On my walk home from Pilates yesterday afternoon, as I ascended the Mason Street hill from Union Square, I heard the unmistakable twang of sitar filling Huntington Square a block above me. The music was celebratory, punctuated by the thud of hand drums bouncing off the Pac Union Club’s ancient brownstone walls, and infused with cheers and laughter. The positive energy was palpable. Even before I hit the crest of the hill where the crowd was visible, I had a smile on my face.
The block in front of the Fairmont Hotel had been barricaded to accommodate an Indian wedding celebration that spilled out of the front doors and into the streets before passing neighbors and tourists. The wedding guests kept pouring out of the hotel as I approached. They danced in a serpentine line that weaved in and out of the grey-flecked white marble columns and blurred into the edges of a crowd surrounding the groom. Gold headdress atop his head, he cheered and bounced on the back of a tall white horse spotted with tan.
Silk saris saturated with the colors of the rainbow looked like splashes of paint against the facade of the old white hotel. Miles of silk adorned with gold coins and thick with embroidery hung across the slight frames of silver-haired, WASPy retirees and flowed down the backs of beautiful young Indian bridesmaids. The traditional dress looked strikingly natural on both sets of women. They all appeared equally as proud to lose themselves in Indian tradition and in devotion to the bride and groom. Men held their children on their shoulders and hopped up and down on the pavement, a common lack of rhythm united ancient looking uncles, awkward singles and youthful family men. There were no straight faces in the group, only smiles as bright and bold as the colors of dress.
There’s something truly remarkable about weddings. I can't think of anything else that inspires us to put aside our own priorities, agendas, baggage and judgments in favor of unadulterated joy. Weddings exist in this wonderful, beautiful vacuum where we replace the things that taint the good in life with everything that is good. They are full of the memories that that bind us. They are overflowing with the kindness that feeds our souls. They are a source of hope that fuels our dreams for the future. Everywhere you turn on that day, you see loyalty, love, support, history, optimism. It’s truly remarkable.
I stood glued to that sidewalk for a few minutes. My feet felt heavy even as my chest filled with longing and I felt sadness inflate my ribs. Although only witness to it, I found it hard to walk away from that once in a lifetime sensation of being surrounded by everyone that matters – protected, elevated, insulated by their love and the sheer force of their combined support. I moved only when the groom rode towards the door and his future with his bride. As I walked towards home and looked over the other side of Nob Hill to the ocean, I thought about how I would get married once a year until I die if given the chance (and a little extra $). I turned back for a last look before they were out of sight, and I wondered if I will ever feel as invincible and complete as I did with my hand inside my husbands and our family and friends at our sides.
When I arrived home wishing I had a sari in my closet, I realized I’m still going through a little post-wedding withdrawal. I can’t help but wonder if I will be as long as I chose to live the life I love here in California. Perhaps the price I pay is always feeling a little bit like a sponge - full of tiny little holes left by family and friends so far away, waiting to be filled up, filled in, made whole by the uplifting force of their combined presence in my life.