We went to the neighbors’ uncle’s wedding last night. They had told us to arrive between 8:00 and 8:30. I was panicked at 8:23 when we hadn’t walked out the door yet, but we arrived at the Syrian Club, a couple of blocks from our house, at exactly 8:30 and discovered that there was us, some men setting up speakers, one elderly gentleman, and two tiny little girls there. The space was beautiful. There were white fairy lights (a Briticism for Christmas lights) all over—making an avenue of trees, draped on the walls of the garden, forming a screen near a raised dais with a loveseat for the bride and groom. Forty room-sized Persian rugs formed the central floor, surrounded by row after row of picnic tables with chairs.
We stood in the corner for about fifteen minutes, wondering what to do, until three other people walked in. They walked immediately over to the elderly gentleman and spoke to him, so we followed them. He looked very confused by our presence, but when we finally got him to understand who our neighbors were, his entire face was transformed, wreathed with smiles. He took us over to a table and showed us where to sit, and periodically through the evening came over to check that we were all right.
We had been there about an hour when people finally started to arrive in great numbers. There were a few women wearing the religious hijab—tight around the face—but there were several women there with no head covering at all. Most women, however, wore scarves over their heads, but not as part of the conservative hijab but as part of the long, flowing scarf wrapped around their clothes—yards and yards of filmy, colorful fabric, sometimes with beads or glitter or embroidery, that covered their clothing from their feet on up to be tossed gently over their hair. Every now and then someone would unwrap part of the scarf and toss it back over her head, very elegant, like a dance. It looked like hundreds of delicate, beautiful butterflies had settled around the picnic tables. Made me wistful to have lost that fashion possibility in the West.
We were fed a plate of food—felafel and chicken and burger and rolls and pickles and olives and some baklava kind of thing—as well as a bottle of water and a bottle of Pepsi each. The bridal party, including our neighbors, eventually arrived. I was so impressed by the care our neighbor family took of us. There were 500-600 people there, but each member of the family, all five of them including the 17 year old and 11 year old boys, came over once or twice or three times to shake each of our hands and welcome us and make sure all was well.
At one point Ellie fell down and started crying, so I took her to the side and bounced her on my hip to calm her down. Abdel Aziz, the 17 year old boy, saw me and thought I was trying to dance, so he came over and encouraged us to go to dance in the middle of the floor. Ruth and Lucy bravely helped me take Isaac and Nora out there. It was fun to be in the middle of things, and the dancing was really more just standing in one place (with or without a partner) and moving your arms in time to the music, so I could do it without too much problem. It was interesting to me that the great majority of people dancing were the older guests, not the teenagers and twenty-somethings (though they and the children eventually joined in as well).
It occurred to me while we were there that not only was Isaac the blondest person there, but I think he was also the very only person in the entire place with blue eyes.