We’re back from our trip, by the way. We went to a wedding the first weekend and then my mother (and brother for one day) came up to meet us and spend a couple days in Williamsburg and D.C. The lure of the granddaughter was too strong to resist.
K spent the weekend connecting with her country roots: barefoot and grubby the whole time. We tried to keep her shoes on at first, but they never lasted more than a minute or two. Plus you kind of have to be barefoot to run through the sprinkler like she was doing. Eventually I decided she was experiencing an American childhood in the South and let her be. Instead I concentrated on sipping lemonade with the Slovak, sitting in the rockers on the porch and staring down the long, unpaved road to the house. Seriously! He is fascinated with the American South and was in his element.
Actually, to tell you the truth the scene on the porch with the lemonade lasted about five minutes. The groom is another Slovak, a friend of ours, and my Slovak was the best man, so they were running around organizing and I was running after K and going to the store for bobby pins and other necessities no one had gotten yet.
We spent a good bit of time talking to the groom’s parents, who had traveled from Slovakia to be at the wedding. I was impressed with their English (being the generation of my own in-laws) and how well they used it in a high-stress environment such as a son’s wedding, with plans and flowers and future in-laws and such. There was at least one moment where one of the other guests was not as impressed as me, and made a bit of a (hopefully unheard by others) snippy comment. If I had had time to process at the time, I might have made a few pointed comments about communicating in second languages and how well would YOU do in the same position, etc. I know exactly how difficult it is to function at a high level in a second language, so let’s have some patience and understanding, please!
It seemed like the groom’s parents really appreciated having us there. They do speak English, but it must have been a relief to have someone other than each other (and their slightly preoccupied son) to talk with in their native language. We really liked them, too. Also, we had a somewhat parallel situation as we are a Slovak husband, Czech-speaking (though foreign) wife, and the groom’s parents are also Slovak husband, Czech wife. I noticed she spoke Slovak with them but Czech with me, so I asked her what she does usually (since people often slowly adopt the language of the other country if they live there long-term). She said she made an effort to speak Slovak even at home when her son was younger but now speaks Slovak with Slovaks and Czech at home. Her husband jumped in and said, “When she loves me, she speaks Slovak to me. When she’s mad at me, she speaks Czech.” Sounds about right to me, hahaha!
I should pause at this point and give a piece of advice to those who occasionally take advantage of being bilingual in a non-bilingual crowd. If you make an inappropriate wedding night joke about the groom to your husband because no one in the room will understand you but him, make sure his parents aren’t sitting three chairs away. Oh dear heavens, I just blushed again writing this. Fortunately they only laughed...
The wedding itself was lovely. For the first kiss, the groom picked his bride up and twirled her around before setting her back down to kiss. There was a minor hiccup in the form of a brief storm at the reception, but after it cleared up things were back on track.
We seized the opportunity to briefly kidnap the bride before the dancing in the evening. At traditional Slovak weddings, the friends kidnap the bride and take her to a bar where they rack up a large bill which the groom has to pay as a ransom when he finds them. We didn’t do an extensive kidnapping, just staying on the grounds (we hid out in one of the guest rooms). And it was really less of a kidnapping and more of a, “Hey, there’s this kidnapping tradition, do you want to be kidnapped?” But it was still kind of fun. She said that he had warned her several times that someone might try to kidnap her. She said it was pretty much, "Will you marry me, oh and you should know you may or may not be kidnapped by my friends on our wedding day." She still said yes, though!
One of my favorite moments of the wedding was during the dancing, when among all the English music this lovely Czech song came on. As the bride and groom danced to it, I saw him translating the lyrics into English in her ear. I thought that was a very sweet image of a cross-cultural marriage at its beginning.
I had more to say about the wedding than I thought, so I’ll split off the rest of the week into a separate post. Stay tuned for Virginia 2010: The Sequel! Coming soon. If I don’t forget.