she’s got a way
August 9, 2011
She’s got a light around her. Everywhere she goes, a million rays . . . She’s got a smile that heals me . . .
I do not generally listen to Billy Joel. But tonight I sit on an airplane, thinking about yesterday. Wondering how to start putting to words to it all. Worrying that I won’t be able to do it justice. I turned on the in-flight radio stations and found a station devoted to Billy Joel. I flipped to it, to find this song playing. And as hesitant as I am to quote a popular love song, I couldn’t help but find this one giving words to my feelings. I’ve been going through my photos as well, and had just been struck by the immense number of photos in which the mile-wide beauty of Helen’s smile made me just stop and wonder who this girl was. How did I grow up hand in hand with this girl, not thinking twice about it.
Funny how family can be so humdrum and so intense, all at the same time. You get bored together . . . bore each other even. You annoy one another; you fume; you rant. But you love. And there are redeeming moments in which the love bubbles up so intensely that it turns to tears.
For this past week and a half, the family has been together again, gathering from all our respective corners of the country [and world], in order to prepare for the practicalities of a much-anticipated, much planned-for day. When it has been years in the making, you get so used to the idea of a thing than the reality of it is more surreal than real. And surreal is exactly what this time has been.
It has been madness, in many ways. Depending on the day, 2, 3, 4, or 5 families together in a house, sharing bathroom kitchen, bedroom, and living spaces. Children playing together [mostly kindly, with relatively few mishaps], grown-ups cooking together, cleaning together . . . getting frustrated together. One night one of the children was struggling with the time difference, the changes, and all the craziness, spending much of the night screaming when she needed to be sleeping. “Sweet girl,” I commented, “the only difference between you and us grown-ups is that we wish we could be doing the same thing as you but we aren’t allowed!”
Anyhow, all that to say, just because this has been a celebratory gathering does not mean that it has been necessarily rosy. It hasn’t. But it has been worth it all. Well worth it.
I tend to make much of anything involving music or dance. So probably the best way for me to pull together the ceremony and festivities of yesterday will be to use the music and dance as a grounding, or reference point. So I will use a few of them as snippets to give those of you who weren’t there the chance to see at least one person’s perspective. And it will perhaps give those of you who were the chance to see inside my admittedly difficult-to-understand mind ☺
Several aspects of my sister’s planning caught me off-guard a bit. In a good way. I think this is because of the fact that I have always felt like I needed her more than she needed me. Ironic, since I am the oldest; but the way I felt all the same.
So one of the surprises came when Helen asked me to spend the night before the wedding with her. Since she officially married a year ago, it didn’t occur to me that she would spend the evening on her own. She asked if I’d be willing to stay with her that night, a good month before the event. And when she asked, I was so excited at the idea that I started gabbing about it to all around me. So the night before the ceremony, we had a bit of a girly slumber party. I did her nails. We had a few heart-to-hearts. We even gossiped a bit, rare for 2 women who are generally non-gossiping types. And then, before lights out, she asked me if I knew of any good calming songs for her to go to bed to. I laughed about how I had just listened to an NPR story about pre-labour songs that women had chosen, and tried to brainstorm a bit. Then I realized that I had been away from her for so long that I hadn’t even played some of my own writings for her, at least in her presence. So I opened up iTunes and played one of my harmony experiments. After listening, she asked who I had been singing with in the recording. Surprised at the question, and thinking maybe she was joking, I just shrugged and said, “Myself?” We realized then that we had done music with others over the years but had missed sharing that part of our lives with each other, though each of us had been well-involved in the musical arts in our own circles. We turned out the lights, I noticed the brilliant stars out my loft-bed window, and we readied ourselves for all that the next day had in store, much of which we knew would not really be known until it happened . . . you never really know for sure in situations like this, I think.
On the day of the wedding itself, music and dance continued. Helen’s old gospel choir volunteered to perform during the ceremony, doing an amazing job with their song and dance. Then, partying on through the day evening—and on into the morning hours—we sang and danced aplenty. Helen offered a bit of cultural education with her fine rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.” She and Marian danced to “Come away with me” and to “Annie’s Song.” I didn’t know Helen liked this John Denver classic, which happens to be my favorite love song, so I couldn’t hide my pleasure when it came on . . . nor would I want to, of course ☺
Here I close. There is so much more I could write about this time of such intensity. But there is staff training to be done at the moment, and moving logistics. So for the sake of getting this out in a timely fashion, I leave you with this simple closing: I love my sister, deeply, intensely . . . forever. And I am proud to call Marian my brother.