Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Wedding with Hummingbirds

(Please click on the photos to enlarge them. See the hummingbird in the flowers upper left?)

Last weekend, we attended the wedding of my brother’s daughter, Lindsey, at the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, CA. It was moving and beautiful for many reasons, not least the magnificent grounds and gardens of the hotel, but for me it was very special in an unexpected way, because it seemed that my late mother was there in spirit throughout the ceremony.

Martha Dobson Paulson died in 1985 at the age of 74. At that time Lindsey was only five years old, so she didn’t know much about her paternal grandmother. Last week, Lindsey was the first girl of Martha’s five grandchildren to be married.

Hummingbirds were always a special symbol of my mother. She had hummingbird feeders filled with red syrup hanging in her garden and rejoiced when they were used by the elusive visitors, which zipped around like tiny helicopters. Before she died, Martha chose the mausoleum in a San Pedro cemetery where her ashes and those of my father would be kept in brass boxes shaped like books. She selected their glass-fronted niche in the mausoleum because it had a view of a pond where ducks and swans swam.

When I went back to visit my parents’ graves some years ago, I attached some carved wooden hummingbirds to the window of the niche. I did the same to a framed photo I have in our hall of Martha posing with two of our children in 1976.

Last Saturday, as the wedding guests assembled at 6:30 for the outdoor ceremony, we admired the giant floral arrangements on each side of the altar and the pathway of white rose petals prepared for the wedding party.

We quickly realized that the place was alive with hummingbirds —dozens of them swooping toward the flowers, hovering stock still in the air, then darting away as we tried to photograph them.

The music began and my brother walked the bride down the rose petal path toward Mike, her waiting groom. The judge began to speak, leading them through their vows. Some of us were distracted from his words, watching the hummingbirds at play.

Near the end of the ceremony, a hummingbird flew directly in the face of my older daughter, Eleni, and then stopped, hanging in the air about a foot in front of her, motionless except for the blur of its wings. The bird and Eleni stared into each other’s eyes. I had never seen a hummingbird stay so still for so long —as if trying to communicate. Later I asked my daughter what the bird said and she replied with a smile, ”It said, ‘You look good!’”

After the ceremony, after the newlyweds were showered with yellow rose petals, there were cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in another garden as the sun set. The small tables held bowls in which floated white gardenias, yellow lemon slices and votive candles. I noted, but didn’t mention, that gardenias were my mother’s signature flower. When she was young, she liked to tuck a gardenia into her black hair.

We all moved through a hidden gate into a magical fairyland where we sat at tables for the toasts and the meal. The bride was lovely in her slender strapless lace gown with its long train pinned up for dancing.

I was astonished to learn that the couple had chosen for their first dance “Stardust”, a melody that was popular more than 40 years before they were born. I knew it well—it was my mother’s favorite song, sung by Hoagy Carmichael, and she played it on our old Victrola constantly when I was a child. But Lindsey and Mike had chosen it without knowing that.

The wedding of Martha’s first granddaughter to marry was, from beginning to end, a lovely, never-to-be-forgotten occasion. And I think my mother enjoyed it as much as any of the guests. Maybe more.


Susan said...

Amazing how many favorites of your mother were incorporated in the wedding, apparently without the bridal couple even knowing! How cool!

And you nudge me to hang our hummingbird feeders this week!

Robin Paulson said...

Joan, My Mom and I really enjoyed your observations and insights that showed that Martha was ever present at Lindsey's wedding. I know that Bob must have felt her there as well. My Mom says that she's Irish, therefore qualified to verify that she knows Martha was there.

Joan Gage said...

Thanks Robin--Tell your mother my thoughts are with all of you.


Anonymous said...

Great story!

lactmama said...

My mother always said if I see a bird near me, it will be her. I usually take the birds as being my mother telling me that I am okay or that my situation is a positive one.
With all of the coincidences at this wedding, I think your mother's spirit was hard at work.

Great post - of course.