I think that if I weren’t Mormon, I would probably want to be Jewish. Or some amalgamation of Christianity and Judaism so I could keep my faith, but identify with a culture that I just can’t get enough of. If someone tells me they are Jewish, I immediately love them. And mostly, that love is due to the influence of some of my best friends I grew up with … like Sarah.
Sarah and I are, as my British friends say, “like chalk and cheese”. Growing up, we couldn’t have been much more different. She was a self-proclaimed free-spirited, liberal hippie chick and I was a conservative, innocent “Molly Mormon” from the old school. But we were like sisters, sharing a deep friendship that blended our differences into a beautiful harmony that had an immense impact on me in those formative adolescent years.
Sarah was (and is) incredibly smart, hard-working, and talented. Her drive motivated me to be driven as well, and together, we excelled in academics, leadership, extra-curricular activities, and in creative endeavors. I loved going to her house for Shabbat dinners and Passover seders, singing songs in Hebrew together, and even going to her synagogue. And she visited church with me, participated in our family prayers, and was a great Mormon apologist whenever she heard people criticizing my faith.
You don’t lose touch with a friend like Sarah. But distance and time change the dynamic of that friendship in understandable, but regrettable ways. So, when I was invited back home to attend her wedding, I was so excited to reconnect with her.
When we saw each other again for the first time, there were some squeals, some embracing, and even a few tears. I was not sure I’d have much time with Sarah… she was coordinating a multi-day wedding celebration that was more like a festival, and I was expecting her attention to be on planning and on her future husband. But it was a wonderful few days and we actually got a lot of quality time together.
In a play on “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, Sarah and Luke titled theirs an “Abundant, Inclusive, Primitive, Jewish, Green Wedding”. And it lived up to its name. In addition to the traditional wedding elements like rehearsals and dinners, the week of festivities included yoga, ultimate frisbee, swimming, archery, ballroom dance, picnics, campfires and camping by the Shenandoah River, and a special women’s circle & men’s lodge the night before the wedding. All of their food was local and organic… we even had pie baking parties to furnish the reception desserts.
The wedding itself was held on the eve of the summer solstice and was laid out like a native american medicine wheel. It included drummers, the five elements, a Jewish wedding canopy called a chuppah, prayer ties, music, and lots of participation from friends and family. The reception was just as inclusive- featuring their musician friends, delicious food, and lots of dancing- including the hora, which is one of my very favorite things about Jewish celebrations. It was all beautiful and it was totally their style.
In addition to reconnecting with Sarah and meeting her wonderful now-husband, Luke, I was able to see other dear friends at the wedding that I hadn’t seen in years. Sometimes I wish I could just cluster all of the people that I love into one small area so I could have access to their presence all of the time. But there is also beauty in the separation and reconnection.
In her book, Gift From The Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh (wife of famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh) says, “One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are just a few…. Gradually one discards and keeps just the perfect specimen; not necessarily a rare shell, but a perfect one of its kind. One sets it apart by itself, ringed around by space- like the island. For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms. Only in space are events and objects and people unique and significant- and therefore beautiful. A tree has significance if one sees it against the empty face of sky. A note in music gains significance from the silences on either side. A candle flowers in the space of night….”
I believe my friendship with Sarah is both a rare shell and a perfect one of its kind. And preceded by the space of many years of separation, the time I spent reconnecting with her was joyful, memorable, and wonderful. I’m not sure when the next time we’ll see each other will be… maybe at my wedding someday. But I do know that we’ll be able to pick up right where we left off. And who knows? Maybe we’ll even dance a Mormon hora.