Saturday, August 09, 2008

#300 - this had better be good

this is my 300th blog posting since i created the blog, which i did in '04, but i didn't actually start blogging in earnest until this past january. it's really weird how those round numbers seem to have some sort of significance. why is that? luckily, i have something to write about, because it feels wrong to fill a round post with the mundane. this should really be a moment of perfect clarity. let's hope it is! 

some friends of ours got married yesterday on 08.08.08. they got the infinity symbol engraved on their rings, pushing the whole 8-thing to the maximum. i think that was pretty cool. they are in their 40s, both have children from previous relationships and so this is a real true love kind of marriage, they're not proving anything to anyone but themselves and that was so nice because it meant that it was all about relaxing and enjoying the day.

the ceremony was in a little country church that must have been added onto several times over the years, as the main part was really quite tiny and we (who got there only about 5 minutes before the bride) were actually seated in another "wing" that went off from the main aisle, which meant that we couldn't actually see any of the ceremony except for a quick glimpse of the bride as her son escorted her down the very short aisle to the front and out of our line of sight. 

it was one of those church services where i felt totally out of place...everyone else seemed to know when the standing and the singing and the sitting and the standing again and sung "amens" were coming, but i was bewildered and a beat behind all of them. i had a terrible time understanding the minister, as his accent sounded very strange. later, even the danes said they felt the same way (whew, i thought my few days in norway this week had somehow wrecked my ability to understand danish!). they thought he'd had a stroke at some point and his speech was affected by that. i was quite relieved that it wasn't just me.

the bride and groom meandered on foot over to the local community centre where the party would be held. it was a very relaxed and happy procession and many of the guests also walked over. it's so nice with second weddings, the couple in question always seems to enjoy them so much more!

i will admit that i was nervous about attending a danish wedding. i had been to one 8 years ago and had had such a miserable time that i had to step outside twice to bawl my eyes out. or perhaps it was just the smoke from the chain cheap cigarillo-smoking grandfather that was seated next to me. or the fact that i was in the early stages of pregnancy with twins and not yet ready for anyone to know that, so i couldn't even drink to cope. or perhaps it was because there were 11 songs and speeches, including one from the cat, for a couple with a limited range of interests (which had pretty much been covered in the first 2-3 songs). or maybe it was because my husband's ex-wife was also invited and i was feeling a bit insecure about that. in any case, i was totally unable, on that previous occasion, to appreciate it in any way, not even from an anthropological or sociological standpoint--observing the natives in their natural habitat and such.

so, i was a little bit nervous. these are friends, but not our closest, best friends (tho' our closest, best friends were there). we have spent new year's with them a couple of times and been to birthdays and summer parties, but only knew a few of their friends. i didn't feel i knew them well enough to know what the level of sentimental songs/speeches would be and i was dreading those.

let me say that when danes have big, significant parties, they often make up songs for the guest of honor. think cheesy lyrics featuring anecdotes of trips to mallorca set to famous melodies. you actually see ads in the paper for people who do this "songwriting" professionally. if you're too lame to actually put together a song for your friends, some stranger who doesn't know them at all will gladly do it for you. in my experience, the cleverness of these songs is limited at best and is only meaningful to a very small percentage of the audience that attends any such party (it can be birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, confirmations that are the occasion for such songs) and pretty much a vaguely embarrassing situation for everyone else.

i don't know what was different about this party. for one, there were only two songs and 3-4 speeches. the speeches were very appropriate to the one giving them--the groom gave a speech that was just very much him. his mother gave a good speech that said a lot about the generational shift that i don't think knew she was saying (more about that in a minute). friends spoke, from the heart and in a very real, grounded and caring way (more about that too).

it was also about me being in a different place. i could have wine because i wasn't pregnant this time. and i understand danish a whole lot better than i did 8 years ago. and a really charming, lovely girl from namibia (who lives in iceland and will be an icelandic citizen in october) was sitting across from me and we had a very interesting conversation with her. 

the groom's parents are rather elderly and they were an old shipping family whose shipping company was wrestled away from them in some uproar years ago. there is a clear generation gap that is also a gap in social standing. his mother, who is 82 and was perfectly lovely in a long, formal purple gown, with perfect earrings and coiffed hair, is clearly of an old fashioned upper-class family. she speaks in the same accent as the queen and isn't entirely comfortable in a provincial community building, nor does she entirely understand why her son wants to live in an unfinished summer house with his new wife and now four children while working as a pedagogue to handicapped children. for me, knowing the story of no-longer shipowners generation, there is an air of sadness over her that isn't there in her son, who apparently never really knew that life and embraces the life he lives. very interesting to observe if one is anthropologist for an evening. and was very revealing of family dynamics. 

the friend who gave the most touching speech was also an interesting study of the natives. i've often ranted on this very blog about people being very cold and closed in denmark. but, what is quite amazing is their capacity to open up and stand up in a room full of people that they largely don't know and speak completely from the heart and sincerely (in this case without sentimentality) of their feelings with regard to the friendship they have shared with the guest of honor. it is an ability to be admired and treasured. i even got tears in my eyes from this friend's speech. they had both been lonely 40-somethings together, despairing they would ever find "The One," and he was so sincerely happy for his friend to have found her. 

although i never really danced...the DJ was a bit too all over the place-Abba one second and techno the next--we sat together with a big group of friends and had lots of laughs, doing ridiculous parlor tricks (pat your head and rub your stomach) and just simply having a wonderful time with friends.  my faith in danish weddings was restored. it was a wonderful way to spend 08.08.08.


Barb said...

What a terrific story. I could actually see you sitting in the church off to the side trying to see around a pillar of some sort blocking your view of the bride and groom.

Sounds like a very interesting time. B

Natz Navarro said...

Hey! Funny you talk about weddings, Girl! I just got engaged! You free March 21, 2009? We got more than a decade to catch up on!
(' ',)

tangobaby said...

Well, congratulations on your blogiversary and key post. And that you enjoyed the wedding.

It's helpful and interesting (at least for us) when you can move into an observation mode and learn a lot about the people around you, when you don't know them.

I've learned something about Danish weddings now. So if I ever have to go to one, I might have a clue as to what to expect. ;-)

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

"luckily, i have something to write about"- let me say that you always do, and you do it with wit and charm. Given that it was about special times and magic numbers, I think this was a magical post to mark your 300th.
Congratulations on the significant number of posts.
I've been a bit behind in reading blogs lately but I'm getting there!