Danielle wore a gold sari. Joel wore a loincloth, a crystal around his neck. The altar was across the pasture in a clearing under trees, between cow turds. Levi blew a conk shell to begin the procession of me and her father walking through the field to the altar where Joel's band played African drums. When Joel came out from behind the bushes to await Danielle's arrival at the altar, his 92-year-old grandmother, the mother of a Baptist preacher, said, in a loud voice because she doesn't hear too well, "Well I never thought I'd see my son dressed like that at his wedding!" Levi’s wife, Bluebird, wove wires in her long braids so they curled up. The rings were on each tip.
Keen attention was paid to food and flowers. No poison was served; no sugar, no alcohol. The bean soup was delicious, except, by the end of the day, since the weather was so hot, it fermented. The cake was delicate and the flowers were left overs from a florist where a friend worked. Danielle passed a stem to the main guests.
I was late in getting there. I was supposed to pick up the Indian woman at 10:30 to dress Danielle in the Sari. I had been involved in one of my mothering routines making sure everyone had a ride and knew the directions. By the time I saw everyone off it was almost 11 and the wedding started at noon. Stepsister, Rainbow, half brother, Donnie and I jumped in the car and rushed over to the Indian Emporium hoping she was still there.
"I'm here! I said as I burst in the door.
"You're too late," she said in her Indian accent.
"Too late? What do you mean?" I am confused.
"Oh, Danielle didn’t call yesterday. I thought the wedding is next week. My children have already gone to church. I can’t leave. They have no key to get in and I can’t leave the store open."
I try to stay calm. I have really blown it this time. My daughter asked me to do one thing for her wedding and I failed. I try to stay calm and express my disappointment.
"Here," the Indian woman says. "I’ll show you what to do. Then you can dress her."
Well yes, of course, if that's what it takes. I'll do it. That's not my style. I don't want to have to learn this in five minutes or less. I don't want to concentrate on having to get it right. But I will and she walks to the front display case and begins to pull out bangles and beads looking for the right ones and places them in a small brown lunch sack. What wealth, to be able to pull from such a large collection of jewelry.
"What time would you bring me back?" She asks, suddenly. Startling me. I had already surrendered to figuring out how I was going to pull this off.
"What ever time you need to be back," I said. Anything, I thought, whatever you need, just so you can come. "1:30?"
"OK. I’ll go," she says and finishes stuffing the paper sack. She pulls “For Sale” shoes off a shelf and puts them on. "Just one favor," she says. "Will you take me to my church to get my children so I can bring them back?"
"Of course." I say, glancing at the clock. 11:20. No problem. Being Indian, the church is probably in a room at the University, I thought as I followed her dressed in her black Sari. Rainbow and Donnie were waiting patiently in the car. "Which way?" I ask.
Rosemont Garden! I think. That's clear across town. I breathe deep. Don't say a word. Don't let on. Drive safely. I pulled up in front of Rosemont Garden Christian Church. Watched her flow up the steps, her black hair twisted up, remembering the bindi on her forhead. We waited a few minutes then see her come out with two tall children, a boy and a girl, dressed in the usual western fashion. They climb into the backseat. I breathe, we drop them off at the store and head out of town.
I can't resist. I have to ask. "So, what do you do? Blend your eastern religion with the Christian religion?"
"No, I am a Hindu and my religion teaches that you pay respect. So I am in America and I pay respect in a church here. Basically, all religions are the same," she says. "They all teach you to love, to be good to your husband, take care of your children, respect your neighbor, and support your country. So it doesn't matter where you worship. Just so you do it regularly."
"Why did you choose this church?"
"Because they accept us. Other churches we have gone to, the people were mean. Here, they accept us. I was sick last winter. I was in the hospital for one month. I had 700 visitors from this church."
Even though time is of the essence, there is no driving fast on this narrow, curvey, country road.
"Why did you come to Lexington?"
"My son was sick. He needed surgery. They said go to the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Ten years ago we came. He got better. Never had the surgery. But we stayed."
Danielle was lovely and peaceful when we arrived. The heat was intense. The Indian woman dressed her, then was overcome by allergies. My friend, Heddy, took her home. It was a beautiful wedding.