We clean up nicely.
So we traveled to Philadelphia, just ourselves. It was a lovely wedding, full of laughter. I recall, when I was getting married, how self-conscious I was about being the center of attention. That anxiety permeated the whole day, making it far less joyful than it could have been. That's one reason why I love going to other people's weddings -- all the happiness, none of the stress. Leah and Alexi radiated happiness. I've never seen a smoochier couple up on the altar.
At the reception, each table had books on it, mostly culled from the duplicates in Leah and Alexi's now-mutual library and tailored to the people assigned to sit there. Our table, which featured three young families as well, had The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers and We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen. The Mind of the Maker I know and love, but We Found A Hat is brand new, the third in the Hat trilogy after I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat (both favorites at our house). In keeping with the literary theme of the evening, We Found A Hat reveals the Divine Comedy underlying the seemingly lightweight children's set. I Want My Hat Back is a trip through an animal Inferno, in which a bear's search for his beloved hat is bound up with deception and, ultimately, violent revenge. This Is Not My Hat takes a Purgatorial turn, with the small fishy thief confessing to the reader his misdeed. Will penitence be his? We don't know his final fate, but justice seems to prevail as the big fish recovers his hat and falls asleep with what we must presume is a clear conscience. We Found A Hat takes the chapeau to a celestial level, as the two turtles who covet the single hat discover that even more precious than sharing is the love that moves the stars.
We ceded We Found A Hat to one of the young families, and ended up trading Mind of the Maker with Clare Coffey for one of the books at her table, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West.
And so, at the wedding reception, we finally got to meet the bride and groom. It felt like we'd known each other for ages, and indeed we have. It might be that we didn't know exactly how Alexi scratches his nose in person (though we quickly learned, since that was the subject of one of the toasts), but through years of blogging and other online interactions with Leah, we'd established the kind of personal, intellectual, and religious overlap that makes the perfect soil for friendship to flourish. Our initial comraderie was probably facilitated that there were two of us writing -- the comments section of Leah's blog has always been a place where debate has flourished, and since Darwin enjoys debate far more than I do, he's the one who struck up the initial acquaintance. That's how it's been throughout our relationship. Individually one of us will meet someone that the other person might not have encountered, and since friendship with one of us usually becomes friendship with both of us, everyone's circle expands and is enriched.
And Leah's hair is really that awesome.
The happy couple weren't the only longtime friends we met for the first time. We had much good chat with Elliot Milco and numerous other people whose names we recognized from comment sections or Facebook. It seemed a foretaste, through a glass darkly, of heaven, when we will finally see clearly all those we thought we already knew on earth. Journeys end in lovers' meetings, sings Feste. Apparently, Philadelphia is a way station on that journey.
A wedding toast is probably the closest most of us will ever come to hearing our eulogies in advance, and perhaps that's appropriate since a wedding marks a passing to a new state of existence. I recall that the toasting at our wedding was quite brief and mostly generic, as most of the guests were rarely-seen relatives or friends of Darwin's parents. (This was in the days before my siblings performed elaborate musical toasts at weddings, and also, not a single one of our college friends, who'd known us the best over the recent years, was able to attend.) Fortunately, Leah and Alexi are loved and admired by many eloquent people, who told wonderful anecdote after anecdote about their intelligence, their warmth, and their virtue. Fittingly enough, it all ended with a Hamilton parody (Leah is probably the only 538 columnist to crunch the numbers on Hamilton lyrics.)
The wedding was at noon, and the reception wrapped at 6:00, which meant that people were not nearly ready to cease partying. And so a good portion of guests moved over to Clare's house, which was in a lovely section of Philadelphia that reminded me of Cincinnati (my highest compliment to any city). And there was plenty more lovely discussion, some of it with Eve Tushnet, and Daniel Silver of Doxacon. At the reception, we'd been in the middle of the demographic, perhaps trending toward the older side; at the afterparty we were definitely among the dinosaurs. At one point someone came out on the porch and sighed, "I was talking to someone in there I thought was 25, and she turned out to be 21. I need to get out here with people my own age." We, Class of Aught One, nodded sagely. I did find my venerable status being challenged at one point when a slim young thing expressed astonishment at my fecundity.
"You're shitting me, right? I mean, that's just a joke?"
"Do you want to see my stretch marks?"
This being a marriage of Ivy Leaguers, many bright young things turned out in full bowtie regalia. At any moment I expected to see Whit Stillman moving about, filming the sequel to Metropolitan. I myself didn't go to one of the Ivies, but I tell you what: even in my college days I knew better than to drink from a bucket being passed around a party. At a certain point in the evening I started to feel very maternal, whether it was because I gently redirected a wobbly young woman trying to find the bathroom behind the locked glass porch door, or because I ended up watching Animaniacs with the hostess's youngest siblings, or because I was weighing the practicalities of staying up any later when I knew we had to get up at 4:00 am to get to the airport, and I still wanted to have a chance to talk quietly with my own favorite husband.
Early Sunday morning we flew out. The sun had not yet risen, and the full golden moon hung in the sky, alone except for bright Venus. Below the plane, the clouds were a mysterious carpet. I stared and stared up at the moon as the plane started to descend. Wisps of cloud passed by my window and finally engulfed us, veiling the lesser light. But still it shone, looking down on me and Darwin and all that we love, near and far.