I’m attending a wedding rehearsal dinner, the wedding is today, and it overwhelmingly heartwarming. I had no idea what to expect. My role was to be an escort, and an observer; to enjoy myself and a sneak in a small vacation. This week has been simply wonderful.
Here in Charlotte, in “the historical south”, this blending of families has confronted me with two generations of bi-racial unions. One grandmother is from Germany, one is from Liberia, two are from North Carolina. The accents of that oldest (retiring) generation, my generation, is purely musical to my ear. They are sharing their stories, and their joys for their children and grandchildren, with the vivid energy that only happens at happy family gatherings. I miss my old job, meeting people every week from every corner of the world; but I’m starting to think I arrived in that job at a magical time.
The next generation, including the bride and groom, cover the gamut of crayola shades, and I recall my warm smile during the Obama inauguration. Here, in this backyard in Charlotte, there must have been a celebration like my own that long ago day, and not the effigies and lies and anger from other corners. I have to pinch myself that I am in “the south”, in Charlotte, in North Carolina. I feel like I am in Disneyland … or on the moon.
Sadly, this second generation has no music to their voices. They work as laborers, tech & office professionals, teachers & stay at home parents. Their voices are flattened by Hollywood and cable TV, and adjusted by their work, not their region. My ear had a better chance to guess their career path than my old challenge of sensing “your home state or adjoining”.
The third generation, from 2 years old up to about 10, all look alike. How simply wonderful. And they sound alike as well; squirming around, hemming and hawing when addressed by an aunt or grandma. If only more parts of America looked like this little backyard, this little celebration of love, in 2 generations there would be no hate, no proud “deplorables”, nobody thinking they possessed superiority as a birthright. It would be physically impossible. Our country would have the true meritocracy that the advantaged demand with their words while feasting on the fruits of its non existence. Give this third generation an equal footing, America. I see only hope.
The women are dressed across the gamut; from Sunday best (with hats), to sundresses, jeans & heels, to pullover shirts, flip-flops and sneakers. The men (everyone except me) were smart enough to be in shorts for the hot and muggy Carolina evening. I’m relaxed in my khaki pants and Hawaiian shirt. When a latecomer arrives dressed almost as a Hollywood extra of an urban rapper (oversized shoes, sunglasses, sideways ball cap) he lights up to greet each person present, myself included. We smile and shake hands and we share excitement for the bride and groom. Of course we do. Nobody bats an eyelash, there is no reason.
Everyone sports a tat, except me, and I’m feeling old about it. I’ve learned to ask about the story behind them. Mom from Germany tells a story about 25 years ago being complimented on her “beautiful adopted children” and we all chuckle at her long ago inconsequential teachable moment. But another mom tells a different story, about falling ill and police preventing her son from rifling through her purse to fetch and show them his ID; how she was his mom, this was her purse, and he was her son. Blue Lives Matter? Lets hurry to get our colors blended.
The bride and groom are 30 something, and bring along kids to their happy union. Their families are already blending, including their handful of grandmothers. Within an hour I’ve forgotten who goes with who. The dinner is simple, in the backyard of the groom’s parents. We drink strawberry margaritas & Bud Light right from the cans, kept on ice in coolers on the kitchen floor. Dinner is amazing; fried and BBQ chicken and ribs, beans and slaw and rice from the Carolina bayou and African side dishes. Everybody brought a piece of their heart, dished up on cardboard chinet plates and eaten boy-girl-boy-girl around temporary tables stuffed into every room. The kids are stacked on the stairway, like garden gnomes, all smiles and twinkling eyes (during dinner), later chasing each other and launching each other on the backyard trampoline. Its like a mixture of family Christmas and Labor day picnic, and I had the honor of being allowed in, to watch, and listen, and feel the love of these now blending families; strangers to me until today.
We toast the happy couple with Crown Royal, and there are so many plastic cups that someone must run out for another bottle. I look around the room, and it is Hollywood perfect; America’s salad bowl, representing every life story. We stand around a tiny backyard picnic table three people deep, holding plastic communion cups in the air on outstretched arms of every possible style, each filled with the golden brown syrup. We are all thinking only of tomorrow and tomorrow and the years to come; full of hope and happiness; ringed in laughter and decked out in smiles.
“To the Bride and Groom”