Leah married James yesterday evening. About 40 attended the ceremony, which was held on the hillside of a large, flowering garden facing the southwest — behind Leah and James, and in the distance, rose Cheyenne Mountain.
Perhaps oddly, I felt little of anything on the drive to the wedding. I was interested, but that’s about it. So I was unprepared for the strange feelings that came over me when the ceremony began. I suppose those feelings had something to do with the concerns, hopes and dreams I once had for Leah’s future, and perhaps with my own mortality, and the cycle of life.
How is it possible to lend a hand in raising a child without wondering — and sometimes worrying — what future she will have? I did not suspect, when I began nannying her, how much Leah and her brother would eventually enter into my thoughts and feelings. There were times I was proud of her, times I despaired of her, times I thought she was being shallow, times I thought she was being profound. Once, I imagined she would become a lawyer. On another occasion, a politician. A secretary seemed possible for a while, as did a single parent on welfare. Leah kept all of us guessing — not just me — until she surprised everyone by going into child care.
The ceremony itself was a mix of the traditional and the innovative, and included both spoken parts and music played at intervals on acoustic guitars. It was not a Christian wedding, but a minister officiated.
The minister began with some more or less traditional words about love and marriage. Then there were readings. Among the readings, some thoughts on love written by Anne Morrow Lindberg (wife of Charles Lindberg) whose gist was that love is not constant but fluctuates and evolves. That was followed by an Apache wedding prayer with references to nature and the earth. Then ritual vows ended the ceremony. Leah and James kissed passionately.
Later in the evening, I wandered about the gardens for a bit as the guests were dancing and noticed the moon almost full. Some things have always been and will always be. It seems to me marriage is one of those constants. In all likelihood, what the anthropologists whimsically call “public, ritualized pair bonding” is as old as our species, and possibly older. In each generation, a few of us rise up to pronounce it sick, outdated or dead, but the act is firmly lodged in our genes. It is instinctual to us. We can no more erase the instinct to marry than we can erase the plains of Africa on which it evolved.
Another thing that seems to me more or less constant is the instinctual love of a child. Leah effortlessly attached herself to me soon after I began nannying her more than a dozen years ago. And a few years later she just as effortlessly — and just as inevitably — outgrew her child’s attachment. The moon waxes and the moon wanes, and somehow stays ever the same, generation after generation.
At middle age, I’ve become aware of these cycles of life. I’ve learned that each generation in many ways repeats the behavior of the generations that came before it. And in a curious way, it’s reminded me of my own mortality.