One recent day, my 2-year-old granddaughter and I got married 27 times. COVID-19 was never mentioned.
We wrapped ourselves in scarves, hers trailing elegantly on the floor, mine strangling my neck, and moved the 17 steps from my couch to my bedroom. Because she’s short, and a bride, she took a lot more steps. Then, with me sitting on the side of the bed, she would announce, “Now we’re married.” Sometimes we danced. Once, at her mother’s farm on Chappaquiddick, we gathered yellow buttercups and got married in the open air, minus the scarves, three times.
The fascination began after her mother showed her a book of her own wedding photos. Although I never witnessed this, I imagine Juna pouring over the photos with rapt interest. Anything her mother does is OK with her, so I’m sure marrying her “Gaji” seemed like just the thing. Since I live next door and am usually available for weddings, I made a good groom. Plus, I like to dance.
Juna’s weddings seem so hopeful. And simple. Not like the reality. Here, in real time, weddings have been canceled, hopes ended by this thing my granddaughter calls “the iris.”
My youngest son, who lives on the Vineyard, is now planning his own wedding for October. Because he is who he is, Christian has sown a half-acre of wheat so he can mill his own flour to make bread for his wedding. Because she is who she is, Carla is raising the lamb they will slaughter themselves. Christian will cook the lamb in a pit on his sister’s farm on Chappy for their wedding dinner, and prepare all the other food for the dinner, including his bread. Carla is raising her own flowers, with help from friends. She’s already designed her own wedding announcement — a linoleum block drawing of a cow munching a doughnut, uniting two of their interests. The cow has pink sprinkles, and wears a crown of pink flowers.
We occasionally talk about COVID-19, and what it may mean to their wedding. They know they may have to cancel if the virus keeps family and friends from traveling to the Vineyard for the event. Yet they march right along, getting her wedding dress, which will be altered by a longtime friend, and worrying that his suit might clash with her dress.
Carla and Christian are not your everyday couple. There won’t be a long white dress, and there won’t be tuxes or best men. We’ll sit or stand outside somewhere on the farm, then go back for the dinner in the greenhouse they have planned. Their hopes are that the 20-something people they’ve invited will simply be excited and happy for them. And that they’ll be able to continue to live on the Vineyard, the place my son was raised from the seventh grade, and that we all hope Carla will grow to love as much as he does. This spring’s weather aside.
All this brings me to hope.
The number of COVID-19 deaths is staggering. The plans canceled — my own for Vienna in the spring, Morocco in the fall — are testaments to the impact. Livelihoods are gone; lines for the Good Shepherd and Food Pantry free food bags are hundreds of cars long. Long-pent-up anger is erupting in the U.S., fueled by hunger, fear, terrible angst, and longtime racial inequalities.
I’ve now lived on Chappy for 70 days, and have gone off four times. It makes me nervous and anxious. We now wear masks, or look anxiously at those who don’t. We try to wear ill-fitting gloves that we have no idea how to dispose of once we’re finished. “Zoom” is part of our new lexicon. Edgartown is talking about closing streets to traffic to form outdoor dining areas. This week I had lunch with three old friends. We brought our own food, sat outside six feet apart, and talked about getting tested.
And yet … my son-in-law’s sister is now pregnant. The rhododendrons at Mytoi are blooming. My son is planning his wedding. And life goes on, with hope and with joy.
Jan Pogue, along with her late husband John Walter, founded the Island’s book publishing company, Vineyard Stories. She has been retired for five years, and lives much of the year on Chappaquiddick.