Sweet Spirit

I slip off my pumps and lift my swollen feet to the seat of an empty chair beside the head table as the wedding band begins its third set.

Earlier in the evening, the dance floor brimmed with middle-agers like myself, but as the night grows older, the crowd grows younger, and the music belongs to them.

The dining hall is gracefully adorned in soft oranges and tender greens–orchids and satin–but the beautiful tables sit are abandoned now.

A few onlookers like myself are sprinkled here and there–a grandmother, an aunt, a pregnant woman, a teenage girl, a guy in a cast.

Everyone else is at the bar, or in the lounge or outside under the moon.

Bright faces beckon me back to the dance floor, but I shake my head and point to my feet with the sudden realization that I appreciate the pause that comes with age.  It lets me take it all in.

This… is… my… baby… sister’s… wedding day.

The night before the ceremony, I stop at our mother’s house, where my stepfather lives.  Though he has remodeled the place in so many beautiful ways, the vacuum of her absence has never been filled.

It appears as if he only inhabits the new additions–the upstairs suite, the expanded kitchen, the bayside deck–while the original living space which she occupied, remains emptied–or cluttered with her belongings.

Over the years, signs of my mother’s life have gradually been extracted: The phone number is no longer hers.  The table where she sat and drank her coffee is gone.  The large gilded mirror that hung above it too.  The china cabinet stands emptied. Her bedroom is gutted.  There is no sign of the original kitchen where she cooked or the bathroom where she bathed.

Other things remain exactly as she left them–untouched–as if she was still there.

Each time I step into the house, I feel adrift, tossed between the shores of memory and loss; and the promise of something yet unseen.

The new deck off the kitchen has a gorgeous view of the bay less than a block away.  As I breathe in the luminescent greens of the marshlands, I am struck that I never noticed how close the water was before.

I feel the same surprise when I step into my mother’s empty dining room and notice the expanse of bay windows there, where once the family computers dominated the view.

But it is my mother’s desk to which I return each time I come–and it is always the same–as it was on the day she died, ten years ago this summer.

The glass enclosed case above her desk holds her favorite books including her sustaining reads:  The Twelve Steps, The Courage to Change, The Tarot.

Photos of my first born still line the doors.  He’s a baby in one, holding the 1996 Olympic torch as it passes through our town, and he is a preschooler in another, standing at the kitchen sink. Now he is in highschool.

Beside the photos is a pink embroidered book mark with my mother’s name.  I take it down and marvel at it again, as if for the first time:

Bonnie

“Sweet Spirit”

“How true,” I think, remembering her.

It is my mother’s namesake, my baby sister Bonnie, who asks me to stand up at her wedding to honor our Mother.  I am humbled and honored by the request and work to capture  the essence of her spirit in what I speak.

Just as I step down from the altar after this gift, a butterfly passes under the tent where 180 guests are gathered.  Among these guests are divorced relatives, divided families, diseased relationships and damaged souls–but this is not what rises to the surface when I look around.

Good will and grace abound.

I see the good will of my father as he greets the man who took his wife.

I see the good will of my stepmother as she returns with a glass of wine for the daughter who once caused her so much grief.

I see family members embrace and welcome those who have been estranged.

I see different faiths honoring each others ways.

I see children leaning into the bellies of new aunts and uncles, fully blending the families that have joined today.

Everywhere I look, I see love and the sweetness of spirit rising.  No doubt my mother is here.

Kelly Salasin, August 21, 2010

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7 thoughts on “Sweet Spirit

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  1. You captured the beauty of the day — family. I send best wishes to Bonnie and Mark and all your family and I know your mom was there in spirit so proud of all her girls.

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  2. Beautiful! Catching my breath, wiping my eyes realizing you just articulated an all encompassing definition of a family. I love the description of the “divorced, diseased, and damaged souls” all healed in some way through a gathering for the absolutely radical act of two people publicly committing a lifetime to each other.

    Namaste, Kelly, Namaste!

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  3. You captured the essences of the night so eloquently…What a beautiful and fun wedding it was!

    *Bonnie didn’t just get her mom’s name but also her “sweet spirit”

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  4. Kelly, you touched the heart of so many that night, never having met your Mother, I feel I know her, just from you and Bonnie. If things had been different and your Mother had lived I know we would have been wonderful friends; I am so grateful to her because I have been so gifted to share in the life of her children that I have come to know and love. When I saw the butterfly, I knew your Mom was present, there was no way she was missing her daughter Bonnie’s big day. As I said to your Dad, getting to know his children has been an absolute joy for me, someone did something really right; your children are amazing. Thank you for making Bonnie’s Day so very special; she is truly blessed with such a wonderful family. Love you, Suzanne xoxoxo

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