(My cousin Jay has a birthday today. While I was musing over the unfairness of it all, how he’s 10 years younger and still has a little girl at home, I started doing some calculations to figure out how old she is now. Eight, as it turns out, just barely, easy enough to determine since I wrote this column when she was born. And just felt like posting it again. Eight years suddenly feels like a long time.)
We’re allowed to wander during weddings. There’s a bit of a liturgical license to think about other things, because we know what’s going to happen. There will be rings, and a kiss, and possibly an open bar at the reception.
This is part of the joy in our traditions and rituals, the comfort of familiar words and symbols. We can float in and out, absorbing the sight and at the same time marveling at how blue the Sound looks in the background.
I had several things on my mind, then, this past Saturday, when I watched Mary get married.
Mary Eidbo is my one of daughter’s oldest friends, and she’s been a presence in my home for years. Since we don’t actually allow most people to come inside, you know she’s special.
So I was thinking of different things. Watching Marty Eidbo walk her down the aisle and fight emotions as he gave an eloquent fatherly speech, I thought a lot about the merits of daughters just eloping.
Rev. Mark Smith performed the ceremony, and I found myself remembering when he baptized my children, so many years ago.
I thought about the beauty of the day and of my wife and daughter, as they sang together. The bride looked stunning and so did the sky. I wondered about sunscreen.
And, on this day of beginnings, I thought about Madelynne.
Madelynne Martin was born the morning of Mary’s wedding, across the country in the other Washington. She is my second cousin, 45 years my junior and firstborn to Jay and Angela.
Jay is the son of my mother’s sister, making him my cousin technically and my little brother in all other senses. Ten years younger than I, born three weeks after the assassination of Robert Kennedy in the summer of 1968, Jay has always been one of my favorite people.
So I rejoiced a bit at the news that he was a father this Saturday, and as I watched young people get married I also thought about a little girl, born in her nation’s capitol at the beginning of a new century. And I imagined.
She will know nothing of an analog world. Camera film and rotary dial phones will be relics, museum pieces. Her entire life will be videotaped.
She will be the class of 2021, and the Twenties will be her 20s.
The first U.S. President she is really aware of will be elected in 2016. Somewhere along the line, at least one of them will be a woman, jettisoning that particular bugaboo once and for all.
When she is in her 30s, Bill Clinton will be buried, probably yapping to the end, charming and infuriating, the last president of the 20th century.
At 42, she will mark with others the hundredth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the last time a nuclear weapon was used in anger. She will be grateful.
When she’s 50, Keanu Reeves will get a Lifetime Achievement award at the Oscar ceremony, mostly because he outlived Matt Damon. “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” will be incomprehensible to her.
George Carlin will not ring a bell, or Bob Hope. Jerry Seinfeld will mean nothing to her, and Jay Leno will be an encyclopedia entry.
Jack Benny and Sid Caesar will be remembered as giants.
The New York Yankees will move to Minnesota and fade away, the Seattle Mariners will win 20 straight World Series, and in 2048 Edgar Martinez will be the first octogenarian to hit 30 doubles and 100 RBIs in a single season.
I’m just making stuff up now.
Maybe her parents will write down what was happening in the world when she was born. Iraq. Globalization. New diseases. Strange weather.
Maybe they’ll mention that she entered this world as Katharine Hepburn left it, 96 years young.
And if she takes care of herself, eats her vegetables and crosses with the light, when she’s 96 Madelynne will see a new century turn.
Our world will be dust then, but it welcomes you today, Madelynne Martin, 7 pounds, 3 ounces. We’ve given you most of a century to play with, so you go, girl.
I’m just a remote relative, stuck up here in my little corner of the country. I think it’s unlikely I will play any part in your life, or even that you will quite understand who I am.
But, when you’re a grown woman and I’m an old man, and you’re a little curious about the day you were born, feel free to look me up. I will remember.
It was a beautiful day up here, sunny and warm, and Puget Sound was bright and blue. I stood in the sun and toasted not only a marriage but also a birth, long ago when the century and you were new.
(June 2003, Beacon Publishing and The World According to Chuck)