Friday, September 30, 2022

An ending

Last Sunday afternoon, just as I sat down to dine with three dear friends in a restaurant across town, I got a text from my brother-in-law saying his and my husband's sister had just died. I rushed home, thinking to comfort my husband, but he had gone into his cave, watching the ballgame silently in between fielding calls and texts from family members. His sister had been ailing for some time with lung cancer, which had lately spread to the frontal lobe of her brain. Her death was expected, but no less devastating, especially as this sister and our family had for years been estranged, due to, of all the empty reasons, a continuing stalemate over the terms of her parents' will. We had managed a warmer communication toward the end, but it is a thin comfort when I remember all the years before, when our families were close, when the cousins played and laughed, when my mother in law was still alive to be the glue. Families are hard. This death is hard. My husband is emotionally submerged, my son was philosophical, my daughter wept. "You're taking it the hardest of us all," I said. "No," she replied, my wise child. "I am just the one with the most access to my emotions." At least our sister is at peace now, and I like to think, understands that love never went missing, not for a moment, even though speech was, for so many wasted years, withdrawn. And now she is gone, and the earthly things that drove a bitter wedge into the heart of a family can never truly be healed, at least not in this life. They say there is no point in regretting what can never be changed, and yet I do. 




Saturday, September 24, 2022

My son got married!


The wedding was everything I could have dreamed for my two loves, my son and now daughter-in-law, and then some. It takes a lot of work to make an event feel effortless, and they pulled it off magnificently. As one of my cousins put it, the occasion was part wedding, part family reunion, part adventure in the woods. It was a whole weekend of festivities, from the welcome party on Friday night after the wedding rehearsal, to the ceremony itself on Saturday afternoon followed by a cocktail hour and then dinner, and then an all out dance party that went until the wee hours, at which point everyone who was still upright gathered around for a good old camp bonfire. 


Our two families, the bride's and the groom's, meshed seamlessly, with a tangible energy of love and joyfulness infusing everything. The parents of the bride and groom in particular traveled together, with our new in-laws transporting us between camp and our hotel on Friday night, and my husband being our designated driver on Saturday evening. My son had been wound tight in the lead up to the day, because that's how he is when he's concentrating on getting everything done, but he has friends who know him well, who grew up with him at camp, and one of them, Liam, an avuncular bearded Brit, who is now the director of camp and lives on site with his wife and young son, took my boy in hand. "Come with me, lad," he said on Friday afternoon, taking him by the shoulders. "There are many people here who can move the tables and set up the chairs. Right now, I just need you to relax."

My daughter Kai and niece Leisa had made us all pledge to be "the easy family," meaning we would solve logistical queries on our own, rather than having my son Raddy have to concern himself with  such details as when the bus was scheduled to depart the hotel where they had a wedding block for guests reserved (the hotel concierge knew the answer) or how to actually find the open sided lakefront chapel on the winding paths of that sprawling camp and conference center in the woods (my daughter in law had put up signs). My daughter said it best. "I think the best thing we can do for Raddy is to be happy and have a good time," she advised, "because we all know he tries to take care of everyone, and if he sees we're not okay, that is going to stress him out and he's going to try and make things okay for us when he should be focusing on himself and his bride." She was so right. And so I pulled a zen-like state of peace and calm around myself like a cozy cloak, resolved that I would just roll with whatever happened, happily letting everything just be.

When the man and I arrived for the wedding rehearsal on Friday afternoon, to be followed by the welcome party for guests who were already in town, my son came over and bear hugged me, thanking me for being "so chill." "I told Kai and Leisa that I needed to call you and make sure you were still alive," he joked, "because I hadn't heard a peep out of you all afternoon." Their response: "You're welcome." I really could go on and on about the weekend, with its sublime late summer weather and beautiful loving vibe, and everyone's fascination with the familial bond among the now grown "camp kids," who turned out in force, but I think I will just stop here, because there is really no way to truly capture how magical it all was, how perfect in the end, and now I have a beautiful new daughter in law who in truth, I have loved from the first day I met her back in the spring of 2015. She and my son understand each other. They laugh easily together. As one of my cousins who was meeting Shannon for the first time said, "They are so obviously made for each other." And I love that our two families, different as we appear, are easy and congenial, too. 

The wedding ceremony was held in the lakeside chapel, the welcome party and reception in the camp's St. James hall, and the dinner in a tent on Pequot Field. What follows is a random selection of pictures people took. I really couldn't choose which ones to post here, I have so many in the shared album we all dumped our photos into. The professional pictures will be better and more organized, but here's my own record of the weekend for now.

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The Wedding Rehearsal and Welcome Party on Friday Eve:

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Getting Ready on Saturday Afternoon:

 

 

 
 
 
 
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Pictures on the way to the Chapel:  





 
 

 
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The Most Beautiful Vows:
 

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The Reception, Dinner, and Dancing:
 


 



 
 
 



 
Right as dinner ended and everyone was walking back across Pequot Field to St. James Hall for the dancing portion of the evening, the sky exploded with fireworks. They were so perfectly timed, and we have no idea who staged them. "Don't look at us," our newlyweds laughed. "We sure don't have fireworks money." At two-thousand dollars a minute I imagine they don't, and these fireworks lasted at least twenty minutes, right up to the moment the bride and groom took the floor for their first dance. We decided it was just more evidence of a divinely blessed union.
 

One more story: I carried the same embroidered clutch to Raddy and Shannon's wedding that my mom used at Rad and my wedding in 1986. Inside the bag, tucked into a small pocket, I discovered the name card for my mother's table seating at our reception. She sat at table 9 then. Thirtv six vears later I was at table 6. When Kai and Leisa saw the bag they said in unison, "Is that Grandma's handbag?" And then they both cried. They cried often that night, as Raddy and Shannon said their vows, as the bride and groom danced, smiling through tears during best man Jermaine (an ordained minister who also officiated) and maid of honor Katy's speeches. And all night we felt my mother very close by. Another detail: Shannon, her mom, and I wore matching bracelets with a single pearl, which Shannon placed on each of our wrists before the ceremony, uniting her womenfolk.


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

It was heaven


My son married his love this past weekend. The entire occasion felt infused with the energy of love. Everyone said so. We laughed, we cried, we danced into the wee hours. My heart is so full I can’t manage to curate a photo album or even articulate what I’m feeling. We weren’t supposed to take pictures during the ceremony. But for the photographer and videographer, it was supposed to be unplugged. But one person took this picture anyway, of the new Mr. and Mrs. Arrindell saying the vows they’d each written just the night before. Their promises to each other were poignant, wry, real, and so very beautiful. I’ll put up more pictures soon but for now I’m just basking in the joy of our children, our families and true friends. So much joy. My new daughter, when she and her new husband spoke during the dinner portion of the festivities, described walking down the aisle on her father’s arm, everyone cheering and clapping as she moved toward my son, the lake and trees and clear sky behind him. “I felt as if I was walking into heaven,” she said. I’ll never forget those words. 



Sunday, September 11, 2022

Days of History

 
The Obamas returned to the White House this week for the unveiling of their official portraits, an event that should have happened under the previous administration but of course, that president was too craven and pinched to have hosted such an event, and a good thing too, because how much more beautiful it was to see my forever President and First Lady celebrated by fellow stellar humans such as former Obama VP and now current President Joe Biden and his gracious First Lady Jill Biden. I thought Michelle's portrait was just stunning, capturing her elegance, grace, and class, and the colors are absolutely sumptuous, the contrasting red and blue and coral pink setting off the brown of her skin gorgeously.
 

I didn't swoon in quite the same way at Barack's portrait. I was confused at first, thinking it was a photograph, but no doubt this was the kind of hyper realism he wanted, straightforward, no frills, the man himself and nothing else. The painting does capture his likeness, especially the lively intelligence and wit always right there behind his eyes. The former President was his usual captivating self at the podium, and the usual joshing camaraderie between Joe and himself was cheerfully in evidence, reminding us all of how collegial politics can sometimes be.

 
I particularly loved the words Michelle spoke to mark the occasion. “For me, this day is not just about what has happened,” she said when it was her turn at the podium. “It’s also about what could happen because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house. And she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as first lady. But what we’re looking at today—a portrait of a biracial kid with an unusual name and the daughter of a water pump operator and a stay-at-home mom—what we are seeing is a reminder that there’s a place for everyone in this country. Because as Barack said, if the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can, too.”

The very next day, on June 8, these photographs of the Obamas with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip were everywhere, because on that afternoon, the reigning British monarch breathed her last and her son Charles became King. For me, these photographs reveal the best in us, and though many people are rightly pointing out that Queen Elizabeth reigned over an institution responsible for building wealth by plundering colonies of their natural resources for centuries, as well as establishing the new world evil of slavery rooted in violent racial subjugation, even so, one can hold that damning truth and still admire this Queen's seventy years of fortitude and gloved power, and the way she proved the boys wrong in their estimation that she, a soft girl, was not up to the task of ruling. I don't agree with all her choices, not at all. In fact, I think she was woefully misguided in many respects, particularly in not allowing family members to love who they chose, with all tragedies that resulted, but I do think she did the best she knew how, and if she'd understood the dire need to address and redress the ills committed through centuries in the name of the Crown, well, I suppose she'd have done so. One can only hope that King Charles will have divined the portents, and be inclined to begin the healing. The cynic in me doubts it but would love to be proved wrong.

I was actually in the presence of Queen Elizabeth in my lifetime. She knighted my father in 1987 for his work as Chief Justice of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Judiciary. I was right there next to my mother and brother inside the great room at Buckingham Palace as she laid the sword on my father's shoulder and said “I dub thee.” Afterward, they exchanged a few words, shared a laugh. My brother and I walked out of that room in the company of parents transformed by old world colonial convention into a Knight and a Lady, though my mother's sisters all remarked that truly, my mother had always been a lady, and it didn't take the Queen of England to tell them so. This week a monarch who is part of our family’s history took her leave of this earth. She had a remarkable run by any measure. Now at last she can rest.



Sunday, September 4, 2022

Good light


Happened into some good light last Thursday, right after getting my hair trimmed and in the wake of applying makeup to go meet a friend for dinner. And so I took a picture. Would have been better with lipstick, but I like the picture fine, even though I don't look half that bright and shiny in real life, which may be why I like the picture. I was trying out new makeup because being on the other side of my recent work deadlines, I now have endless hours in the day to obsess about The Wedding. My son's wedding in two weeks! This is really happening. 

I wont waste too many words on my anxieties about showing up, seeing all the people I haven't seen in a while, how I will look in the pictures, the whole nine. It makes no sense, really. No one cares how I look but me, no one is judging but me. When in my life did I get so hijacked by the notion that I appear wrong in every way. Just kidding. I know when it happened. I was four years old and had just been enrolled in a new school, the back gate for which was just a few doors up from 22 Studdridge Street in London, where we lived that year. Let's just say the kids in my class did not welcome in the new girl from Jamaica with the funny accent. I remember everything with cinematic clarity from that time. I swear I'm still living my life as if everything that happened back then is the whole truth about me, and years of therapy have not touched this. We humans can be so screwed up. Because why isn't knowing exactly where the misunderstandings began not enough to cure them? Oh well. This is a boring story.

My cousin, the mother of my nephew whose band played so beautifully at Kennedy Center on Friday evening, is now in bed with Covid. She had 35 people in her house the night after the concert, many having flown up from Jamaica or trained it down from New York. Most were staying over at her house, too. On Friday morning she walked six miles with our cousin Andrew and on Saturday morning she was so exhausted she could barely make it across her bedroom. She closed the door, climbed into bed, and prayed that no one else would come down with symptoms. So far, no one has. So much for thinking those of us who haven't yet caught the virus might be immune.

I was going to join a new choir this Wednesday, one closer to home, which holds rehearsals in the afternoon rather than the evening. But now I think I better just keep myself quiet for the next two weeks, and see as few people as possible to minimize the chance of getting sick before the wedding. Because I will not miss seeing my son marry his love. Right now, nothing matters more. It helps that I’ll take any excuse to just stay home. It was no hardship at all for me when the country went into lock down in the first year of the pandemic. 

My cousin from Trinidad, who is herself recently recovered from Covid, arrives on Wednesday and will be with us for three weeks, till a few days after the wedding. I had all kinds of plans for us, was looking forward to doing the city with her given that I'm blissfully between assignments, and I also wanted to get myself some bold red frames to wear with my blue-gray mother of the groom outfit, to lift the look somewhat, as the color is very understated. I'll try to punch things up with accessories, but again, no one will be looking at me, not with that gorgeous, glowing bride and her handsome bald-headed groom. Two weeks! My boy is getting married y'all!