Tuesday, July 28, 2009
My husband and I don't go to many weddings anymore, or christenings or showers.... seems like the last of our cohort are just about finished up with that part of their lives. Sure there are the stragglers, and the second time arounders, but those celebrations are few and far between. For a while there, though, our lives were awash with invitations and gushing ceremonies, ours included. We began to tire of them. Now I miss them. I would love to go to a wedding...
A few years back we noticed an uptick in funerals. Great Aunts, Great Uncles, Grandparents, etc were beginning to pass away. Those have slowed as well. I guess the next stage is parental death. Yikes. All these ceremonies, sad or celebratory, have something in common. People get to see one another, reconnect, share their lives. It is validating, that sharing of lives. No one has died, gotten married, or had a baby in my family for a while, and I miss them... that extended family of mine.
My Aunt Fay was quite a gal. Yep, for those of you keeping track, she had the same name as my own gram. Got confusing sometimes growing up, "which Aunt Fay?" was a common question at family gatherings. But This lady was the opposite of my grandmother in many ways. I think that's why they got along so well.
My Aunt Fay married my Uncle Tony (My Grandmother's brother) when she was fifteen or sixteen years old. They had that true love thing going on. They raised two girls, nurtured six grandchildren, and countless great grand children. They owned a home. They fought and loved passionately in front of everyone. It was always obvious, the magnified intimacy. They lived long lives, and when my uncle died at eighty nine years old, it took Aunt Fay three years to convince her body to die as well.
In my little ethnocentric corner of the world, a death is a two part event. There is the wake, and then the funeral. The wake is the day and or night before the funeral, and then in the morning everyone gathers back at the funeral parlor for one last goodbye and then the hearse makes it's way, followed by the line of cars, to the church for the funeral Mass and then again to the cemetery for the burial.
The morning of the funeral my husband signed our car in with the ushers because I was all sniffy. They put a number on our car.
We walked in the wake room. Flowers were everywhere. We knew the drill, Bill and I. Both brought up in similar families with similar traditions nothing needed explaining. We greeted and kissed those seated in the front rows nearest the casket, and then went to my Aunt to kneel and pray. (I always put my head in my hands, but peek into the casket through my fingers. I have done thins since I was ten and was forced to kneel in front of my grandfather's body. My mother said "Just don't look." Yeah, right.)
Aunt Fay looked beautiful. And there were pictures of her with Uncle Tony all around her, and rosary beads in her hands. Those hands that could make cookies that melted in your mouth and frosting that was sweet but not teeth breaking. Those hands that reached out to catch and tickle us when my cousins and I ran by her chair as children.
Bill and I got up and sat a few rows back. We sat quietly, hand in hand. He liked my Aunt Fay too. Many family members came to us. Some hadn't met Bill and were introduced. My mother and grandmother sat closer to the casket. The Priest said a few words and then it was time to file out and get into our cars already lined up for the procession to the church.
Names were being called and people got up, one by one or in groups, to kneel once more, pray once more, and then walk out to their car to wait.
And then I heard it.
"Mr. and Mrs. William Palmieri."
My husband got up and we walked (still hand in hand) to say a final goodbye to my Aunt. I kissed my fingers and touched her cheek. My Aunt always had the sagest advice. Once she told me: "The secret to a happy marriage is to have your husband love you just a breath more..."
"Thank you." I said.
We walked out and got into our car. I was crying. My husband soothed me. "I know, shhhhh, I know."
But then I explained. "I'm crying because I am so proud."
"Why?" He asked.
"I am proud to be your wife."
When they called us that day, They didn't call "Suzanne and Bill", or even "The Palmieris." They called "Mr. And Mrs. William Palmieri" because that was how he gave our names to the usher when we drove in. And in that moment, all feminism aside, I was proud to be his wife, proud of the decision I made to marry him. And I knew my Aunt Fay was proud too.
So even if I can't make her cookies (how I try Aunt Fay, how I try!), I can emulate her marriage. And it was only through saying goodbye to her that I learned how to say hello to the me that is Mrs. Palmieri.