This weekend I had the honor and privilege to officiate a wedding. The best part was that the bride was one of the girls my daughter grew up with. It is a joy to see them “all grown up” and functioning in the world as strong, competent women.
We were lucky to live in a neighborhood with natural boundaries. Many of the residents grew up here and came back to live in their parent’s homes. There were a lot of kids my daughter’s age, and she knew them all. Because of the natural boundaries my daughters childhood was a lot more like mine than many of her peers. The kids ran freely through the neighborhood all summer long. They were back and forth between houses, cutting through yards and “exploring” in the overgrown “woods”.
The girls formed close ties, and maintained them into their adulthood. The one whose family moved away came back for the wedding. The one who is a little less socially inclined drove in to town. The one who got married first (at the Justice of the Peace) found a sitter for the baby so she could party with the gang. This was an EVENT, not to be missed.
The bride was determined to have a great party. As the maid of honor, my daughter was very involved, so I’ve been hearing stories since the date was chosen. The bride invited people to come in costume. She had her dress specially made to her specifications and assigned each bridesmaid a color/character. She kept the guest list under 100, just the right people. She was also pretty serious about the marriage thing.
I take the responsibilities of being a minister seriously. Vows are a big deal for me and the words spoken in sacred space carry weight. I had several conversations with the couple, not just about what they wanted in a wedding, but about their expectations of a marriage. I made sure they knew what they were going to promise before they had to stand up and make those promises.
I haven’t performed a lot of weddings, but I’ve done more than a few. The thing is when I get asked it’s usually because the couple’s beliefs don’t quite fit into a standard religious framework. They want a ceremony, a ritual, a rite of passage. They don’t want a church, or a synagogue or a stranger. I’ve had a bride and groom hand me a ritual they wrote and ask me to do it. I’ve had a Wiccan wedding in my tradition’s circle. I wrote two for myself. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to do something that is open enough for the couple but that won’t offend the more traditional family.
It was a rite of passage for them, but it was also a rite of passage for me. These are the girls I watched grow up now building lives of their own. The officiant at a wedding blesses the union and then sends the couple on their way. That’s what the Moms (and in the bride’s case her Dad) are doing as well.
One of the aspects of spring, easy for urbanites to ignore, is the culling. The birthing season for many farm animals means deciding which of the newborns will live, which will be sold, which will be food for the family. With gardening, the sprouts need to be thinned, the weeds need to be pulled, bushes are pruned and flowers are picked or left to bloom and eventually seed.
Part of the process of dealing with my kitchen cupboards falling off the walls is preparing to have my house torn apart for months. This isn’t just a kitchen project. It also involves the bathroom, the basement, the driveway, and some of the yard. I have water issues, mold issues and years of neglect.
My basement has been the land of denial for more years than I can count. I spend as little time as possible down there (because I have massive allergic reactions if I stay). There’s a lot of plain trash. Paper and fabric and wood that has been ruined by water and eaten by mold. I haven’t been able to deal with it because I can’t:
- touch it (without breaking out and/or having an asthma attack)
- haul it up the stairs
- stand to be there long enough to see what is salvageable
So, in fits and starts, I have someone (equipped with gloves and a respirator) doing steps 1 and 2 for me. Step 3 is a little more difficult. There is a lot that I never have to see. It’s undeniably trash. It walks out my door in a bag. I may sigh at a loss, but mostly it’s good riddance.
But there is plenty down there where the distinction is not so clear. Mostly that would be books. The books in bookcases are probably a little (or a lot) moldy. The bookcases themselves are falling apart. But the books look okay. The books are my references, my treasures, my comfort. They’re books!
If I’m a hoarder, it’s about books. There is always money for food, and books. There is always room for food, and books. There can not be enough bookcases. As soon as I get a new one, it’s full. I’m a writer, which means I’m a reader. My basement is full of books.
They come up the stairs box by box. They are no longer in any order, packed more for viability than placement. I have to sort, and cull. Do I really need 3 large boxes of children’s picture books? My children are 23 and 27 and I have no grandchildren on the way. How many herbology books do I need? When do the mythology references just become an indulgence?
There are memories in those books. Some of them survived the house fire when I was a teenager. I open them and smell the smoke, but they also hold the memories of childhood escapes. I spent late nights under the covers with a flashlight, long afternoons in hammocks, curled up on the limbs of a tree with these books.
“Declutter” is the catch word of the day. But this is not clutter. The books without places went out in black trash bags, damp and falling apart. These are the ones that had places on shelves that will no longer support them. These are the curated books that survived multiple moves and life stages. This is culling, and it’s necessary, and it’s hard.