Those Wedding Toasts


Fear. The fear of trying something new.  I sat next to my two-and-a-half year old niece at Thanksgiving dinner, watching her, surrounded by food she had never tasted.  Her grandmother thinks she is especially smart.  She has seen a few babies along the way.  My niece did not have much success overcoming her fear of the unknown.  With the food.   

Performance. Fear.  Later in the night, I watched a DVD of my own performance from 18 months back as I sang a song at a piano party to close the night, a birthday party with a gathering of maybe 100 people.  I don’t sing outside my own home.  Some relatives who love to sing had expectation of a performance, that I would sing, and a particular song.  As to singing in front of a crowd, I caved in to the pressure.  I remembered the stage fright as I watched.  I did the closing number.  The crowd did not get the song which was expected, since I love spontaneity.  It was not so much the performance as the song that I had chosen.  The crowd went home happy, reacting like I had written a song they had never heard.    

Anniversaries.  My parents were married on November 25th.  My maternal grandmother was married on November 17th.  Her husband died on November 24th, who I never met.  My paternal grandparents were married on November 26th.  Two sisters were married in the last days of November.  The most recent wedding was 6 years ago.  And like every married person, at some point you ask, “Who is this person I am sleeping with? The person I love?  But the real question is, “Do you love me?”  We write about it.  Talk about it.  Share it.  The experience.  What it is that you love?  The depth of it.  Prove it!  But how? 


When I was six, my maternal grandmother assembled her family to commemorate the death of her husband in late November with a Mass.  My mother continued that tradition when my father died.  Last night was the night.  It is always at the very end of a liturgical year. 


And Mass is followed with dinner in a restaurant.  At some point my sister offered a toast to my dad.  I thought it seemed shallow, though it was an honest attempt at commemoration.  I put into perspective afterward what had happened this night, last night, maybe throughout the nights of any human.  People have always struggled how to communicate the significant.  This restaurant had been the site of this sister’s prenuptial dinner.  Those wedding toasts were an attempt to communicate the significant, with words.  People have always struggled with how to  communicate the significant.  It seemed a lot like the struggle with how to pray. 

People have always struggled passing along the manner how to pray.  The way was not inherited but learned.  I am not sure my one sister has figured out yet that the Mass was supposed to be the toast.  From the days of Abraham, people have struggled with the way to pray.  Once it had involved sacrificing the best calf, the best lamb.  And this banquet was really no different.

In a sense, I saw my mother’s position last night in the center of the table, more of less saying, “I helped to create this.  Now what?  How can I pass along what I know?  How can I communicate the significant?  Before I am gone?”  To a two-and-a-half year old?  With the food.  At Thanksgiving, filled with their fear of the unknown.

As the bill came last night, when my mother paid the bill, I realized that the answers to the questions had been all along at the Mass. 


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