I think I’m going to have to accept the occasional missed post as a reality this summer, there is simply so much going on and not enough wifi to go around!
It’s Monday morning, but I’m still really feeling the glow of an amazing weekend among friends and family.
We spent the weekend in the Loire Valley for the wedding of E’s cousin, the last of that particular family to be married! This is that family’s fourth marriage in three years and it’s been quite the joyful, boisterous ride.
Weddings are a lot of things, and at the risk of sounding deeply ineloquent, I felt a lot of feelings this weekend.
On Friday, we had a family barbecue with E’s parents and siblings so we could spend some quality time together before the wedding. Etienne’s older brother, who lives abroad, brought his girlfriend of a year and change with him. I had never met her, and she’s a total delight. I am surprisingly happy to have another girl to talk to, considering I get along well with E’s brothers, but it really made me smile!
This particular brother seems so thrilled with their relationship, their joy and affection was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. It’s so interesting to see how he has changed in the last year. I remember him telling us about his girlfriend, C, at another cousin’s wedding this time last year (literally, July 9th). It was gossip strictly among the ‘kids’ because the relationship was still quite new and he didn’t want to notify any of the parents/aunts/uncles, just in case something happened.
The five of us piled into the car on Saturday afternoon for the four hour drive out to the countryside. E’s family tradition seems to be getting married in one of two villages near their family homes. We went to the farther flung of the two retreats, which happens to be my favourite!
When I reflect on the festivities from Saturday and Sunday, two main feelings come to my heart. The first is that this was truly the first French family event at which I felt completely content. I’m happy and at ease when visiting with E’s parents, but larger family gatherings are a bit of a different beast. Perhaps I felt more comfortable because I wasn’t the newest girlfriend. I know I enjoyed helping C remember the names and titles of different relatives, partially because it’s overwhelming and girl I’ve been there, partially because I so rarely have an occasion like this to feel truly socially competent in French.
A huge part of my happiness, though, came from simply celebrating the married couple. The bride is my age and lives just a neighbourhood over from us, and we manage to spend time together despite our wild schedules. As she came into the church, I was watching her husband’s reaction and I started crying like a baby. His face opened like a flower, how could you not cry!
The second thing I feel, though, is something like apprehension. Maybe apprehension’s distant cousin, but apprehension nonetheless. While eating dinner on Sunday night, E and I counted up the number of different people who had asked us when we would get married. Then, we counted up then number of people who asked us when we planned to have children.
I know that these questions are meant with the warmest intention. There’s a particular kind of teasing that comes out at weddings, and I firmly believe that marriage is a communicable state. The longer you’re hanging out wearing pastel tulle and smiling around distant relatives, the more marriage seems like a good idea. Aunts and uncles take another look at you with their niece or nephew and decide “this is a good idea, let me make my opinion known!” Siblings and cousins just want to bring you into the fold (they’re all married and having kids, after all, join the club!) and truly, the comments come from a place of deeper approval. I know that when someone asks us when we’re getting married, leaning in close over champagne and tasteful table arrangements, they’re saying, “we want you to be part of the family and we want you to know!”
I’m so honoured by those feelings and I’m trying to be graceful about disappointing everyone. Sometimes it goes well; I’ll explain that we don’t plan on getting married until I’ve become a citizen under my own power (at least 18 months from this year, maybe longer!) Relatives on the receiving end of this explanation hum, nodding sagely, agreeing that the paperwork between two French citizens is certainly easier. Sometimes, I panic. While I was wiping away tears in the church, E’s mother leaned over and sighed that it would be me soon. My panicked response was “UM, MAYBE” so I’m not winning any elegance awards there.
I don’t have a tidy conclusion to these kinds of reflections. I don’t want to take the acceptance and love from E’s family for granted; I want to live up to their ideas of who I am when I am at my best. I also don’t want to get caught up in the big picture; marriage is so much more than making family members happy and throwing an awesome party. Marriage is such a social activity, but it is also so deeply personal. It’s OK to be unready for something like that, while still working to build a deep and nurturing relationship.