Sunday, April 05, 2009

State Memories Project: Indiana

MCMC, the groom, was a Kenyon College Chaser buddy of mine—a bass, a year younger than me. The bride was a poetess and a Yale grad who also knew the joy of a cappella. For their May 1998 wedding (at a gorgeous state park about a half hour outside of Bloomington...they had met at IU, where he studied history and she Creative Writing), they instituted The Friend Choir. Everyone they had ever known who sang would become the choir at the wedding. A fellow Chaser served as conductor, and arranged a version of “Simple Gifts” for the occasion. We sang that, “Go Ye Now In Peace,” (a song from Chasers), and something else I am forgetting. Although we had received music and tapes to practice with, we still all arrived on Thursday for several rehearsals. And in between rehearsals, I spent quality time with old friends and became very tight new ones. We practiced at the bride and groom’s place one day, then zipped across to the state park to practice the next. In between were impromptu ice cream runs in small Indiana towns, board games at bars and at new friends’ houses, new inside jokes with people I’d known only a day or two, and an incredible amount of fun.

The one moment I’ll remember most is the who-will-cry-first pool. No money changed hands, but we in the choir each had predicted which of the bride’s and groom’s parents would cry first. I had cast my lot with the groom’s mom. Some had the bride’s dad (a poet). A few others took the longshots...bride’s mom and groom’s dad. We didn’t disrupt the marvelous service, overlooking an Indiana valley at a state park on a warm-but-not-hot early morning. But we had all made our picks, and would elbow each other and point during the service, as if to say. “I think the bride’s dad might be welling up...do you think she’ll make it through her reading?” or “I don’t know, what about the groom’s mom?” It was like a pennant race between Yankees and Red Sox...we watched them closely, waiting for the certain winner.

But then, the equivalent of the Tampa Bay Rays ran off with it all. The groom’s dad got up to give his reading, and suddenly absolutely burst into sobs. Our eyes bugged out, as this surprise cost a lot of us the fictional pool that day. As he walked away from the podium, he added one wish to the many he’d given already: “And wild nights!” he said. Turns out he’d wanted to read Emily Dickinson’s “Wild nights,” but didn’t. Instead, he just threw in the one line.

Meanwhile, in the friend choir, we were all shocked...all, that is, except Chaser buddy Shelly, the only person to pick the groom’s dad in the pool. “I don’t know,” she had said. “It just feels like there’s a lot underneath there.” There sure was.

I loved the experience of the friend choir so much that I plagiarized it. A friend choir—including several Chaser members of MCMC's choir—sang at my own wedding 7 years later. I hope they had as much fun in my choir as I had in theirs—I owe the bride and groom and their friends that much for that great weekend.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

In 1959 TRP's Dad had been accepted into medical school after only 3 years of undergraduate work with the proviso that he had to receive a passing grade in physics, his only outstanding requirement. The course had only two grades all quarter, a midterm and a final. On the weekend before the Monday midterm exam I and several fraternity buddies went to South Bend Indiana to see Northewestern play Notre Dame. NU won 30 to 24 and we celebrated accordingly. When I got back to Evanston on Sunday and began reviewing for the test I discovered that I really did not understand a lot of the material. I got an F on the test. (the only one of my life). I lived in a panic for the next 6 weeks and became a dedicated physics student. I got an A on the final and a C in the course, preserving my acceptance to med school. To this day I irrationally distain physics,Indiana, and Notre Dame.

MCMC said...

I haven't been reading the blog enough, clearly, as I'm very late to this conversation.

Clearly, my Indiana memory is of the very wedding you describe, Paul. There are so many stories to pick from that week that it's hard to pin down just one. We didn't get to hang with the choir as we'd hoped, but we loved that they were nearby all the time. I remember the brief "rehearsal" where I first got the sense of the amazing things our friends had done and created to make our wedding a true expression of the community.

My favorite part of the whole thing, though, was the spontaneous decision we made at the wedding reception to invite all of our friends back to our house for games and fun later that night. The house, which had been host to so many great gatherings, was packed. Two different rounds of board games were in motion. All sorts of friends connecting with each other. Exactly what I think heaven might look like for me.

I'm touched by this post. And I was honored to be in your choir seven years later. We did, indeed, have a great deal of fun.