Monday, February 27, 2012
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the bridal shower of my niece, Devi. I was joined by my 85-year old cousin, Dorothy, and we chatted the entire two-hour trip down to the Valley. We caught up on family gossip, some of which was from the turn of the last century or before. Did my grandparents get a divorce or simply separate? Was I aware that my great-great grandfather died of tuberculosis in Andersonville Prison, during the Civil War? The family tree was thoroughly shaken and some provocative fruit fell out. It was delightful!
Then, at the shower, I saw my sister’s husband’s family, most of whom I hadn’t seen in a decade. So it was an occasion for rejoicing, catching up and still more gossip. Plus being introduced to new family members, some of whom are married to young men who were still children, last time I saw them.
Occasions like showers, weddings, ladies’ teas, wakes and reunions – any event that assembles generally dispersed folks – serve an important function in society. They exist in an intermediate space between the intimacy of close family and friends and the indifference of society at large and keep the bonds of friendship and familial connection supple through renewal. They are a kind of punctuation point in all our busy lives; a full stop to forward momentum when we can all catch our breath and regress a bit, to review the recent past and summarize the disparate moments of our lives for the benefit of eager listeners. They demonstrate to the older generation that the social fabric isn’t as full of holes as we sometimes fear and to the younger generation the importance of a certain formality that is largely lacking in other parts of their lives. They represent a passing of the cultural torch to the younger generation and, if yesterday’s event is any measure, they’re going to do just fine with keeping it burning.
On the ride home, Dorothy and I rehashed the entire event. Our lips, stained green from the frosting on the cupcakes, were smiling. We were filled up with more than roast beef, green salad and Portuguese sweet bread. The soul had supped, too.