My daughter and I thought we were just stopping by 12 Baskets to drop off some food for lunch, but when we arrived we learned that a wedding was about to begin. We had to stay. (For background on 12 Baskets see my post “No Ordinary Watermelon”)
Shannon, 12 Baskets’ founder, was poised to officiate in khaki shorts, a royal blue short-sleeved button-up, sneakers, and her religious collar. Sunglasses perched on her head doubled as a headband. The bride wore a donated dress, satiny with purple and dark pink flowers. “Beautiful,” my 7-year-old pronounced. “Different from other wedding dresses.” The bride wore a sparkly headband in her no-nonsense, salt-and-pepper bowl cut, and two necklaces: a shorter chain with a purple stone and a longer one, running about to the center of her chest, with a small, black, bejeweled treasure chest on the end. The groom wore a dark suit and a neat ponytail. Both of them had deep tans, earned through a summer spending nearly every day on the streets.
The basement community center where 12 Baskets operates always strives to be bright and welcoming. Today, bunches of balloons, crepe paper bells, and fresh flowers turned the space festive. The crowd gathered there turned it into something sacred.
Among them was Al, a dark-skinned man with bloodshot eyes who usually came in in athletic clothes, looking dapper in a black suit. There was Laura, a youthful grandmother and earth mother who got all around town on her bicycle and always entered the café barefoot. There was the family with the endlessly-patient toothless mother who homeschools her three children: kids full of friendly smiles even before they got their new dog, a tiny soft black thing they can hold in their arms. Dave, who’s been with the organization from the beginning, leads “Poverty Walks” for folks to better understand economic insecurity in the Asheville area. And Anne, who volunteers at the café three days a week – not including all the food pickups and laundry and extra dishwashing – who had donned a pretty navy dress and a bright scarf and baked a three-layer, pink-flowered cake for all comers. (“Mom, I think that sparkly heart on top of the cake is also a headband,” my daughter whispered conspiratorially, awed by the ingenuity.)
A man with a strawberry-blond beard, an old-fashioned fedora, and a thick, gnarled walking stick videoed on his phone, chuckling when a little black baby clapped from her stroller. Next to me, a beautiful, spritely young woman with high cheekbones and willowy frame had been talking to herself, earnestly, in serious conversation with an unseen partner. Rearranging her purple patterned scarf alternately over her head and shoulders, she quieted for the ceremony.
This is 12 Baskets, a space where people come together and do things for one other, a place where each contributes whatever s/he is able, a place where anyone is welcome to join the celebration. It is place where people with few material goods show my daughter that a fancy church and fancy reception have nothing over a wedding funded only by generous hearts.
The audience was asked to hold up their hands and to send love to the couple. Phebe read, so quietly you could barely hear, from Corinthians. “Love is patient, love is kind …” L and I disagree on whether the bride and groom kissed; I think they were too shy; she swears she saw it and I just missed it. Having both seen the cake and the little black dog, though, we decided to go home and collect L’s older sister, to convince her to come back with us for the lunch that would follow.
I wish I could say that hearing Corinthians infused the rest of the day with a spirit of love and peace, but it wouldn’t be true. Things fell apart when we reached home. On the way out the door, P banged her knee and began to cry. I turned back to check on her, but L pushed past me, causing me to bump my head on the door. I responded by pushing her out of my way in frustration. “Get in the car!” I stormed at her. P was fine but continued to snuffle, as is her wont. I threw up my hands and headed to the car, only to find that L had occupied herself by spraying it with the hose – right through the open window. On the seat inside the window, naturally, were two library books and a game we had borrowed from a friend.
I lost it. I freaked out. I grabbed her, too roughly, squeezing her skinny arm too hard, jerking her back up to the house to get a towel, raving about how she can say goodbye to desserts for life if she doesn’t get a cloth and help me wipe up the water. “I didn’t know,” she says.
“LIAR!” I scream, making myself hoarse. I’m too worked up, I’ve come unhinged, I know it even as it’s happening.
By now, no one wants to go anymore, but I say, “We are going to spend five minutes thinking about someone besides ourselves.” L says she is squished, that “the car’s too small.” I roar again: “Only a bad person would complain – on our way to 12 Baskets – that this car [a new minivan] is too small!” I catch myself. “And I know you’re not a bad person,” I back and fill, weakly. “So I don’t think you mean that.” No, she doesn’t mean that. She is squished because, rather than unloading them, she has left all her brand new school supplies in a heap at her feet, and now she has no place to put her feet. I feel like ripping off the steering wheel. When someone tries to correct me about something – per usual — I spit, “I’m not stupid.” I am acting like I’m 13, only worse. My only defense is that it is the end of August. We have been together nonstop for three months, and it is time for school to start again. I feel it is a weak defense.
But miraculously, just moments after I threaten to give away all the new school supplies and nearly rip off the steering wheel, something shifts in the car. It is a beautiful day, and the breeze seems to pick up the nervous rage energy and carry it out the window as we drive. When we get back to 12 Baskets, the little dog is gone and they don’t seem to be cutting the cake, but there is rice and butter chicken and we are seated next to the bride’s daughter, who has fashioned herself a necklace out of a leather cord, a metal cross from Church of the Advocate, a crocheted loop of orange yarn, and a small figure of Groot, from Guardians of the Galaxy, whom my daughters find hilarious. The young woman declares he has been her guardian spirit for the past two weeks, and he perches on the necklace so that he appears to be climbing up the leather cord. They are charmed.
Still no one cuts the cake, but we eat, and we admire the balloons and the flowers again, and Shannon comes to tell us how the spinach pie we brought is so delicious, and I smile and say, “Oh, I’m so glad!” and don’t mention that it was from Trader Joe’s. We eventually give up on the cake, but as we walk out the door, Hippie Paul, with the matted white ponytail and the open, friendly face says, “I’m glad you could stay,” and so are we.
At home, L says she loves that verse from Corinthians and wants to put it up in her room somewhere, and I tell her I have that very one, in a frame from our own wedding, and that she can use it if she wants. I tell them, “I love you, even though I did a terrible job of showing it today,” and they say, “Yes, you did,” and let me kiss them.