Dear God: For a 3-year-old, he was such a gentleman. He swayed back-and-forth with her in time with the gentle tune that filled the ballroom.
All eyes were on them, but as clear as the crystals dangling from the chandelier, his eyes were lost looking up into hers. He arched his arms high to permit his supple hands to wrap around her fingertips. The steps of his polished padded-leather shoes were followed by the delicate tap of her heels. How she’s managed to still be in those decadent showstoppers that spotlight her perfect pedicure is beyond me! But—hahahe—that’s beyond the point.
The first dance between the new Mr. and Mrs. was heart-warming. No doubt. When it came to the first dance between the new mommy-and-me duo, I could feel everyone at the reception doing their darndest to keep their hearts from bursting. And I’m not just talking about the guests; staff included. Little Dominique looked like a grown man shrunk in a tiny tux. He’s an almost splitting image of his father, Terrence.
I swung my eyes over to my cousin, the groom, catching his eyes gazing, phasing from glassy, to misty, to blurry, to teary. My goodness, what a privilege it’s been for me to witness the man and father Terrence has become. His path seemed so golden: Stable home; two hard-working parents. To say that my uncle and aunt adored Terrence would be an understatement at best.
As a tri-state basketball scholar, he graduated from high school with honors and a scholarship to play ball at a division one school. Terrence had NBA recruiters scouting him from the jump. He could have been one of the few to get signed straight out of high school. But his mom and dad insisted that he go to college. They prayed that Terrence would play the long game. He was persuaded. And it was a good thing that he was.
From all outward appearances, Terrence was dribbling down the yellow-brick-road. But a torn ACL during his senior year, and his fiancé passing the following year became the kiln that would surface the gold buried inside of him. But, no lie, it pained me to see Terrence endure it all. He’s my cousin. But I love him like a younger brother.
I may not have wanted to admit it back then, but I was a bit more than upset with you for a hot minute or two…or three. I knew better. Yet I couldn’t wrap my emotions around it: You’re the Good God and Terrence, though flawed like all mere mortals, was a good man.
To him, the career shredding tear was a seismic earthquake. Losing the love of his life while gaining an offspring from his was another ruptured fault line. The distress of it all was a tsunami that swept him away and crashed him against you. Yet you weren’t the rock that would destroy him. You were the rock that would rescue him by becoming his rehabilitating refuge of strength. The waves washed up a good man. The Rock of Ages carved out a holy man.
Puzzled by the Puzzle
Terrence is going to be a great husband. He’s already an awesome dad. And watching Terrence’s mini-me steal the show during his first wedding mined my mind back to mine.
It was the first time I saw them kiss. In fact, I think it was the first time I saw Mom and Brother Jimmy dive face first into any public display of affection. My 3-year-old cerebral cortex was a pinch puzzled by the puzzle: Why were they kissing at church in front of what seemed like the whole world watching? In retrospect, I know that the entire Earth’s population couldn’t fit into that cozy Church of God in Christ sanctuary. Nonetheless, the frequent flyers through my expansively confined universe were present.
Hmm…Let’s see if the filing cabinets categorized in my hippocampus still has some of the roster…Bishop and First Lady; Nammy, Poppi, Uncle Lee and Uncle Lou; god-mommy Gina and god-mommy Juliann; my god brothers and cousins—my partners in
crime, I mean, good. Except for my Dad, it felt like everyone managed to pack themselves into your Cogic living room.
I didn’t know any better, so I was ready to have church. But no one whisked me off to Sunday school. Nobody sang selections from the hymnals pouched in the pockets attached to the back of the pews. Not a soul passed the basket around for people to put the money in. And nobody preached.
The puzzle pieces were scattered; however, the edges of the scene were coming together. Bishop was looming in the elevated pulpit head-and-shoulders above the rest of us. But Mom and Brother Jimmy were standing face-to-face in front of it. From my position, I could see a few women adorning lilac gowns, each wielding a cute bouquet of blooming hydrangeas, gathered in a row behind Mom.
Their well-choreographed stance mirrored the finely tailored gentlemen, with their lilac-matching ties and pocket handkerchiefs, positioned at Brother Jimmy’s rear. I felt like a little woman standing with the gals trailing Mom’s train. And my teeter-tottering toddler eyes looked across the expectant spectators neatly nestled in every pew waiting to discover what everyone was waiting for.
Mom, whose hair was as ornate as the lace tracing her succulent gown, did my hair the prior night before her mother tucked me into the bed my mother and I shared. Guhh, my disdain for the comb’s belligerence against my audacious curls and coils was evident even then. The brush was a kinder hair wrangler. I refused to give the comb’s thirsty teeth the satisfaction of water works. Okay, okay. I cried—but only a little.
Going to “Do” Something
After it was all said and done, I took a gander at the bathroom mirror expecting my reflection to flip the gloomy ordeal through a spectrum of rainbow bourettes decorating my hair. What I discovered, instead, were white bulbs and clips where the colorful Roy G. Biv usually called home. The monotone hair ornaments were smoother and more brilliant than the shoes I had on during the big day.
Today, I’m well aware that the bride is the only one to wear white on the wedding day. Back then, on the other hand, I had no way of knowing that my shoes and hair dressings were the sole apparel that violated the long-standing tradition. My dress followed suit. Still, I have the gumption to conclude that I was the exception to the rule, at least for a day. My Mom selected the style of my hair and shoes by hand. My Nammy created my 3T dress with hers.
Something I did know was that it was my job to make a mess. Yes, I was confused by the idea. By that time, I had become fairly acquainted with the clean-up song. It seemed to me to be a favorite selection in every grownup’s repertoire. Yet, to my puzzlement, the exquisitely dressed giants told me to throw down, not clean up—throw down flowers, that is.
I can still recall the glossy textured of the small wicker basket filled with blossoms against my palms. The petals appeared so real to me, But I remember Poppi confessing they were fake. He said I did a good job dropping the miniature buds down the aisle as I made my way to the front. I remembered to keep smiling. I remembered not to scatter them so fast that the petals ran out. I remembered not to fall. It wasn’t Easter, but Uncle Lee and Uncle Lou were wearing suits. They made a joint effort to carry a ring resting on a pillow down the runway. They didn’t fall either.
To this day, Nammy says I looked like a princess. If I resembled a princess, then Mom was a queen. Her beauty compelled all the guests to stand when she arrived at the doorway. Her gown was a radiant movement of cascading white like a napping cirrus cloud in broad daylight. Dazzling pins upheld her swirly tresses. A veil unveiled the silhouette of her graceful face. Poppi held her hand as they glided down the aisle until Brother Jimmy’s hand replaced where Poppi’s hand used to be. Brother Jimmy pulled back the veil with a wondrous exhale.
I watched and listened while Mom, Brother Jimmy, and Bishop talked for a while. What about? My tiny tot vocabulary didn’t have a clue or care. All ‘lil Riri knew was that Mommy and Brother Jimmy promised that they were going to “do” something. Each said it to another, one right after the other. Then, they kissed. Everybody clapped and cheered. The Mr. and Mrs. walked out of the crowd of witnesses. Poppi found Nammy. Nammy found me. And we charted the course for the rest of the sanctuary downstairs to the basement to eat.
When we arrived, my senses collided with a kaleidoscope of balloons, ribbons, streamers, and lights. The grownups knew it was the reception. I knew it was a birthday party…one without sandwiches or chips. But who needs bologna-and-cheese with cheese puffs on the side; who needs that when you have a buffet?
Danced in a Trance
Round tables huddled like hubs were on one side of the decorated space. On the other, was a caravan of long tables carrying an assortment of food with a tall cake at its caboose. The giants in charge knew that it was the wedding cake. The elf—me—knew it was the birthday cake. And from the Brother Jimmy and Mommy action figures at the top, it was theirs.
I remember Poppi sitting me in a booster seat at a table with him, Nammy, my uncles, Elder Clarke, Deaconess Clarke, and Sister Clarke. A little later, Mommy and Brother Jimmy came in. And you could hear a feather falling as we watched them waltz. And then, we ate. We ate a lot. What did I eat? I can’t recall; in fact, I’m pleasantly surprised I remember so much at all. From the giddy groove going on in my amygdala, I gather that whatever I gobbled up was good; I mean, really good.
Nammy was vigilant to ensure her baby doll didn’t get anything on her dress. Success. I made it through the main course spotless. That only left dessert. Mom and Brother Jimmy wiped icing on each other’s face after they cut the cake. This left me wondering why they got to play with their food while I couldn’t have fun with mine. But my query was quench when a little slice of heaven came. An entire piece for me.
Elder Clarke wiped some frosting off my button nose, as Nammy said something about calling him and Deaconess Grandad and Grandmama. Sister Esther joined the growing chorus by helping me to say “auntie’ after her. She would utter it and I would sputter it between bites. Poppi topped it all off by instructing his little princess to start calling Brother Jimmy daddy.
When he first said “daddy,” I spun around as if my father had transported himself from the Big Apple to the little isle of Long Island. Then, Poppi redirected my eyes to Brother Jimmy who knew Mom long before she knew me and knew me for as long as my dad did.
When his eyes met my own, Daddy Jimmy came, swept me off my feet, and place mine on top of his. We danced. We danced in a trance akin to the one ‘lil Dominique and his mommy-dear has caught the room up in.
God, I wonder if little Dom’s wondering what it will be like to have a mommy after his first wedding. I know I was wondering what it would be like to have two daddies after mine.
Love ~ Reese