Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Wedding Over the Brook where Herring Swim

Jamie--Justin's brother--and Sondra married this weekend in Brewster Gardens in Plymouth, Mass. They said their vows on a bridge over the town brook, which emptied into the sea just yards away.

Family and friends walked along a path to the bridge, where we stood and looked on, pausing in our busy thoughts to smile or dab our eyes as only weddings make us do.

In fact, the whole park froze as if posing for a painting.

As Jamie and Sondra said their vows, three women watched, smiling, from a park bench. A man stopped walking his dog to listen. The sound of children playing in the distance faded away. Johnny looked up from scratching at the ground with a stick--for a second at least.

Time stood still as if to match the miracle of two people promising to stay together forever.

Everyone paused, that is, except for the herring. Upstream, they were busy swimming in place. Surely they were the inspiration for the water treadmill you see advertized in upscale magazines.

Every year, they swim from the ocean upstream to a pond to spawn. Once the eggs hatch, the freshwater acts as a little nursery for the herring fry before they make their way to the deep blue sea. Still, only one in 100 of the fertilized eggs survive to become fish in the ocean. Fortunately, 100 in 100 of the male herrings think it is theirs.

I didn't see them at first--they were hidden beneath the golden sunlight bouncing off the water.

"Fish," Johnny said, pointing to the brook after the wedding.

"Is there a fishy in there?" I asked, crouching down beside the water. "Oh my gosh. There's like a thousand fishies."

A school of silver herring swam in place waiting for the right moment to jump up the whitewater stairs built just for them. It was mesmerizing: a living world beneath the mirror-like water. It made me wonder what I've missed all those times Johnny or Richie weren't there to point it out to me.

As I watched a few jump up the stairs--obviously the natural athletes in the school, I felt sorry for the others, swimming and getting nowhere. I can't imagine what that must be like. Oh wait. Probably like doing laundry. Or paying bills. Or cleaning. Or asking your kids to stop wrestling for the thousandth time.

One poor fish jumped the small waterfall and just as he was surely talking trash to the fish below, "See ya latah, playah hatahs. I'm gonna spawn my ass off tonight," a seagull swooped down and ate him.

It is a cruel world.

"Awesome," Johnny said, looking at the bird in awe.

Beach rat, I thought, relating to his herring prey.

Most parents swim against the current to make a good life for our kids. Like the fish, we strive to give our young the best shot at survival in this crazy world. We work hard to give them a safe place to live and a pretty brook to travel down on their way to the ocean of life. Who knows if they'll swim right into the mouth of a shark once they get there. But hopefully by then they'll know that life is as fragile as it is beautiful.

We're so similar to the herring, I thought, as I told Johnny to say bye bye to the fishies.

But as we arrived at the reception, where people danced the Electric Slide and Richie drank about seven root beers and the Burts won the dance contest for which couple had been married the longest, I realized we couldn't be more different.

Herring never get off the aquatreadmill. Their only job is to help their species survive and not get eaten by seagulls. (A memo that somebody never got.) I wonder if they ever even see their offspring.

Our small fry, on the other hand, travel upstream with us, impatiently waiting for us to finish our work so we can play with them, and we travel downstream with them, taking the time to see things we haven't seen since we were kids: fish filled streams, superheros among us, that rootbeer tastes a million times better than sprite. Most of all, we get to see the looks on our kids' faces when they see these things for the first time.

It seems so simple, but how many days go by that we forget to float downstream, we're so busy working or cleaning or making sure our kids toe the line? Not to sound pessimistic, but that could be anyone of us getting eaten by the seagull, figuratively speaking, of course. I mean, we're not talking pteronodons, here.

At the rehearsal dinner, Sondra and I talked about how you have to take time to enjoy the little things that kids do. To write down the things they say. To listen to their funny voices even when you want to say, "Yes. I know Flash's underpants are yellow and Robin's are green. But we still need to go bye bye. Just. Put. Your shoes on."

Sometimes I forget to enjoy it. I just want shoes on their feet so that we can get to wherever we're going prior to me having to cook the next meal.

But as Sondra put it, if you can't enjoy your kids, then what can you enjoy?

Might I recommend an aquatreadmill.


Anonymous ma said...

Beautifully written honey!! I so enjoyed it!

8:13 PM  

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