I love weddings. Not only is it a chance to get all dolled up for a special, happy occasion, but it’s an opportunity to reunite with people with whom time has created silence and distance. Last weekend I traveled home to Boston from New York for a wedding. The groom was the best friend of my brother, who passed away several years ago. Weddings are expensive. I was flattered to have received an invitation.
Technically, the “brother” in question is my younger cousin. Known to friends as James and various nicknames, I and most family called him by his middle name Garvens. He and my biological brother Cliff were a month apart in age, I four years their senior. The three of us grew up together in the same house with Garvens’ divorced mother, my widowed father’s twin sister. My father stopped by every day. We three kids spent weekends and summers with my father. During the school year at my aunt’s house, the boys shared a bedroom adjacent to mine. The thin dividing wall muffled but didn’t mute the sounds of their wrestling matches, video games and loud hip hop music. Sometimes both the stereo and tv blared at the same time. The wall might as well have been nonexistent when the neighborhood kids and other friends came over.
The boys ignored my aunt’s ban on not giving out the house phone number and visitors to the house when she wasn’t home. If they weren’t playing basketball in the driveway, the Munie or at their friends’ houses, they and their friends would be over at the house. Thanks to my aunt being an awesome bargain shopper, the general consensus was that our house had the best snacks. I would be left with nothing if I didn’t stake my claim early on a certain amount of mini-juices which we called teenies, or bags of chips from the 24-pack variety box. My aunt took to hiding food and drinks in the trunk of her car. All to no avail because the boys ransacked the food supply.
Being the only girl and older, I sometimes felt like the headmistress of a boarding school making sure the group behavior never got too out of control. No shoes on the couch. No drinks on the furniture. I gave the third degree to any new faces I didn’t recognize. When I felt left out being holed up in my room reading, I joined the boys in the living room, the only room with cable. I listened to their stories of hook ups, and getting in trouble at school for minor infractions. Because I had a job I often got talked into buying food to feed a pack of hungry teenage boys when the snacks weren’t sufficient. Beggars can’t be choosers is how I silenced them when each tried to put in personal requests. Chicken wings, pork fried rice and boneless spare ribs was the usual order. If I had extra money, I’d throw in beef or chicken teriyaki. I made sure to serve myself first and let them battle it out for the rest. After I got my license and my own car, I drove home those who didn’t live within walking distance. Even though it was my car, it was a battle to control the radio. They teased me about my CD player which was a CD discman with attachments to the car stereo.
Over the years, the circle of friends grew, but the nucleus consisted of my brothers and the neighbors across the street–three brothers. I unabasehedly had my favorites, though I treated everyone the same. I was considered an honorary member of the group. One or two may have had a crush on me, but nothing ever happened. Not only was I not interested, but my brothers wouldn’t stand for it. They got upset for simple compliments or hugs that lingered for seconds too long. I watched these skinny scrawny boys mature into bulky teenagers then bearded men.
The week leading up to the wedding, I was excited to see and catch up with my boys. There were brief moments of shedding tears knowing the group would not be complete like at my thirtieth birthday bash, other weddings and events. The day of the wedding was surprisingly warm for a mid-November day. I was able to forgo my wool coat for an oversized scarf to wrap around my shoulders. The high 60-degree weather made me not regret wearing a knee length dress instead of my usual attire of a pantsuit or jumpsuit, which I was sure would shock the boys.
We sat in the second row of the center in Jubilee church on Blue Hill Ave. The chairs and carpet were purple and formed an arch around the stage. The word “creation” was spelled out in giant letters behind the alter. The “t” was a cross. After watching the wedding party walk down the aisle and stand up front, my brother’s absence was glaring. He would have, should have been up there, matching the other seven men in a gray suit, red tie and vest and black patent leather shoes. No doubt he would’ve been the Best Man. I’m sure my aunt was thinking the same thing. Unable to contain her grief, her sobs became audible after I handed her a tissue for her flowing tears and wrapped my left arm around her. Cliff, who had flown up from North Carolina for the wedding and was seated to my right, escorted her out into the hallway. The girlfriend of one of the groomsmen also helped. I trailed behind because I stopped to collect our things from the seats. By the time I reached the hallway, one of Garvens’ closest friends had pulled a ninja move, quietly leaving his seat and standing by my aunt’s side trying to console her. We spent a few minutes in the hall, freshened up in the ladies’ room before reentering the church. This time we sat in the back row. We missed the bride’s entrance, but witnessed the exchange of vows and the first kiss as husband and wife.
The reception was no less bittersweet. The crowd cheered as the wedding party was announced. We watched the couples’s first dance, the mother-son dance and the father-daughter dance. Garvens was my aunt’s only child. She’ll never have a mother-son dance at his wedding. I wished that instead of delivering Garvens’ eulogy six years ago, it could have been a wedding toast sprinkled with embarassing childhood stories. Each of the groomsmen and other friends gave a toast to the happy couple. I wondered what Garvens would have said knowing he wasn’t keen on public speaking but also a jokester.
The ceremony was held in the early afternoon. The reception was over by six. My brother and I had to switch gears to attend the birthday party of our seven year old cousin. The party theme was Incredible Hulk. With my hair and make-up from the wedding still in tact, I swapped my black lace halter dress and fuschia strappy sandals for green and black jeans and black suede knee high boots and made my way to another happy occasion. I put on my camel colored wool coat and scarf. The temperature had dropped.
We made it in time to the party to sing happy birthday. I had a great time at the birthday party as well. Living in New York it was great to see my family gathered all in one place. We laughed, joked and swapped stories. The not-so-fun part was the clean up. Half eaten plates of food and cake were everywhere, as were candy wrappers, juice, water and soda bottles. Most of us cleared out around 10 pm.
On the black leather seats of the Greyhound bus back to New York the next morning, I watched The Lincoln Lawyer and Flight on Netflix to keep my mind from reminiscing about weekend’s events. More often than not, I cry during these rides back to New York, creating an awkward moment for both me and my seatmate. The bus was more than half empty so I had the row to myself. As I waited for my computer to boot up, the lyrics of Erykah Badu’s Window Seat played through my mind.
So can I get a window seat?
Don’t want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
A look around and a safe touch down
Can I get a window seat
Don’t want nobody next to me
I just want a chance to fly
A chance to cry and a long bye-bye
I scheduled my monthly massage for the afternoon of my return to New York. I tried to focus on my breathing and the soothing instrumental music playing as Safiya, kneaded and rubbed the knots in my shoulders but memories of the wedding popped into mind. Back at the counter she commented that she hadn’t felt that much tension in my shoulders since she first started working on me over a year ago. I told her about my latest trip back to my homestate.
Just as northeastern weather goes through several changes in one day, so do emotions. Some might call it moodswings, I call it being human.