My first cousin’s daughter is getting married. A first wedding for my cousin, who is like a sister to me. A group of 12 women gave the first bridal shower for this wonderful bride-to-be last Sunday. A group of women who have long-time and deep connections to my cousin, who herself is one of the most generous spirited people on the planet Earth. And her daughter, also beloved, is kind, gentle, compassionate, talented, smart and a bright light.
Well, the emails went flying. Across the country. Divided up the tasks. One by one we chose our jobs: color scheme, table decorations, introductions, the game, the candy, the donations to a worthy cause on behalf of the bride-to-be… A theme was chosen: “The ABC’s of Marriage.” You see, our bride-to-be is a passionate and gifted first grade teacher.
Some of the women were experienced “shower-givers” and others of us were “first timers.” We were linked, however, by our deep love for my cousin and her daughter. And also bonded by the desire to create a beautiful “building the nest” experience for this new bride. It was the beginning of the process, ancient in origin, of experienced women gathering around to help launch the new couple through this doorway with wisdom.
Arriving at the shower I was greeted by an eyeful of awe.
Every detail was so thoughtfully and lovingly carried out that it was like a symphony in space. On each table, the donation card explaining the gift to Sandy Hook Elementary on behalf of the bride was laminated and put into a sliced green apple serving as a holder. Carefully wrapped Jordan almonds (in the shower colors of course) were lovingly placed at each person’s seat, with a rolled up explanation of the symbolism of Jordan almonds and weddings*. This was artfully set next to the place cards, where every guest’s name was written on a tiny chalkboard. The flower arrangements were vases in the shape of schoolbooks with the flowers color-coordinated of course. Scattered on each table, carefully cut out with pinking shears, was our advice to the bride about what makes a marriage work: “forgive easily” “respect” “appreciate your differences” “make up quickly” culled from our own experiences – many in long-term marriages.
It may seem like details – but really, it was much more. It was an enactment of what happens when people pay attention with intention. When we focus on creating an experience that matters. It would have been easy to just say – oh this is so lovely. But — and this is important — if you really stopped and took in each detail – you would have to be awed by the love that went into each single aspect of that afternoon.
How many days do we just rush by? How many moments do we cram into an hour? I absolutely do. What if we just took time each day in some way to give the kind of attention to WHATEVER we are doing that these shower-givers gave to their jobs? What if I washed my face with intention, feeling the soap lather, the water on my skin, smelled the scent of the soap and appreciated the loveliness of just that moment? (and appreciated that I even have running water!) What if I drank my tea in the morning really tasting it, instead of reading the paper at the same time, thinking about what’s next on the agenda? (I love my tea in the morning.) What if I took this kind of care arranging the books in my office?
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel gave an interview a week before he died. When asked by the interviewer what advice he would give young people in one minute or less (this was 1973) he said: “I would say let them remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power, and that we (ought to) do, everyone, our share to redeem the world, in spite of all absurdities, and all the frustrations, and all the disappointment. And above all, remember that the meaning of life is to live life as if it were a work of art… What’s really important is life as a celebration.”
Thank you fellow shower-women for helping me to remember how amazing it is to give attention to the details. To slow down and focus on one thing at a time. To remember, like Rabbi Heschel said, that every little deed counts.
And thank you shower-givers for finding such sweet ways to show how much you love my cousin and her daughter by paying attention so that they would experience this afternoon with unbridled delight. They did. And it was a grand celebration.
* Jordan almonds are a wonderful wedding candy for wedding favors. Almonds have a bittersweet taste, which represents life. The sugarcoating adds the hope that the newlyweds’ life will be more sweet than bitter.