Monday, September 11, 2006

"Love"

There is no way to talk about it yet. Have you noticed that? We don't talk about it, we talk around it. We say where we were, or what we did, or how we felt. We say what was, and what is, and what could be because of it. We don't really understand it, though. And sometimes I think we don't even really know what "it" is. Is it a date? A word? A concept? It's history, it's change, it's fear, it's hope, it's an end, it's a beginning, it's all of us and all of our stories.

We don't really know. I don't really know. But this is the story I think of.



My friends, Emily and Nick, were married in New York on October 6, 2001. They had, along with their families, spent months planning and organizing and working out every last detail to ensure a spectacularly special, spectacularly memorable event.

Both Emily and Nick are very musical people, and their wedding had something of a theme: "Love is friendship set to music." Throughout the entire weekend, love and friendship and music were in evidence everywhere.

For example, following the "down home," Midwestern-style rehearsal dinner banquet (to which all wedding guests were invited), there were live musical performances. Em and Nick had been in a cappella groups in college, and since some of the members of their groups were in attendance, they reunited for a few choice songs. Emily and I also sang together. And of course, the bride and groom performed a couple of duets that couldn't have been more lovely or heartfelt.

The next day, as Emily and her bridesmaids walked from the neighboring meeting house to the picturesque chapel, we all sang a giddy, impromptu rendition of "Going to the Chapel" just before walking down the aisle.

There are dozens of other examples, too. Ways in which love, friendship and music were woven into the festivities -- from how they selected their processional and recessional music, to their band, their first dance, even their wedding favors* -- but it was later, at the reception, where I felt "it" most acutely.



I'm not sure if it had ever even entered their minds, the idea that they could postpone their wedding. Perhaps that's what some of the world did; maybe the events of September 11 were too devastating for some to want to carry out a celebration. But for Em and Nick, it was that much more important.

Rather than be afraid, rather than live in dark, rather than allow the bad to control their (our) lives, they gave us a celebration. Life is precious, and goodness matters. Love, hope, happiness, harmony. Family and friends had come together in peace and with goodwill to applaud and laugh and cry and take pictures and eat and drink and be merry and hold on.

And people flew from all over the country to be there, to say I am not afraid. Or maybe they said, I am damn well terrified, but this matters more. I don't actually know what anyone else thought as they packed their bags and put on their fine clothes and gathered for the nuptials, because we did not discuss it. It was a happy occassion, and what would we have said? Em and Nick simply gave thanks to everyone who came, everyone who found it important to be there.



A finer detail of the event was a little card that Em and Nick had put on every table at the reception. It stated that, contrary to popular tradition, they would not kiss each other simply because guests decided to tink their glasses with silverware. If you wanted to see the couple kiss, you had to work for it. You were to stand up and sing a song that had the word "love" as a lyric, and your entire table would have to join you. In unison.

Now, at first, this might not seem like such a difficult task, but I'll tell you -- finding a song that you and the rest of the people at your table actually know all the lyrics to is really quite challenging.

Our table resorted to "Summer Lovin'" from Grease. Another table of younger folks launched into Barney the Dinosaur's theme song. Throughout the evening, most of the tables tried at least once, usually with amusing results.

I think we may have assumed that the dignified table in the back, the one where the grandparents and older guests were seated, would not be partaking in the singing game. Maybe we assumed they thought it was too silly, or too difficult, or too...something. But the moment they all stood up, the room noticed.

Aww, I wonder what THEY will sing. Maybe we thought that it would be sweet, or funny, or maybe kind of cute, the way people are always saying about older folks (meaning it as a compliment but sounding a little condescending).

But it wasn't cute. It was a gift. They stood up and sang God Bless America.

The moment they started singing, without hesitation or prompting or question, everyone jumped to their feet. Everyone started singing.

Land that I "love"...

The entire room full of people rose at once and joined in, and it was amazing. We were happy (relieved, maybe) to have been given a chance to express what we otherwise couldn't. We cared about our country, our world, and were only barely beginning to understand how one day had changed everything.

It is said that in the weeks and months following 9/11, people in New York looked at each other differently. I know when I meet someone who has lost their parents, we share an immediate bond of unspoken understanding. We nod at each other. We know.

The wedding was, of course, about Emily and Nick. But during the one special song, we all knew. We stood tall and we looked around the room at each other and we all knew.

"It" happened and we were angry and frightened. We still are. But when I am scared most of all, on the days when I believe we have lost our way, and I fear that things are worse now, and I worry that all is lost, I try to think of the simple, joyous good. I think about their wedding day. I think about everyone singing.

"It" is real and scary.

But we have "love."





*They gave every guest a CD filled with songs that held special meaning to them, with an explanation of each selection printed on the homemade CD jackets.

36 comments:

  1. That totally made me cry. Thank you.

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  2. What a wonderful memory. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  3. What a wonderful memory and tribute to what we lost AND what is still right with America.

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  4. I think that, in the months that followed 9/11, people were more profoundly effected than they would have predicted. Even people who knew no one who had been directly impacted by the attacks found themselves looking at life differently. Most of us still do. Seeing those images all over the news again this week immediately conjurs up the same sadness I felt five years ago.

    Good for Emily and Nick, for pressing on with their plans. Many people felt guilty for going on with life after 9/11, as though nothing had ever happened. Clearly that was not the case for you all, a fact that became evident in a very sweet way.

    Life goes on. It is different, but it goes on.

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  5. THAT was a wonderful way to celebrate a marriage, AND a way to show that in spite of what happened, our lives WILL go on. We will not let "IT" bring us down!

    Very touching post. Thanks for sharing, Kristy.

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  6. When I heard on NPR this morning two recordings of Congress singing God Bless America, it annoyed me. Those guys are conniving cheerleaders playing politics with emotions.

    It makes me embarrassed to love my country. Isn't that weird?

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  7. I hate crying at the office but that post was worth it. Thanks!

    Also...what smart old people!

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  8. I'm crying too. Beautiful. Thank you.

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  9. That was beautiful. I like what you wrote about the wedding, but mostly what you wrote about love.

    It is so hard to encapsulate what that day means now. It's good to remember that there is still love.

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  10. Kristy,
    That was a beautiful post -- both the content and your style. I've been lurking along for quite awhile now and just want to de-lurk to let you how much your voice as a writer is evolving. You've been striving for "breezy elegance" in your physical life, and that may come, but the word for this post ruly is "elegant."

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  11. That was beautiful. Thanks for telling that story. Your writing is a gift.

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  12. thank you for this post. It's beautiful.

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  13. Sounds like a lovely and meaningful celebration. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. This is by far the best thing I have read today about 9/11. Thank you.

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  15. i love hearing emily stories
    thank you for sharing that

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  16. wow. love the contrast between the younger people singing a barney song and the elders (who can remember at least vietnam, korea, and maybe ww2) bringing it home with dignity and wisdom... what a pitch perfect moment.

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  17. I'm a big fan of Emily AND of your blog.

    Beautiful story.

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  18. sniffle. thanks for that. i was at the gym last night and saw the a's game beginning and the crowd was singing 'god bless america' and i just about lost it right there on the elliptical.

    love to you.

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  19. That was a sweet story. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. That was beautiful Kristy. Thank you for sharing that.

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  21. Thank you, Kiki, for expressing so beautifully what I felt during that weekend in October 2001 and, especially, during that one deeply touching song. We had considered postponing the wedding, but ultimately felt that it would be life-affirming and, therefore, right and good to celebrate something so positive and uplifting.

    I watched with great pride as my father (never one to wear his heart on his sleeve, except when music is involved) enthusiastically led the charge in the singing of "God Bless America". Those who lived through WWII know about resiliance and patriotism and hope. I was struck then by the significance of "the older (oldest?) generation", with its hard-earned wisdom, enabling all of us to acknowledge "It" in the context of a celebration and, somehow, giving us faith that we would be okay.

    When that torch is passed, I hope that I'll be worthy of carrying it for the next generation. I'll have a tough act to follow. xoxoxo

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  22. M2, when I think about those moments, it is his face I see.

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  23. Ugh. Good post. Tears. :)

    Heart. hurts. :(

    ..||..

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  24. Is 'love' for our country really the best we can conjure up? I think its a sad state of affairs, however, I can see how special the moment would be on that day. Pretty cool actually. Old people, despite all their wrinkles and saggy balls are pretty wise.

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  25. What was especially poignant about that moment was realizing that there are other kinds of love that are equally important. Yes, you usually think of love between two people, especially at a wedding. And there are no shortage of love songs that focus on a man and a woman loving each other. That song took us all out of ourselves and made us focus on something bigger which was great. It made us remember to appreciate the life we have.

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  26. I've felt very selfish for the past 5 years... because whenever I think of September 11th... I immediately flash forward to my wedding. The two events are strangely intertwined in my memory -- and, although my memories of the wedding are entirely positive and beautiful (okay, save for the bus fiasco), there is this inexplanable "thing" hovering just over all of my mental images. Very oddly, I actually think that 9/11 made that day (10/6) even MORE special. Knowing that people cared enough to be there... that they came despite great fear and uncertainty, to express their love for Nick and me... Wow. I still don't have the words to express how moving and wonderful that was.

    The moment that brings everything together for me, however (and Nick, too, BTW) -- September 11th and the wedding and the craziness and sadness and hopelessness and confusion... and the hope and yearning and optimism and joy -- is the singing of that song, just as it happened. Everyone standing up... Putting their hands on their hearts... Joining in to sing together... Even the band finding the key and accompanying us... Unbelievable. I actually feel honored to have witnessed and participated in such a powerful and amazing moment.

    (Do you recall how, after that song, no other tables stood to sing? There was nothing left to say.)

    This was before "God Bless America" lost its specialness (at least for me). I don't even pause anymore when I hear it; it's become commonplace. But then... when everything was still so fresh and open... It was anything but overdone or meaningless. Of course, as we probably all do, I have my issues with America... But at that moment, "God Bless America" was so perfect, so right, so necessary.

    Thanks, Kiki, for helping me heal my own guilt at feeling selfish for linking 9/11 and my wedding. I guess they really WERE joined... and maybe,(if it there is such a thing) in a really good way.

    Love you so much.

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  27. Strange how, despite being the guy with the girl in the white dress next to him, I could never quite put words to the emotions of that moment.

    Strange how a day that is, by design, all about you (or at least about your bride first and then you somewhere relatively close behind - "relatively" relative to her mother, your mother, her father, the Maid-Of-Honor's and Best Man's speeches, whoever forgot the guest book thingy, the potential wedding crasher at table 6 and whoever was supposed to wake up grandma, that is....) is made so much better, indeed put a bow on by, a moment that was - perfectly - about everyone else.

    Thank you, Kiki, for setting that lei afloat in the water with such grace and dignity.

    Nick

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  28. old people are pretty wise. they have enough experience to put things in context for the rest of us who have yet to learn.

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  29. I really love this story - for personal reasons. In nyc, the world ended that day for many weeks. We froze. We were numb. Nothing was normal for so so long. And then I read that life did go on - babies were born, marriages went forward, love pervailed. It keeps me hopeful. Thank you.

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  30. I love this. Thanks for sharing it again on FB.

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  31. Beautiful post, Kristy. Thank you.

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