The Potency of Clear-Headedness in Chaotic Situations, Maybe
Updated: Feb 12
We’re staying in South Carolina on Lake Wylie. My brother’s wedding is taking place in North Carolina a few miles and a three-minute boat ride away. The house has grown since my first afternoon, morphed and changed shape. Not the house itself but the people, visiting or staying.
Some family and friends have their own hotel rooms and others are in and out of this lake house my father rented with an idyllic view. Each morning we wake to nature dwellers – deer, hawks, songbirds, coyote, squirrels, various bugs and spiders depending on the time of day. The human visitors staying at the house have included friends of my brothers before they checked into their own lake house, my brother and his fiancé, my uncle (Mom’s brother) and myself.
There have been a series of events and parties since my arrival as well as party and fishing boats, water skiers, inner-tubers and paddle boarders who practice water sports in the lake area in front of the house. We gather at night, citronella candles glowing with the sounds of boat motors and lapping waves, a slight watery tang on the air.
There is hardly a moment free of events and/or prepping for events. We hosted one gathering for the wedding on Thursday evening with around 30 in attendance. Somehow we managed to cater it with Indian food from a local restaurant and serve everyone goat curry. The southern relatives and friends all tried goat for the first time. We ended up with goat by mistake or divine providence when the restaurant provided goat instead of lamb. Luckily, everyone went along with it and everyone appeared to enjoy it.
Mom and her sister are decorating the cake. And by cake I mean a many month’s long affair of creating a traditional fruitcake. It has been soaking in brandy for over a month and was transported in suitcases from California, is being assembled here and decorated painstakingly. An adventure in transportation continued as the half-decorated cake needed to arrive at the wedding venue to be assembled.
Still, passion-filled family members in various stages of inebriation, make for a lively set of gatherings. We are shuttled from one event to another via rental cars, down past winding roads sometimes spotting the occasional feeding deer. We have no idea where we are going and rely on GPS, which doesn’t always accurately predict the actual timeframe, traffic patterns or pitfalls of a journey.
People, like my brother and others are going through various emotional experiences related to the past, present and future and even their long-standing expectations of how things ‘should’ go, myself included although I am not in the wedding.
Passions flair like candle wicks running dry. Idyllic moments are scattered with the pain of a career not going as expected, people not feeling heard, the occasional victory and the cacophony of laughter echoing into the night.
Opinions abound on everything from politics and the U.S. election, to the nuclear power station which created the need for the lake, to how the cake should be decorated/transported and whether getting your hair done professionally is worth it. Even now, we have a noon appointment for four women, which should have been relaxing and fun, juxtaposed with the need to finish icing the cake. Who knows if any one of us will make the appointment and I didn’t bother washing my hair this morning when I showered.
Love gets tested at every angle, even the love and relationship of the bride and groom. Consistent expectations, events and logistics are pitted against a person’s need for space and control. And we each have a different relationship to those factors. We test our communication skills and lack thereof, our steadfast connection to each other, our values, our perspectives (which are all so unique).
We wonder if we have our place in this soup or when we should pull back and not be dogmatic about anything. Just as I write that, a fisher floats by on his boat, his dog ready at the helm.
All in all, it is the factor of clear-headedness that prevails even in the toughest of circumstances. We have no idea how it is all going to turn out but we just know it will, and Sydney and Brian will be wed.
Additional guests show up, having flown in the last 24 hours. People I haven’t seen in years; who have lived separate lives and had their own trials and tribulations in the meantime. We come together almost like no time has passed really, only slightly perceptible changes are obvious.
A gathering of epic proportions and only 80 people total in attendance. Still, 80 seems like quite enough complexity. What would we need with more?
We will persevere and have fun. We will remember many aspects, hopefully the good ones for years to come. While I am not a Pollyanna about family togetherness – sometimes it is downright awful – I have also learned that some families are so dysfunctional that such events couldn’t take place at all.
Perspective is everything. Chaos is part of the mix. Dancing with the moment is key. So maybe I am super stubborn about the hair appointment. Good thing we are resilient and will all be eating, dancing and being merry in short order.
Our heads intact.