was that us?

 Running through cool sand under 2:00 a.m. starry skies, clothes tossed along the way splashing into the sea then diving under the waves and coming up laughing shivering joy.

 

Was that us?

 

Not this time.

 

Aunts and Uncles, Moms and Dads, families you were born to, families you choose, all tucked away in the borrowed beach house rooms along the Jersey shore while the kids raced the sands and rode the waves.

 

Once it was us. Crashing the waves, or traipsing big city neon streets or even standing in your very own kitchen polishing off a bottle of really good tequila.

 

And now as it becomes the kids, the no-longer are they kids, kids—time stops. And it’s all just this one golden moment on the beach.

Aunts and Uncles, the chosen or the related kind, know the moment well. Because it’s those moments that are the crystal polished beaming diamond of what you get if you are one of those aunts or uncles. Aunts and Uncles are in it for the sprint. The moment

Looking around at the parents, those, unlike me, blessed with kids, they are in it for the marathon. The long haul.

 

Then what happens at the wedding is that both the sprint and the marathon come racing towards a finish line together.

 

And that’s when the time stops.

 

Seems like just a moment ago it started.

Now I stand on my sister’s porch, listening through the window, and hear that long gone little boy in the picture say to my father, “Bud, would you like me to help you carry that luggage?” And of course my father answers, “No, no, thanks Ben. I’ve got it.”

 

And Ben answers, “Well, I’m going to help you anyway.”

 

And just like that: the little boy is gone. Somehow in his place, a wandering, born to heal soul of that no one would ever mistake for anything other than a man.

 

Sokyo and Ben came together traveling India. In tiny villages, along quiet roads where there are no tourists. In teeming, ancient cities he once heard her laughter inside a building 1,000 miles and months since the last time they met. Circling Asia, he told me, they later found other times and places where their paths had almost crossed again. Places they stayed where they would both look out separate windows and see the exact same view.

 

Brides are the stars of any wedding. But this one kicked it up a notch.

The invitation was her freehand drawing of every single wedding guest. Drawing she did from photographs. The night it arrived at our house, I opened it up, thought “That’s nice.” But then my wife said, “Wait a minute. Look at this. There’s US! Sitting at that table!” And then proceeded to study this tiny masterpiece for about ½ an hour. Ben had hand scripted names to fold over each face or figure, so there was even a program to identify all the players.

 

Uncles keep a respectful distance. Both in watching the preparation for the ceremony in the church across the street. And at the wedding itself. 

 

Watching this bride glide from Korean flower arranging that rang of timelessness; to the preparation of the Indian food. And then suddenly Ben would walk by and she’d jump on his back and off they’d go laughing like two smiling young trees in the wind.

 

A snapshot at the wedding dinner. The 90 year old matriarch, Ben’s English Grandmother, goes to sit with Sokyo’s mother Mrs. Kim. Neither speaks the others language. But they talk and smile, pat each others arm, they laugh and nod their heads. And then, and only then, the bride sees them talking from across the room, walks through the crowd to just them, kneels down between the two women from different ends of the earth, holds both their hands and translates.

 

At the cake cutting, the bride doesn’t just make sure her husband’s face is covered with cake; she cuts pieces and goes and plasters them all over the faces of each of her bridesmaids in once again another explosion of laughter.

 

Then another gift to every single person in the room. All of the bridesmaids and the bride’s mother, Mrs. Kim, get up and sing a traditional Korean folk song. And there is no need at all for a translation. The sweet lilting harmony cascading like a waterfall joining the world. No translation necessary. Just a sweet song of joy.

 

When it’s time for the first dance, the bride and groom, both dressed in traditional Korean garb, he with billowing pants and a puffy pirate shirt, she in a lovely multi-colored Korean robe and red dots on her face, take to the dance floor—and perform the Rickey Gervais dance from the TV show “The Office”

Imagine this dance done step by step by two poker faced newlyweds in traditional Korean dress. Neither breaking a smile until it was done.

 

 

And then again comes the laughter.

 

 

 

 

The aunts, uncles, mothers and fathers now in the darkness around the dance floor; time stopping again for that entire room as all the flames of thanksgiving love and joy and heartbreak and separation and all that time and all that distance all converge in pools of what might have been, could have been and then somehow push back to what is. Back to right now.

 

The next day brings Ben riding a bicycle in the late summer sun, waving, saying, “Guess I best get to the bank or pack or something. We’re going to Peru tomorrow.”

 

That night there is pizza and Mrs. Kim cooking up something that simply tastes like it could sustain a person’s very soul. I dish myself some from the bowl on the table and she shakes her head a vigorous “No!” pulls me over, digs in to the bowl with her chop sticks and gives me 3 times as much —then she smiles and nods her head quickly, as do I.

 

The bridesmaids, Mrs. Kim and Sokyo present Ben’s grandmother with some small decorative Korean art. “Grandmum.” Says Ben, this is paper made the way it was made a thousand years ago.”

 

Then they sing the acapella song again. This time the words are passed around and I remember the first line was:

 

“It is no accident that we meet.”

 

That night the airport runs to Newark and JFK begin. Giant white whale international airliners arcing up into higher skies bound for Heathrow and Manchester and Seoul.  Snappy little domestic flights board for Chicago and North Carolina. Mini-vans wind there way up the coast to Boston and down to DC.

 

And I remember one more snapshot. Right after the Ricky Gervais dance, just for one golden instant, that kind of moment that an Uncle or Aunt can treasure most, the song below came on, a part of their music mix. It was quickly turned off. Not loud enough. Or new enough. Or something.

 

But as this song plays in my head and our little flight glides up and points back to Chicago, I think:

Will you look at that?  Maybe it was just for a moment. But was on their mix. They put it there. One of our songs. Written and sung by a blind man who I bet more than once has felt the warmth of an Asian sun on his face. A song that said: I’ll be loving you always.

 

What a gift they gave us with their wedding. Letting us stop time for just a moment and ask ourselves.

 

Hey. Was that us?

 

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