April 22, 2018

Wedding Presents

I was recently at a wedding. The groom was the son of a friend of mine. Though the groom and I don't hang out independent of the rest of his family, I would consider him a friend as well. He is one of the people I go with on the annual four day backpacking trip, and we figured out that I have known him since he was three years old. His mom, then a single mom with multiple jobs and school on her schedule, would sometimes bring him to our work where he would sit and color until his grandparents came to pick him up. Many of the restaurant staff got to see this young boy grow into a wonderful man, and some were there to celebrate his step into a new life with his wife. Beautiful, wonderful.

A week ahead of the wedding (cause I like to procrastinate) I was shopping for the traditional wedding present online. So easy these days. The present could even be shipped directly to them so they wouldn't have to gather them all up after the wedding. One less moving part on the day of the ceremony.

They are in their mid-twenties, creating a brand new home so every dish and fork is a piece of that. Though I am sure everything is greatly appreciated and all one small piece of the whole, it is always odd to buy a single dish, place setting or towel. I opted for a divided sauté pan that I had not seen before, if only because I thought it was cool.

My own wedding was more than seventeen years ago. We have now been apart for about as much time as we were together, and it is hard to wrap my head around the amount of time that has passed. All these years later I am still eating off our dishes, brewing coffee in our coffee pot, and having pancakes stick on our Teflon weary pan. They were long ago left to me so they are no longer "our" things. There are plenty of talismans that remind me of our marriage, but the kitchen things are now just kitchen things. I had a hand in picking them out and I still quite like them.

I am sorry to say that I don't remember who was nice enough to give us each item on that September day, but know that your gifts are still being used and appreciated almost two decades later.

Before the recent wedding I had been thinking about wedding presents in a different way. You bring not only yourself to each new relationship, but also your friends, family and all the history you have created together. Jennifer and I had a few mutual friends when we began, and over the years many more became "our" friends. I would say that most of mine became ours, but for some reason there were a few that remained distinctly hers. I don't know why this was, but not everyone is going to like you.

When we split, friends could have been caught in the middle. I am sure many divorcing couples try to avoid this, but I feel that we made a special effort to try and prevent it from happening. Ultimately I don't know how successful we were, and I honestly don't know what the relationships with our friends and Jennifer have been like in the intervening years. However I have the sense that I was left with most of the friends, as I was with the household goods.

Something sort of odd but wonderful has happened in these post-marriage days. I have become good friends with a few of "her" friends. Some I know better now than I did then, and I am blessed that the failure in one relationship did not take out another. For a while I felt the oddity of this gift, but now I am only reminded of it when someone asks, "so how do you know each other?"

The event that started this rambling train of thoughts was an invitation from a friend who was coming to town. She began as a friend of Jenn, then she was ours, but then I hadn't seen her much recently. She now lives in another state so our connection is very Facebook dependent. Anyway, she was going to be in town and rather than trying to coordinate multiple meetings, she planned a gathering at a local brewery and invited a bunch of people. Tax season was not in its full abusive mode yet, and thankfully the brewery was near work, so I was able to join them for an hour and a half. It was wonderful seeing her, meeting her new(ish) husband, and catching up on things awesome and trivial.

There was another couple there that I had met a couple of times but didn't know all that well. When the guy said, "I think the last time I saw you was at your wedding," elephants were acknowledged, so initial connections could be recognized and forgotten. We settled in for a great evening and sort met for the first time, for the second time. It was one of those evenings where I just sat back and enjoyed the mystery and beauty of it all.

Since that evening, and while this post has been rattling around in my head when I was too busy/tired to put pen to paper, I found out that Jennifer re-married. She had reached out to me previously to let me know she was engaged, but I didn't know when the wedding was, and last weekend I noticed her last name had changed on Facebook. Though I knew it was coming, and we have been a long time apart, I was still hit with a deep sadness. A reminder of all that I lost when the thing that was Us came to an end.

It was great seeing Dalton getting married earlier this month - to see the love in the room and to bear witness the start of a new life. I don't know if this is strange or not, but I continue to say (and believe) that my wedding day was one of the best days of my life. So many friends and family brought together in a single place to celebrate hope, love and community. Even all these years later, after all that has changed, I am reminded of the gifts that it brought, and occasionally still get to open a present.