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Scenes from a Wedding

Thursday, July 5, 2018

I had the privilege of attending my niece Claire's wedding to her love Cam last weekend. Took my kids and drove all day, over the mountains and down down down to almost sea level, on the coastal plain of Maryland, to the beautiful home of Cam's parents, the perfect setting along the Severn River.

Rehearsal dinner Friday night featured three crates of enormous blue crabs, freshly steamed. I learned from Cam's lovely stepmother how to pick a crab. My brother wasn't so keen on separating all that crustacean anatomy, so I kept filling a little bowl of melted butter with lumps of crabmeat, and Bob obligingly devoured it with his blue fork. To my left, my four-year-old grand-niece Amy was begging like a baby bird for crab, so I was poking sweet crabmeat in her mouth, too. Anyone who knows me knows I love to feed critters and people, so these were commensal relationships. I probably picked 15 crabs. Tore my fingers and thumbs up something awful. Crab claws and shells are sharp, and Old Bay stings. But I didn't mind. Didn't get a single speck on my new shirt, perhaps the biggest feat of all.

Bob was to sing a song and accompany my nephew Evan on guitar. He had to keep his strength up.

The music was delightful, wafting on a summer breeze.

 I love my family. I felt lucky just to be there, to see them all. They are all such good people. Solid, kind, self-effacing, mutually supportive, and good. I don't get to see them nearly enough. Weddings are a great blessing, bringing us all together.

And weddings are interesting, beautiful, and in many ways strange to me. They're a mix of ancient ritual and new preferences. Many of us feel the need to break out of the iron box of tradition and change it up, so we don't feel we're doing what everyone before us has done. That's what I find interesting: what parts of the ritual we choose to keep, and what we leave behind. It all matters a lot to those of us who are planning the ceremony. In the end, though, the ceremony is simply how we enter that binding legal agreement, one that's the same for everyone, and one I've been thinking about a lot.

It's nice when the weather cooperates, and the sheets of rain, thunder and lightning that haunt our dreams for months beforehand fail to show up. This one in Arnold, Maryland, had some pretty intense heat, but there was a breeze and all would be well. It was a fine hot summer day, and there were around 200 people gathered to witness. I liked watching people arriving, making their way down the sloping green to the shady spot where the ceremony would take place.

When I go to family weddings, I like to take my big lens and make myself useful shooting photos. Maybe I can capture some moments that the professional photographers didn't snag. I try, anyway. I need to occupy myself, like a border collie finding a job that feels meaningful. It's a pure pleasure when the setting, the light, and the people all conspire in beauty.

My sister Nancy and brother-in-law Larry both walked Claire down the green. I loved that. There was no "giving Claire away." Just welcoming Cam in.

Cam waits while his folks make their way down.

Our gracious and generous hosts, Tommy and Renee.

Ringbearers,  Charlie and Ben. They executed their job perfectly, Charlie gently leading his cousin Ben.

It got interesting with the flower girls. Just before they were to come down the aisle, we heard a loud wail. Then beheld this spectacle:

 It had to do with one basket being bigger than the other. Cait, on the left, noted that Amy had the bigger flower basket, and no explanation that Amy was older so would get the bigger basket was going to placate her. Nancy didn't want to reward Cait's howl with the bigger basket, but it quickly became clear that nothing good was going to happen, at least not in the next hour or so, unless Cait got her way. 

Toddlers are finely tuned to look for and root out inequity wherever it occurs. They watch each other and the adults around them like young raptors, making sure that everyone gets the same treatment. Any whiff of favoritism, somebody getting one more noodle or a bigger scoop of ice cream than you got, and there's a loud wail queued up and instantly deployed. Equity, and its relentless pursuit, is one of the most important concepts in a small child's world. And if you think about this in a sociobiological way, it makes perfect sense. If your parents are hunting and gathering, and food supply is intermittent and iffy, and you sense that you're getting the short end of the stick, you might not make it to the next encampment. They might be phasing you out as one more than they can realistically feed. So you put up a howl. You make your need impossible to ignore.

 At the last minute, Nancy apologetically explained things to Amy, and asked Amy to give up her big basket so Cait would walk down the green at all. You can see it in Amy's stoic mien. Great. I get the small basket just so she won't wail! And Cait's all, I got the big basket, so I'm not gonna cry any more, but I still feel bruised. And where's my mom when I need her? Wearing a pink dress and several hundred yards away, that's where she is.

  Pretty soon Amy-with-the-small-basket outpaced Cait, and she tromped determinedly straight to the altar, head down, not strewing any flowers from her basket.  Just getting the job done. I'm taking this puny basket of flowers down front. 

Furious was never more adorable. 

When her dad gently suggested Cait distribute some flowers on her way down, there was resistance. All in all, the mini-drama was tough for the girls and their folks, but awfully fun to watch, knowing how small girls think about such things, and why. Had they tiptoed down strewing hydrangea flowers and smiling, it would have been sweet, but not nearly as memorable. This mini-drama was food for thought.

I thought about the ospreys in their nest just off the dock; the way young ospreys peck, sometimes viciously, at each other, trying to command the food supply. Very young humans are not so different. They are much closer to our origins, the predictable behavior some might label "spoiled" clearly linked to the fight to survive at all costs. Their mission is to get the full parental attention they crave, and they are very, very good at it. As Nancy said later, "Who ever thought that having two different sized baskets was going to work?" Snort!


Flower girls' passage completed, we got to watch Nan and Larry's beautiful daughters make their way to the shady spot by the river, to wait for their sister Claire.

Amy's mom has got it goin' on!

And so does Cait's! Sometimes we Zick sisters sit around and try to figure out how we managed to make kids who look like movie stars. Alchemy, we conclude. 

Here comes the groom!

Cam is a professional sailor. Winning races or getting sailboats where they need to go--he's the guy who can do it. I cannot even imagine what this man knows about the sea and wind and how to handle boats.

I was so busy shooting handsome Cam watching his bride come down the aisle that I almost missed the moment that Claire swept down the hill, flanked by her parents.  They were upon me before I knew it, and I had to quickly switch to my iPhone to capture this shot.   

As the wedding photography pro's shot it. I couldn't resist showing you this one because everyone looks so fabulous!
photo by Jenn Manor Photo, lifted off Instagram.
 A spontaneous hug from Nancy just before the service. 

 Claire and Cam's adorable, sweet, smart, cool dog Sirius was part of the ceremony, too. I imagine his last name is Black. He is the blackest, slickest, sweetest gemmun! Many were smitten, including me! He wandered about off-lead most of the day, meeting and greeting, like a good dog will. Channeling someone we remember with fondness, and doing it beautifully.

Since this is a massive post that has taken days to edit, write and put together, I'm going to split it into two parts. Spoiler alert: In the next post, Claire and Cam say I Do, and little girls run around.  :)


Totally digging the sociobiological comments on the flower girls, Julie. It was no different with my siblings and me, and although I vaguely understood it before, I now have no excuse for not doing so. Looking forward to the next post!

Great observations as usual from the mistress of observation! When my niece, Melissa was the flowergirl at my sister, Carolyn's wedding, she refused to smile the entire time. The reason? She was forced to wear yellow, which was the color of the bridesmaids' dresses. She wanted to wear pink. So all we photographers got was a pout from Melissa.

And I remember raising a stink one time when my place setting had a smaller spoon than everyone elses. Ah well...

I like your pic of the bride and her parents better than the professional's, by the way!

When I was young I didn’t care much about rituals, ceremonies, traditions… and, now that I’m old & curmudgeonly I care even less!… but yeah, this was cool, and beautiful. I think what every ritual needs is, off to the side, some keen observer and wordsmith doing narration and play-by-play commentary. ;)

And I adore the close-up of flower-girl Amy!

Lovely, but I am, this night, jealous of the breeze I see in the photographs...

Oh my gosh this was so wonderful to read. Truly lovely. All of it. And yes, we do know who Sirius was channeling. I am sure Chet wasn't the only one from the other side of the veil who was there that weekend. Where else would they be?

Lovely pics for a lovely day! And I must say the first photo of you is beautiful, too.

At age 4, I was a flower girl for a family friend's daytime wedding. I recall coming home and being very, very tired and cranky, and I howled because my older sisters wanted to take pics of me, and I just wanted a nap.

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