Monday, October 12, 2015

That wedding long ago

Monday, October 12, 2015

The boardwalk is a haven for weddings.
This day a few days after John Lennon’s 75th birthday is no different – although it took one complete stroll around Asbury Park and nearby Ocean Grove before I found it.
The weddings vary, from simple to ostentatious, sometimes with tiny tots in suits and ties as ring bearers, sometimes not.
The ring bearers when they do take part are usually dressed up, and uncomfortable, a fact that appears to make them misbehave. One kid last year -- part of a photo shoot on the beach -- shed his shoes and appeared to be heading towards the ocean tiny tuxedo and all when they corralled him.

These scenes and others remind me of the day when I was that small and my aunt, Alice, got married.
I was about seven at the time, and extremely jealous of Big Pete, who was to become my uncle.
Alice had filled in as my mother, when my mother was committed to Graystone – the now demolished mental institution in Morristown.
Alice took the job seriously, singing songs to me, reading stories to me, making me feel loved when I already felt abandoned.
Years later, after Alice’s untimely death at 41, Big Pete told the story of his first official date with Alice – how he first had to run the gauntlet of Alice’s very large brothers, only to discover that she was bringing me along on the date.

I didn’t serve as ring bearer the way these poor kids did in Asbury Park, but I was given the royal treatment at that wedding long ago, dressed up, and shown off, as if I really was Alice’s child.
For the family, this was one of the most significant events, the marriage of my grandfather’s youngest daughter, a woman that was his favorite, and perhaps the favorite of the entire family, all of whom seemed to love her as much as I did. I know her brother, Ritchie (who I later cared for when booze drove him over the edge – he never recovered from Alice’s death) celebrated her wedding as if it was his own. No two siblings were ever so close as those two were, and during her life, Alice managed to save Ritchie from himself, just as she saved me.

I guess it seems strange to think of ancient history while strolling Asbury Park, but I did, feeling the same sadness and joy as I did then, seeing something similar in the faces of the tiny tots who had been vested the duty to serve up the ring, symbol of future happiness for these couples.

Later, while seated on one of the benches on the boardwalk near the Stone Pony, I heard some of the sounds from another wedding (or perhaps it was the same) coming out from one of the seaside eateries, voices of hope, and joy, and though I could not see the bride and groom going through the rituals of a reception, I envisioned Alice, beautiful Alice, from that day when my whole world changed, and she went on to start a family of her own.

I cried that day as a young boy nearly as much as I did the day she died years later, sensing that things could not be the same.
And yet, hearing the joy in the voices of this Asbury Park wedding, somehow old wounds seemed to heal, and mingling in with the sound check from the Stone Pony’s outdoor act, the silly reception hall music, and the crash of waves on the beach, I was seven again, and no longer crying.

Alice & Big Pete

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