My cousin Shara has a photo on her Facebook page of five family members representing branches of a family tree that has grown organically from old love and new love, marriage and remarriage. She calls it “Talking Families.” I love this photo, because it echoes my understanding of what’s possible in the phenomenon of family, given an open heart and a sense of humor: you can have a family tree that grows leaf by joined leaf into ever-widening and intersecting circles.
Last weekend there was a delightful convergence of brothers and sisters, parents, stepparents, godparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, and friends of the heart in Berkeley, California for Shara and Adi’s wedding. We came from New York and Chicago, Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Alabama and Wyoming, Oregon, Florida and Germany. We all stayed at the Rose Garden Inn, a compound of Victorian houses on Telegraph Avenue surrounded by graceful wrought iron fencing and filled with beautifully tended gardens. The place was basically ours for the weekend and we settled in like kids at summer camp, ready for fun.
Shara’s father Richard is my first cousin. Our mothers were sisters. Richard and his sisters Barbara and Geri and I are peas in a pod, as our mothers were, and we always have a good time together. But on Shara and Adi’s wedding weekend, the fun just started there. Between them, the bride and groom have families that are far-reaching and multi-configured. In conversation with the friendly, creative folks who make up the extended tribe, I had to map out little family trees in my mind to understand where each person connected and who was connected to whom.
Of course, it was Shara and Adi who connected us all – this couple who epitomize the Jewish concept of bashert: destined for one another, foreordained to be together. And we, the extended, evolving family, spent three days knitting our hearts together with laughter and interest and compassion before we gathered at Tilden Park, high in the Berkeley hills, to be witnesses and celebrants as Shara and Adi became echad: one in unity. We all felt it: the blessing of God is on this union of his design.
Marlene, Shara’s maid of honor, put a fine point on it in her toast to the couple. She said that when her son was about five years old, he said to her one day, “Love is the best thing.” She understood then and shared now, that this is the truth upon which to build one’s life. On that full moon, starry evening filled with joy and meaning and promise, we concurred unanimously.