At Large : As it turns out
In a small, spare church in Kinderhook, New York, the haunts of Ichabod Crane High School, Ichabod's creator Washington Irving, and the esteemed former president of the United States, Martin Van Buren, who never vacationed on the Vineyard, the oldest boy was married Saturday.
Kinderhook was almost the home of the old Islander, retired and down on her luck. Her final resting place, or at least the place where her parts were to be scattered like the gritty ashes of a dead relative, is a long, yellow building next to Rt. 9, the main drag. The enterprise didn't look busy or prosperous, and town officials are wide-eyed with wariness at the prospect of adding Islander's marine remains to the assortment of ancient machinery, farm tractors, and earth movers, all pre-deceased, that are planted out front along the road.
The stone church was the bride's own, her family's own, one of several community churches in town. It was well attended - the large parking area nearby testified to that - and well tended.
It was an especially cheery occasion, because the bride and groom, or the plain, pleasant, unpretentious community, or the simple words of the ceremony appeared to me to strike the guests as just the ticket. Without doing it, they nodded yes, we're with you. The priest explained that we learn to love one another from parents and friends. It is the most bedrock human education that, if nothing goes awry along life's occasionally tortured way, leads to the step the bride and groom took Saturday, and with careful, kind, thoughtful exercise, perhaps to a lifetime together.
There was a song about how the heart needs a home and how the world is no place to be alone. There was a poem filled with images - certainly more exquisite in a poet's terms than their video counterparts might have been - of the mystery, beauty, and sparkle possible in such a union as the one forged Saturday.
The crowd was the usual mix when young people at the end of their twenties tie the knot. There were grandparents, not doddery yet, and highly experienced in the ways of life and love. There were grandchildren, amazed by the music, the candles, the glittery dresses of their mothers and the surprisingly spruced up turnout of their fathers. They wondered what it all meant, but they knew it was very good.
And, there were the contemporaries of the bride and groom, all moving up, or standing at ease while they contemplated a next step along the way. A few years beyond college and graduate school, but not beyond the spell of the animated hilarity that would succeed the service. They cheered the vows, cheered the blessing, and dug into the celebrations. They were, I think, prepared to embrace what they saw as an outcome that would before long suit them as it clearly suited the pair united that day.
I spoke with the long-married mother of one of the groomsmen, the one who had sung for us from the altar. I said your son and his girlfriend appear very fond of one another. This lovely woman, drifting through dance after dance as the afternoon's reception took aim at the small hours, crossed her fingers, then turned a thumb up. "I think so. I hope so," she said.
A handsome woman in her eighties who had been a ballroom dancing instructor years ago and was a great aunt to the groom danced once or twice to a slow song. Between the few slow ones - a waltz, a samba, or a rumba - that she'd taught, the brash busy rhythms had the younger celebrants churning and strutting on the dance floor. The men did not wear the white gloves that were required of the boys in her classes, so as not to soil the girls' dresses. The boys only occasionally took their female partners in their arms. It was a nonstop dancing affray. I think human beings are never happier than when they are dancing.
There were moonwalkers and break dancers. The bride and her dad danced the polka. Who dances the polka these days? There was even a guy who could fall flat, do a pushup, jump to his feet, and do it over and over again, never out of step with the music. There was a fellow who had adopted a very low energy style that featured a little inconsequential jiggling of the lower parts and a lot of jerky, robotic hand and arm movements. The impression I took away was that human love and romance have nothing to fear from the increasing aptitude of computer driven machines or artificial intelligence. Still - a word to the wise - there was in this dance style, unique among the celebrants, a hint of promise for future elderly members of the weddings. It is a very energy sparing style, easy on the joints and the back and unusual enough to leave onlookers wondering whether it's a gone-by fad or the new, new move that will soon take the club scene by storm.
The bride and groom danced every dance. They mugged for their friends and showed off their most dazzling moves, none as dazzling as the one showcased earlier in church, but splendid nevertheless. They know one another and one another's moves on and off the dance floor very well. Saturday was inevitable between them. It arrived as they had known for years it would. It was an everyday miracle.
As it turned out, the occasional rain, the more than occasional mosquitoes, and the heat meant nothing. The parents and their parents nodded contentedly and danced. The bride and groom and their contemporaries nodded complacently, acceptingly, and danced. The groom, a busy, anxious week ended, was content. The bride sat in on the bongos with the steel band.