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At the Speed of Life: Wedding shares shine with holiday season

Val and I made a mad dash down to Waukesha over the weekend for the wedding of my best friend’s only daughter Carly. When you attach such an important moment to a big holiday season it has advantages and disadvantages. It becomes easier to remember, but it also risks sharing some of its shine with the wider holiday celebrations.

Waukesha was the “big city” when I was growing up in Pewaukee. I remember buying my first pair of penny loafers along the riverfront at JCPenney. Jim’s Sport Heaven was the latter day equivalent of SportMart condensed into a two-story apartment building. The mounted deer heads provided the stuff of my dreams and Jim personally sold me my first football helmet. So a few ghosts shared the back seat as we drove up to the Clarke Hotel.

I was grateful to my best friend for having fended off his daughter’s inquiry as to whether I might be available to photograph her wedding; instead we were free to just enjoy the moment and share a seat at the table as honored guests with his family and friends.

The forgiving lighting in the rotunda was welcomed by those of us who were no longer a perfect fit for our suits, sweaters and dresses as opposed to the groom Eddy and a number of his groomsmen attired in their buttoned up Army dress blues. Veterans of numerous tours in the Middle East, it was only appropriate that their service be recognized and applauded on occasions throughout the evening.

A backdrop of potted pines adorned with glass ornaments illuminated by strings of tiny green lights framed the wedding party of 14, gowned and uniformed, and amplified the spirit of the season. The proceedings featured an interesting mix of scripture with lyrics from a country western song all in prologue to the blessing gleaned from letters shared between the betrothed and vows that brought tears to their parents’ eyes.

Amidst the frenzy of flashing cameras and cell phones, members of the wedding party hammed it up red carpet style as they exited center stage signaling the beginning of the celebration. In lieu of a cake, there were endless trays of Christmas cookies homemade by the bride’s mother and father. As is the fad, there was a photo booth complete with props which no doubt captured endless memories to be unwrapped in days to come. Of course there was dancing and music, plenty of toasts and smooching on demand by fans of the newly christened couple.

And there was this, the bride’s bouquet comprised of brooches and cameos collected by her father at garage sales (a favorite pastime shared by he and his daughter) all surrounding the purple heart earned by Eddy during his first tour in Iraq.

The evening was a reunion in the name of a wedding wrapped warmly in the Christmas spirit. There were children of children who’d grown two feet since I’d seen them last and fishing and hunting partners with beards gone grey and far less hair than the last time we shared a blind or a boat. It was noted frequently that “getting old” will require a sense of humor if any semblance of grace is to be salvaged. There were endless hugs for proud parents and grandparents. Tall tales embellished a bit more for the occasion mixed with all the memories and history, both good and bad that come with being kin. Those moments when I required help recognizing the skinny kid now college student or whose child belonged to who while shaking hands with the newly retired helped me realize this was also a changing of the guard, a handoff between the generations. I could feel his arm around my shoulder as we stood together surveying the festivities. I saw in him his father watching himself in his children. Life is very wide and here was both the beginning and the end all in one room on one special night and it was good, very good.

With friends I am close to, who I see often, time moves less quickly, change is less perceptible because we are so close. It is occasions like the wedding where I have to close gaps of tens of years where I am reminded of how far along I am in my own journey. It is a reckoning of sorts. For me it was comforting, youth was served and wisdom respected. It reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for on an occasion befitting the generosity and compassion of the season.

Tom Lindfors has been a reporter for the New Richmond News since January 2012.