Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Father-Daughter Dance

It's bad enough to be twenty minutes late to a wedding at a Nazarene church. Scratch that -any church. But if you walk in twenty minutes late wearing a Hawaiian shirt and carrying a crabby toddler, well, people just tend to let it go. Like, if you have a friend who never curses and one afternoon in your backyard he drops the F-bomb, you think, hey. Whereas, if you meet some guy at a bus stop and every other word is F-that, F'n-this, and all that sh!t -you know that's just who he is.

Well, at least we went as a family, and that should count for something.

I like weddings. I do. When I was in my twenties and doing volunteer youth work for my church, I picked up a side job operating the sound board at the weddings. There wasn't much to it, really. I'd put the wireless microphone on the pastor, he was always good-humored about it, and then I'd turn on the board, check the levels, and that was it. Sometimes I'd get fancy and crank the volume when the bride and groom would say "I do" so the audience could hear it through the pastor's mike. And most of the time I didn't get any ear-piercing, deafen-the-angels kind of feedback from the sanctuary speakers. They'd slip me seventy-five bucks. I don't know why they needed me, really, I guess it's just good to have someone to blame if something goes wrong. Lord knows, if something had ever gone wrong with the soundboard I wouldn't have had the foggiest.

All that to say, I've seen a lot of weddings. Weddings where you don't know a soul are the most interesting, because you end up trying to ascertain who these people are by what they chose to do with such a significant day. Why did they pick these clothes, these flowers, these candles, this god-awful soloist, and so forth. But I would always say a prayer for those strangers, and maybe it was sappy and I'm old fashioned, but I happen to believe in the institution. I think it makes people better people. Like the military.

So we went in late and made a mess of the back pew, about twenty rows behind the rest of the congregation, and the little Ditchman started in on some of her noise, which I realize I'm the only one who thinks it's cute. I put my finger up to my lips and shushed her, which she thought was pretty entertaining so she put her finger to her mouth and shushed me back. This kid. Later, Mrs. Ditchman had to wrastle her out to the lobby and wait out the ceremony. And when the bride and groom finished the ceremonial kiss, were presented by the pastor (the father of the groom), and made their way glowingly down the aisle amidst the cheering ovation of loved ones, the couple departed the sanctuary of the Nazarene and into the world Out There where they were greeted immediately by... my family on the church carpet.

It was a hundred degrees outside! If you're going to have a wedding in August in Southern California, you just can't expect everyone to come in suits and ties! We made our way to the reception.

It was nice! Beautiful home. We were out on the grass, everyone looked great, and even though the Nazarene Church maintains a strong stance supporting total abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes, we ended up near a table where someone was lighting up a smokestack. Not wanting my 17 month-old anywhere near such blatantly toxic substances, I took her over near the bar where she could play with a few fifty pound bags of ice and I could get myself a drink.

And this kid's an explorer! Look the other way and she's Vasco De Gama on amphetamines and you're chasing her around the Cape Horn. She was in the street when the bride and groom pulled up to the party in the limo. Hello again! I try to be a formal guy, so I welcomed them to the reception with a beer in one hand, the kid swinging at me in the other, and me in my Hawaiian shirt.

But, no, it was nice! Saw some old friends, everyone looked good, everyone looked happy, met the bride's father (he was the one to thank for the booze), and enjoyed a fine meal -which is tough to do when you're trying to anchor down this little girl. Sometimes you just let her go, watch her from afar, and enjoy the annoyed looks of childless strangers wondering where this kid's parents are. But then she's out of sight and you have to chase after her, drag her back to the table, distract her with some ice while you get a few mouthfuls of dinner, and repeat. You figure this is how it's gonna be for a while, and then she'll be older and it'll probably be the same thing, only on a more figurative level, and then repeat. Sooner or later you're just gonna have to let her go altogether -the thought of which is just too painful to bear.

Better make damn sure there's booze at that wedding.