Our Family Has Been Cloven!

1) So, we danced up a storm at the wedding. I danced with my husband, in groups with my daughter and son, with random friends. We twirled, we gyrated, we shook body parts, we screamed the lyrics. I may be an introvert, but I can occasionally be shameless.

“We always wondered where your lack of rhythm came from,” one of our daughter’s friends told her. “Then we saw your whole family dance at the wedding and it all made sense.”

2) Being slow-witted and preoccupied, I completely underestimated how profoundly a new marriage would affect and re-shape our small nuclear family. Did we move from four to five — or from four to three? An argument can be made for either or both.

Fortunately, the English language, with its vast and flexible range, provides a solution. You know the verb to cleave? It can mean either to attach to and be faithful to — or to split apart. When cleaving comes into play, you can be both attached and split, your glass simultaneously half-empty and half-full, both a conundrum and a contradiction. Better yet, cleave’s past participle is cloven; you should know — I am a sucker for irregular verbs.

3) My husband’s brother became a reverend by way of the Internet so he could officiate at our daughter’s wedding. Ward is outgoing and thoughtful, and he loves to be in the middle of the action. So he was perfect for the job.

“The only thing I worry about is that he gets very emotional,” I told our daughter. “I don’t know if he can make it through the service without crying.”

“If he starts crying, we’ll all start crying,” someone else said. “The ceremony will grind to a halt.”

Ward didn’t cry. Instead, he threw out his back 48 hours before the wedding and had to be treated repeatedly with acupuncture so he could stand up during the service. As it turned out, it was my husband who cried, not his brother.

Moral of the story: Why bother to worry when you invariably obsess about the wrong thing and the wrong person?

I look at this and think, so what? I will continue to worry since it makes me feel like I am doing something. So much for morals and stories.

4) In normal times of my life, I write like most people in a series of paragraphs. I am always hopeful they flow and make sense, but you never know. Coherent narratives can be elusive.

In emotionally turbulent times, happy or sad, I give up and write in numbered paragraphs. In other words, in times of great transition, I can’t make transitions in my paragraphs.

Give me an emotional tsunami, I’ll give you a list. Life trumps writing every time.

5) A frequent comment that we heard — and loved — was that the wedding was so much like the bride and groom. I can’t imagine wanting it to be any other way.

6) Weddings are one of those solemn events that — excuse me, Samuel Johnson — focuses the mind. The young, I think, mostly see the future looming before them. The older see both glimpses of that future and the unspooling of generations past — steps and rites taken 40 or 70 years ago, faces almost forgotten, fashions that have vanished.

If there are a million stories in the Naked City, every wedding has its own multiple versions, a Rorschach of our lives. We all went to the same event, yet we didn’t.

7) The last drops of champagne have been drunk, the last toasts have been made, the final notes of the music have ended. Our families, our oldest friends, the bride’s and groom’s closest friends have all departed.

The newlyweds, happy and exhausted, have decamped on a short, restful trip before they go back to work. This trip is called a mini-moon, our daughter has explained. The real honeymoon — longer and more exotic — will wait for a few months.

In the meantime, my husband and I have wandered around our newly silent apartment and lives. We have fallen asleep at odd intervals, noticed we have new bags under our eyes, smiled as we recalled the outpouring of high spirits and affection and pure joy. One of my great beliefs in life is that you have to celebrate the happy occasions with everything in you — and we have done that.

But the bouncing back, the rebounding, are different and a little slower at this age. “If anyone deserves a mini-moon,” my husband said this morning, “I think it’s us.”

(Copyright 2014 by Ruth Pennebaker)


12 comments… add one
  • I was waiting to hear how the wedding went. It sounds absolutely perfect in every way. I think writing in numbered paragraphs makes absolute sense. You are simply reverting to your contract law training. All you are missing is the letters and Roman numerals: 1(c)(vii)

  • Congratulation on the wedding! What really attracted me to this post was the use of the word “cloven.” Maybe it’s just because I’m older now, and I know that language evolves, but I was equally as thrilled to see a blogger use the word “pellucid” the other day. Such a lovely word. I did have one reader complain about my vocabulary…my husband calls them my “50-cent words.” To the reader, I replied: “Invest in a dictionary.”

  • Tessa Link

    I’m glad the wedding was such a wonderful experience, Ruth. It helps when the bride takes it lightly, but so many weddings are ruined by the bride’s mother’s behaviour. So kudos all round!

  • Larry and I are so happy for all of you! Seems it was just yesterday that we had our children in tow marching in Dallas for the right to choose. Love to you all!

  • msue Link

    I only knew Teal as a young girl, when your family was in Dallas. Even at her young age, she struck me as a very bright and immensely curious girl, full of fun and great ideas. I’m thrilled for all of you that you’ve had this great celebration. Cleaved or cloven, your family has grown into a new shape. Congratulations to all. May the joy continue!

  • Robbie Link

    Congratulations – what memories! Tom and I learned after our first daughter’s wedding to take our own relaxing mini-moon after the next two daughters’ weddings.

  • Janice Link

    Congratulations! I just wanted to let you know how I related to your thoughts about the wedding! My daughter was also recently married — a very small intimate wedding with only immediately family and close friends present. My feelings are very similar to yours! Cleave is the perfect descriptor for all the emotions surrounding the day! Thank you!! So happy to have found your blog and look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  • You both should take a mini moon. Sounds like a wonderful wedding.

  • Big congratulations to you all, Ruth. Sounds like what happens after a big vacation; you need a smaller one to recuperate. Go take that MiniMoon!

  • Congratulations for making it through the wedding! And isn’t it true that the one thing you didn’t think to worry about is what doesn’t go how you expected.

  • Congrats to you all. Adding a son-in-law changes the family dynamic, it is true, but just wait until they have children, sweet little ones who make your own babies evolve into adults as they cleave (attached, faithful to) to their own nuclear family.

  • What a lovely event and accounting of said event. I definitely prefer to think of the family getting bigger. And I’m so glad to hear of the meaning of cloven – here I was picturing you all with deer feet or something. And yes, you deserve a mini-moon. Or maybe a maxi-moon.

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