Monday, April 23, 2012

And We Danced

Two weeks ago I sat in my parents' living room surrounded by boxes.  My little brother, Aaron, had packed up everything he owned in preparation to move to Canada, where he would marry his college sweetheart, Natasha.

The room he shared with our littlest brother growing up looked desloate without his belongings.  His mattress lay bare on the top bunk above Marc's mattress swaddled in flannel sheets, and his closet was cleared out.  The room that has always smelled distinctly of "boy" smelled instead a bit like Goodwill.

I preferred being in the living room full of boxes than in the empty bedroom echoing with memories.

As I stretched out on the living room floor, sunlight poured through the window and landed on a furry ear sticking out of a clear plastic bag nestled in the boxes.  I pulled open the bag and found a well-loved stuffed tiger.  Its fur was matted and its color faded; I think the skin horse from "The Velveteen Rabbit" would have deemed it "real."

I hadn't seen Aaron's stuffed tiger in decades, and its furry face took my breath away from all the memories it evoked.

I remembered a chubby toddler waddling across the cul-de-sac, his right arm vigorously pumping, his left arm clutching his tiger as he tried to keep up with his older sisters.

I remembered a blond waif lying by the heater on a cold winter's day a few years later, snuggling his tiger with a contented smile on his face.

I remembered a boy and his little brother who loved to dig in their mom's garden, a pile of garden tools at their feet, a stuffed tiger resting against the nearby fence.

And then I remembered a boy whose body began to stretch and voice started to crack — an adolescent who gently set Tiger on a shelf where he watched the boy from afar.

Tiger watched Aaron grow into a teenager and then a man.  He watched him make difficult decisions, learn to be a leader, fall in love, and work hard to save up for a ring and then a honeymoon.

And now Tiger gets to watch Aaron grow into a husband and a father, and I can't help thinking Tiger is one lucky stuffed animal.

Aaron has a way of  making the people who know him feel lucky.  Blessed.

And so even as I choked back tears watching him drive out of the cul-de-sac for the last time as my single little brother, I felt blessed.  Blessed to have grown up with him, blessed to be his sister, blessed to be his friend.  Blessed to be included in the celebration that ensued in Canada five days later when he said "I do" to the woman he loves.

As I walked down the aisle on the wedding day wearing my bridesmaid dress, I passed row after row of family and friends who, like Tiger, have been with Aaron since childhood.  But these people have been involved in the most intimate of ways: babysitting him, taking him on impromptu adventures, laughing with him, listening to him, challenging him, confiding in him, crying with him.  They filled the pews with memories, and I think their souls must have been bursting with thanksgiving, excited to witness this sacred covenant.

My dad did the ceremony.  He reminded us of the first wedding, when God fashioned Eve for Adam from his rib.  God was the first Father to give away his daughter.  And he was the first Father to give away his Son, after Adam and Eve failed to love God and infected the world with sin.  Because of God's Son we can love each other well, till death do us part, in sickness and in health, in weakness and in brokenness.  For this we celebrate.

When Aaron was saying his vows I realized the last time he declared his love and commitment to someone so publicly was when he was baptized.  His unity with Christ is evident, as is Natasha's.  And so it was with deep satisfaction that I watched them exchange vows, with the knowledge that together they will live united in Christ's death and resurrection, as one.

I watched Aaron's face closely throughout the ceremony.  It was etched with awe and adoration as he watched his bride walk down the aisle.  When he said "I do" too early his eyes lit up with laughter.  As he carefully repeated his vows he was earnest, eager and solemn.  And when Natasha began to say her vows he smiled a smile I'd seen before:

It was with this deepest delight that the post-wedding festivities erupted in celebration in a rustic barn surrounded by mountains.

The reception site

Old friends chatted freely, reminiscing over supper and hot drinks. Close friends and family toasted tributes to the bride and groom, and forks clanked against champagne glasses to instigate dozens of kisses.

Best man, little brother Marc, giving a toast

When the dinner plates were cleared and the cake cut and consumed, one side of the barn was opened up to let in the fresh country air and sunset.

And as the dusky twilight invited the stars to speckle the sky, we danced.


Photo Credit: My wonderful cousin Sharalyn and my amazing aunt Shannon took most of the wedding photos (Shannon took the stunning sunset photo)

© by scj

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