It was a destination wedding, and Evangeline was an invited guest and close friend of the bride’s father.
Evangeline expected the event to be somewhat melancholy because the bride’s mother had suddenly and unexpectedly died several years earlier.
Upon her arrival at the hotel, Evangeline quickly ascertained that the family of five was in a profoundly ruptured state.
The lobby was her first indication of trouble.
The father was sitting in the far corner with his girlfriend, and Evangeline immediately felt the negative aura in the room.
The four siblings were scattered here and there, marking their separate corners.
The two daughters were as far away from their father as was possible and it was apparent that they were not on speaking terms with the girlfriend.
The eldest son sat in a club chair not far from his dad, his young daughter on his lap, with his wife standing protectively next to them in mama bear mode.
The youngest son/child had no seat, and he moved awkwardly back and forth between his father, brother, and sisters, while the father’s girlfriend intently scrolled through her phone pretending to be busy.
The bride’s mother, gone for almost nine years had been a beautiful but fragile soul, and Evangeline could see that time had not been healing.
At the rehearsal dinner, there were additional signs of unnervingly silent pain and animosity as Evangeline continued to observe and assess the situation.
The youngest brother was clearly loved by all and again drifted from brother to sisters to father. The oldest brother, his wife, and child were purposefully avoided by the sisters who were attached at the hip. And neither daughter approached their father at all.
Evangeline felt sadness for the eldest who was visibly distressed, and so she made a point of going up to him with the hope of eliciting some information. But they only briefly spoke about insignificant nothings while he occasionally and warily eyed his sisters.
The next day, Evangeline could not fathom why the youngest brother was in the wedding party but not the oldest.
And the child of the oldest brother was in the wedding, but completely ignored by everyone else in the party except the younger brother who went out of his way to mollify her.
After the nuptials, there was the usual eating, drinking, and dancing. But Evangeline was obsessed with the sub plots playing out before her.
The family of five sat at four separate tables and four corners apart: Daughters, father, eldest son, youngest son.
Four heartbreaking scenarios: Daughters. Daughters vs. father/girlfriend. Daughters vs. eldest brother/child/wife. Youngest brother floating uncomfortably in and out of all three camps. Appeasing and floating from corner to corner. From camp to camp.
Then came the unforgettable finale.
It started with the deejay who switched it up from Motown to Madonna.
Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone. I hear you call my name. And it feels like home.
Evangeline, who was sitting closest to the eldest brother, witnessed the simultaneous familial eruption.
The eldest brother shot out of his seat while yelling out: “Mom’s song!” as he pulled his wife and child to the dance floor.
When you call my name, it’s like a little prayer. I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there.
The youngest brother bounded up to the oldest, and the two hugged tightly.
In the midnight hour, I can feel your power. Just like a prayer you know I’ll take you there.
The bride grabbed her sister’s hand, and they ran toward the others.
I hear your voice. It’s like an angel sighing.
Evangeline gaped in shock as they all bounced and danced while bellowing out the words to the song, holding their hands close to their mouths as if they were microphones.
I close my eyes, oh God I think I’m falling.
The dance floor remained solely for them. No one dared to intrude in their powerful moment.
I have no choice, I hear your voice. Feels like flying.
Jumping and gyrating to the music, the youngest of the siblings loosened his tie, while the oldest embraced his sisters, who lovingly embraced him back.
Out of the sky, I close my eyes. Heaven help me.
Many of the guests, including Evangeline, were choking up and quickly wiping away tears lest anyone should see. The father was visibly moved, and every person in the room sat quietly mesmerized.
Like a child, you whisper softly to me. You’re in control just like a child. Now I’m dancing.
The sisters clutched the hands of the child and the wife. The wife appeared stunned. The child confused. But their expressions quickly changed to delight.
It’s like a dream, no end, and no beginning. You’re here with me, it’s like a dream.
The six of them formed a circle, and while tightly holding hands they moved inward and outward, laughing and singing and smiling. Inward and outward.
Just like a prayer, your voice can take me there. Just like a muse to me, you are a mystery.
The bride put her head on her older brother’s shoulder. Was she weeping? It was hard for Evangeline to say because her own tears made it impossible to see.
Just like a dream, you are not what you seem. Just like a prayer, no choice your voice can take me there.
Then the song ended and the crowd sat silently, visibly overcome by what they had just seen, and waiting for what would come next.
The family circle broke apart and back to their separate corners they all went.