One of Elena and Maggie’s favorite games when they were young was to dress up and recreate a wedding. At the time Elena carried around little blankets for comfort. They were washed and rotated and often Elena travelled with more than one of them. They were small thin baby blankets – like dish towels.
We have pictures of Maggie and Elena standing side by side with one of Elena’s blankets arranged neatly on her head like a nun’s habit. They were playing wedding and Elena was the bride. Sometimes she would dress up nicely, other times she’d have something like a ballet dress from the dress-up box. Often she would just be wearing one of my old t-shirts because it would cover her all the way to the ground and drag like she imagined a bridal dress would.
No matter what she wore on her body, nothing said “bride” like a blanket on her head. Maggie would arrange it for her and Elena would have to walk very carefully so the headdress wouldn’t slip. She knew this would be followed by Maggie whining, “Elena, you’re ruining it.” In Elena’s world, brides held their hands arched together in prayer as they walked down past their adoring fans. Elena would sneak a sly look at the imaginary people who lined the aisles and wave at them.
Elena was always the bride.
Sometimes Maggie was the bride too. Sometimes they’d both have receiving blankets on their head and walk down the aisle as brides and meet up at the other end. Other times Maggie would be the groom. Whether bride or groom, Maggie always played the role of preacher as well.
They had watched the video of Kim and my marriage. I don’t think I’ve ever watched the video but Maggie and Elena had. They had also gone to Tommy and Patti’s wedding. Elena was just a few months old and Maggie was a month shy of her third birthday. I don’t know what Maggie remembered of that wedding but she seemed to recreate it fairly accurately.
By the time Carolyn and Jeff got married in our backyard the girls had honed their routine. Kim practiced with them so that they would be comfortable walking down the aisle as flower girls. It was an out-of-a-movie moment watching my three girls in the wedding in the backyard of our new house.
Maggie and Elena loved the ceremony but they didn’t really understand what it represented. One day when we were driving home from Oberlin a five year old Maggie said.
“I don’t think Ethan could marry Tara.”
Kim and I looked at each other. You never know what kids are thinking or why they bring these things up. Why had Maggie considered whether or not my brother could get married to our dog? And why had she concluded that a person and a black lab couldn’t get married? Hadn’t we just explained to her that Tara had been fixed? We forged ahead.
“Why not,” Kim asked.
“‘Cause after they get married they go to the reception. And at the reception they have to do the first dance. And you know that dogs can’t dance.”