The Dance

We Danced. The bride spotted me, dancing hand in hand in a large circle around her. The circle was so large that we were more walking then dancing. Still, the music played and the pull of the crowd, of the women, carried me around the dance floor. The bride broke through the crowd of woman and took my hand. She drew me to the center of the circle.

The bride was a stranger to me. So was the groom. We, my partner and I were invited, together. Both our names written out on the invitation, just like a real couple. Our relationship has been deemed legal and otherwise legitimate by the state of Connecticut, and now by cousin Laura, mother of the bride.

Laura, just two years older than me was my favorite playmate growing up. She and her brother, with their bright red hair and fair complexions were my first cousins. We played house on their porch with our plastic plates and silverware, swam in their pool, and played games in their basement.

My father had died. It was just after he passed that my cousin made the two hour drive to pay her respects. We had not seen each other in over 15 years. After a brief chat on the phone, she took my address and made the drive from New York to Connecticut.

I was nervous about seeing her. She didn’t know I was remarried, or ever married as far as I could recall, she, an Orthodox Jew, me a lesbian with four children.

I had missed her wedding when I was in college because of a snow storm and she missed mine because I knew she would never come so I didn’t invite her.

Although both Jewish, it was Judaism that stretched like a canyon between us. She lived a kind of Judaism that dictated so many details of her life. I lived in a secular world, my side of the canyon, one which was defined by many things, merely included Judaism.

There would be no Wiccan princess from the coven marrying this bride and groom, no interfaith minister either. These folk were the real thing. A rabbi would preside over these nuptials.

And so without ever saying anything to each other, my cousin Laura invited my wife and me to her daughter’s wedding. I wasn’t quite sure how much she understood about my wife, my kids, my life, and really, I can’t say I understood the choices she had made in her life either.

The GPS directed us to a neighborhood that came right out of a story by Shalom Aleichem. The store signs were all written in Hebrew. The streets were teeming with families, big families, and always walking behind a stroller. The men dressed in black suits with black brimmed hats and their wives dressed in expensive suits, wigs covering their heads. A caravan of children followed suit in identical outfits.

We entered Eden Palace to find a grand entryway complete with crystal chandeliers. Once inside, we quickly spotted my aunt and after hugs and kisses made our way to the buffet. We sat and ate as we watched the rituals of matrimony unfold between our bites of cantaloupe and teriyaki chicken. Making every attempt to blend in, there was the ever present feeling that the other 400 guests all knew we were gay, or maybe not. We listened to the band. The klezmer music was beautiful.

After the ceremony, we made our way into the giant ballroom. Through the center was a partition. Despite its intended use, it did not separate the men from the woman. Rather, it appeared to separate the grooms family from the brides.

On our side of the wall, the food was plentiful and the drinks poured freely. We sat at our table, family and friends of Aunt Myrna, grandmother of the bride. As we made our way through courses of food, the bride and groom made their way to our table. As she and her new husband thanked us all for coming, I stood from my seat and introduced myself.

“I’m your mother’s cousin” I said, feeling so old and invisible.

“Oh your cousin Tammy” she said warmly before giving me a hug.

“When the music starts, you have to come and dance with me.” She said before heading off to the next table.

We sat and finished our meal. Soon the music began and once more the women all rushed to the dance floor and formed a circle around the bride.

Cousin Laura waved in our direction to join her on the dance floor. I grabbed my partner, my wife and headed towards the dance floor. As I grabbed the hand of a stranger to join the circle, I lost my wife in the crowd. Alone, holding hands with strangers, I danced in the circle. The bride somehow saw me among the crowd and reached for my hand. I followed her and as I did, the circle of woman closed around us and we danced. Just the two of us, like Ring around the Rosie only we were grown up and let the music carry us away. I found myself smiling. I waved my hands with the bride and felt like I was dancing forever. Then she thanked me and I was absorbed into yet another circle. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone else was now dancing Ring around the Rosie with the bride. In fact, hadn’t the bride been dancing with the female guests?

As I walked back to the table I felt all the hope and excitement of the new bride. That was what she was giving to each of us, her friends and family and in those few moments, when we danced hand in hand in our own small circle.

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