It was like a wedding reception. My sister-in-law had set up tables covered in memorabilia. There was an honored place for the bride and groom. Tables were arrayed for dinner. My nephews were the waiters. Yet there was very little of the tension that accompanies a wedding. Instead of being newly related and trying to find balance with each other, we were all long-familiar. We’ve worn off the edges and know how to bend around, and love people for, their quirks.
I did not get to attend my parents’ wedding. They held it ten years before I was born. Yet if I only got to pick one, I definitely choose their 50th anniversary celebration instead. We got to see both my mom and my dad in their youth and then we remembered the life they built together and how the rest of us joined it one by one. Reaching the 50th anniversary was the excuse, but the reason for the party was to celebrate our family.
I didn’t expect to cry, but I did. It was the little things that hit me, like this picture hanging from a little tree. I hardly recognize that young couple as my parents, but I remember that quilt. It perished long ago, but I remember laying on it as a little girl and thinking it beautiful. Photo after photo opened pockets of memory, things that I had forgotten about who I was as a child and what my family was like as I grew up. I’m still thinking about all of it. I’m still looking around the town where I grew up and thinking about that too.
We hadn’t intended to have a big party other than to gather the siblings together. My sister-in-law did most of the work for the party and provided her own crew. It was a huge gift, not just to my parents, but to all of us. It is not that having the event changed anything, but it showed us what was already there and had been there for fifty years. When you live inside something, it is hard to see it until there is an event to make you sit up and notice.
My parents sat together as their grandchildren sang to them. They held hands and my dad cried until one of my young nieces ran up to him with a paper napkin and shoved it in his face. Then we all laughed. They were beautiful, this family I came from is beautiful. It has been fifty years in the making and we’ve barely begun.