(Published by Saint Cloud Times April 19, 2010.)
by Edith Rylander
I’m just back from a wedding in Tucson.
Arizona, like Minnesota, is a more complex and diverse place than you might think from reading brochures. There is a tourist Arizona, and a farming and ranching and mining Arizona. There is an Arizona of sunburned old desert rats, and an Arizona of New Age seekers, a Hispanic Arizona that goes back hundreds of years, and a Native American Arizona that goes back thousands.
Then there is the Arizona many Minnesotans know, a place to winter or retire, what I sometimes think of as Geezerville. We have friends in those very large communities of senior-only housing and RV parks, where one is never bothered by loud teen music or crying babies. For many, Arizona functions as a kindly elephants’ graveyard of golf courses and early-bird specials, where chilblained northerners go to enjoy themselves before the big chill sets in.
The Arizona we spent our time in on this trip was the Arizona of the bride and groom. It was mostly younger, more casual in its living arrangements, more urban, more ethnically diverse, more wild-haired and more tattooed. Many of this community make a living playing music or making art or writing. No doubt some of them have caused their parents a certain amount of worry.
No doubt many up in Geezerville regard them and their ways with trepidation.
They have been kind to us. They are loyal to their friends.
Family and friends, we gather on a warm, bright morning in a beautiful park called Agua Caliente. The bride wears a purple gown which would do credit to a medieval court. Our grand-daughter Chloe, out of the experience of her five years, identifies it as a “princess dress.” The groom, in a frock coat, a cravat the color of the bridal gown, and a bowler hat, would pass for a 19th century plutocrat.
The vows of marriage were written by those who take them, and they are lovely.
Later, we eat tapas and paella at a Spanish restaurant, where we drink champagne and twirl our napkins and sing “Ole, ole, ole, ole.” In the evening it’s off to a reception at the historic Rialto Theater, five music groups with names like Greyhound Soul and Fourkiller Flats.
I dance with both my sons, with my daughter, with my new daughter-in-law. My daughter dances with my grand-daughter, while a friend of the groom in a fishing hat dances with Fluffy, her stuffed rabbit.
This wedding reception includes fire spinners, four women in spangled costumes who dance while spinning flaming torches close to their hair, their bosoms, their faces. Chloe immediately decides she wants to be a “fire girl” when she grows up.
The bride tosses her bouquet, and the girl who catches it hands it to Chloe.
The groom acts as M.C. throughout. Late in the evening, he and the bride dance onstage, and he sings backing vocals with Fourkiller Flats. But by that time the old folks are in bed.
Last month I wrote a column in which I suggested that the country was not about to collapse, and that we all needed to stop yelling at each other. I was immediately yelled at, verbally and online, by people who thought I was not nearly angry enough.
As we boarded our flight for home, we saw red-blooded American males obediently putting their change, keys, and shoes into the scanner tray. The partner was wearing cargo pants and a baseball cap. He was patted down and asked to remove his cap and show its insides to the screener.
“Looks like a hat,” the screener said.
I have watched as American men stood patiently while strangers ran scanning devices up the inseams of their pants, and wondered if those citizens were the same guys who talk about prying the guns from their cold, dead hands.
No doubt some of them are.
It may be that I am insufficently angry because I spend too much of my life with people who get along, even when they disagree. I can’t prove this makes for good politics, though I think it does; but it certainly makes for a happier domestic life. I hope and wish this condition of affairs for the bride and groom.
Maybe I’ll get yelled at for saying this, but, having seen husband and wife pledge themselves as equal partners, having seen young men make music and young women play with fire without getting singed, I believe in a good future for my grand-children.
We can all live together and have a good time, even if some of us don’t want to.