Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Circle Game

“Birth, copulation and death.
Birth, copulation and death.
That’s all the facts, when it comes to brass tacks.
Birth, copulation and death.”

Today my nephew gets married. The families are gathered, the toasts have begun, the processional walks down the aisle rehearsed and all are a’twitter awaiting the moment when a kiss seals the deal. Last night at the rehearsal dinner was a slide show, a quick review of the bride and groom’s 28 years, from the baby photo to the happy couple’s recent camping trip. I had participated in so much of my nephew Ian’s photo collage, meeting him at one-day old, setting him loose in my yard as a preschooler with the basket for the Easter egg hunt, cheering him at the school walkathon (I taught him until 4th grade when he moved from San Francisco to Sebastopol), traveling with him to Ireland as a teenager, meeting him in Japan as a college student, eating with him around the Thanksgiving table and singing with him at the annual Christmas caroling as a young adult and just generally seeing him through all his various haircuts and life stages. He was my first nephew, used to call me “Unk Dunk” and now I’m about to play the piano as he walks down the aisle into his married life.

And so these moments like stones in the stream, places of rest when the constant motion stops to mark a moment, reflect, gather the community and surround the folks passing through their rite of passage with love, remembrance and good wishes. T.S. Eliot said it all succinctly in his limerick-like way—birth, marriage (sanctified copulation), death. With little Zadie with us, my nephew’s impending marriage, my mother-in-law’s impending exit, all three very much present with me now. If we live well, every moment is sacred and cause for celebration, but some are threshold points that turn a life this way and not that and deserve ritual attention and group hugs.

In the slide show, there were photos of my sister’s wedding and now she and her husband will stand where my mother and father once stood. I played the organ for that wedding and will play piano for this one. Last week, I saw Zadie nursing on the couch where her Mom used be nursed, took her to the caroussel in children’s playground in the park where I used to ride the painted ponies with her Mom. Couldn’t help but sing Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game:

And the seasons they go ‘round and ‘round
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came.
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

It’s a dizzying, colorful, whirling ride, up and down, round and round, with the brass band playing and the drums beating and the triangles ringing. Amidst the serious and solemnity of the occasion, a good time to remember “Wheeeee!!!!” And don’t forget to grab the brass ring!

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