The brick building stood in a sun-drenched evening. It was a fall Friday night just outside Seattle. Another family was gathering for their rehearsal dinner. Two young people were planning to recite their vows the following afternoon. This evening would involve reacquainting with family and friends. Relatives who had flown into Seattle from different parts of the country to celebrate. The large room was filled with circular tables for dinner. There was a bar off to one corner, stocked with drinking options from liquor, beer, and wine to soda, lemonade, and water. Guests had options of drinking from bottles and cans. They could also choose wine, lemonade, or water from drinking glasses. People began filtering into the building and finding familiar faces for conversation. Some relatives hadn’t seen one another in years, while others may visit more frequently. Mingling began, as the voices filled empty spaces inside the building. Outside the sun slowly faded toward the mountains. Walking out onto the patio filled the senses with gently rolling waves and smells of saltwater. Everything was set for an enjoyable evening.
Evenings like this often begin with stilted interactions. People haven’t seen relatives in years and may not know many people from other families. It seems likely we start our evening around people most familiar. Uncles and Aunts gather with cousins from different generations. Drinks are gathered on the way in, some helping with heightened nerves. Then we look around for our family members. While scanning the room with bottle in hand for easy carrying, we find different pockets of people. The locating of our familiar group causes gentle movements in their general direction. Following the journey of fifty feet, handshakes are accompanied with embraces of warmth. A father and his son share a warm embrace after years of limited communication. There interaction begins surprisingly normal for both. Their conversation is brief to begin, as other relatives desire time. Having not seen some for years, it’s important to interact with as many people as possible. Everyone wanting to inquire about new happenings in the lives of loved ones. The father and son will spend more time later.
Mingling continued while other guests slowly filled the room. Some of the new faces lead to curious smiles. The recognition of people who have spent limited amounts of time together. Many from other sides of the family. Still, even if some have been visited with over one weekend or a few dinners, it can feel exciting to reconnect. After catching up with close family, movement toward those less recognizable faces start. Those interactions begin similar to meeting someone for the second or third time. The conversations begin with wondering where people live today and how they spend their time. Brief connections can be found in all comers of the brick building. People move from one short conversation on to the next. These interactions will be deepened throughout the night and the following afternoon. Before too long everyone has arrived for the night. Voice volumes throughout the room begin reducing, as guests gather around tables. As the sun slips behind distant mountains, it’s time for dinner.
The round tables filling the room were large. Some had ten people huddled, while other tables support half that number for dinner. Toward the back of the room sat a father with his sons. Sharing their first meal together in some time. They were given space to enjoy each other, as just those three men occupied the circular table. All three rose from the table and headed for the buffet line. Salmon would be on the menu this evening, a favorite meal of the groom. One of these young men required assistance working through the line. His brother was there to support, dishing up his plate with anything catching his eye. The young man lending a helping hand, gathered his own food and they headed back to the table. Plates filled with the delicious meal were gently sat down, now drinks had to be gathered. A bottle of beer would accompany each place setting and one glass of lemonade was retrieved. There was plenty of room to spread out around the table and once joined by their father, dinner could begin in earnest.
After becoming comfortable in their seats, they started talking. The air around the table seemed cold at first, almost awkward. Each of the three giving their food its introductory taste. With the amount of space around the table, eating was also made easy. With the buffet, there wasn’t concern over passing trays of food and the table provided space to maneuver arms during physical tasks. Even with cerebral palsy there was room to dine comfortably. The glass being used for lemonade had been a fore thought to make things easier. It had been brought to dinner by the mother of the groom, who was also his aunt, just in case he needed the more stable glass. The drinking glass was found in the kitchen with straws inside. His symptoms could make it difficult to pick up anything requiring balance. So, drinking from the straw allowed him to keep the glass stationary on the table. The physicality of dinner felt easy that night, allowing his attention to focus on interactions.
Even with heavy air around the table when sitting, it could be seen getting lighter throughout dinner. Reconnection between father and son was establishing slowly. The table conversation seemed to begin in small increments. A father making inquiries, attempting to reform bonds, could be overheard. He wanted to learn about living locations and means of employment. Questions continued over relationships, moving onto the common interest of golf. They talked about their half brother and sister, learning how things were going for them. The connection was thawing through the evening. The challenges between them being laid to rest. But, in due course the meal ended, this father rose from the table and walked out of the building. Leaving uncertainty in his wake, dad didn’t bid farewell to anyone else in the room, and off into the late evening glow he went. There could be time the following afternoon to continue chatting. But, for now, the connection had ended.
He had often been challenging to interact with. It was difficult to understand his father, thou he spent years trying. Finally, one can come to the realization that it may never happen. The relationship will seemingly always be strained. So, we achieve the place of peace within it, even if that peace is one-sided. The connection between father and son morphs into more of an acquaintance. Though he began as a positive influence, helping with the challenges of cerebral palsy, while helping install the can-do attitude. Choices lead to the splintering of trust and the depth between father and son seems to be lost. However, the joy catching up during the weekend wedding could still take place.
It didn’t take much longer for the sunlight to disappear. When lighting took full affect inside the building, perspective changed. The room transitioned from well-lit by sunlight, providing the vast feel of a large room, into being calm and cozy. Under the calm atmosphere of strung lights, speeches of gratitude and excitement for the night and the afternoon to follow were given. A feeling of togetherness filled the empty spaces of the brick building. Soon, everyone had finished desert and began moving around to stretch their legs. Movement outside onto the brick patio found a warm fall night. The smell of saltwater and bon fires filled the evening air. People enjoying the final warmth of an early fall night, relaxed around fire pits with the laughter of friends. It was a post card night on the sand. Back inside, people began moving toward the exits, smiling goodnight. Everyone would gather the next evening for the wedding ceremony. Soon, family was cleaning the large room, stacking chairs, and folding tables. Pictures were taken down, as boxes of food and knickknacks found their way into cars. The rehearsal dinner was winding to a close.
While walking out of the building and following a walkway toward the car reflection began. He pulled out of the large parking lot of the state park. The night was dark, as the string of taillights wound up the hill to the highway. That rehearsal dinner had gone better than expected. Each conversation seemed to possess positive undertones and the interaction with his father felt different. It was still emotional, which seemed to be expected. But, the interaction felt less chaotic, which seemed positive. There was reason to be hopeful for more conversations the following afternoon. Arriving home his mind turned to his cousin, who was spending his final evening being single. The rehearsal seemed to be filled with joy, wherever they were at that moment, he guessed the fun was carrying on. As his head hit the pillow, a smile filled his face anticipating the joy of tomorrow.