Friday, May 20, 2005

I do, I sign.

The wedding was wonderful. In the middle of a seasonably chilly, wet, cold and windy spring week, Saturday was unseasonably warm and gorgeously sunny. The ceremony was held in a building on the University of New Brunswick campus at five in the afternoon. Sunlight streamed through the huge windows around the room, which was richly decorated with flowers and tulle and ivy.

"Ariel" and "Charles" did their wedding very much like Husband and I did ours; small, on a shoestring, unconventionally and on their own terms. Ariel's sister was her matron of honour; Charles' friend was his best man. There was a "celebrant" of undetermined denomination, and a sign language interpreter for the large contingent of deaf guests in attendance, and Charles' two daughters, roughly fifteen and nine years of age, looking serious and focused on their tasks (first, handing out programs; later, the older did a reading).

"Ariel" descended the large staircase into the room looking fabulous and glamourous - quite the change from her daily look which could best be described as "healthy, fresh-faced girl-next-door". It was funny - she looked very composed and graceful and formal, but every now and then she would see a familiar face in the crowd and break into her real smile, which made her look much more beautiful.

The celebrant did all the preliminary talky-talk bits and the interpreter followed in real-time with sign language. She was incredibly talented, the best signer I've ever seen. Charles' older daughter read the traditional wedding reading "On Marriage" by Khalil Gibran (this was, of course, interpreted, too).

Charles and Ariel wrote their own vows and exchanged them through sign language while the interpreter interpreted them out loud for the 'hearies'.

Perhaps the best part was that the celebrant - who obviously didn't sign - had learned just enough ASL to be able to ask the key question -"Do you take this man/woman to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife?" both verbally and in sign. It was a wonderful moment - she did it so hesitantly and earnestly, pausing nervously every now and then (those of us who know ASL could practically hear her thinking out loud - "Oh, dear - is 'husband' the one from the forehead or from the chin?") She was slow but she didn't make a single mistake, and the vows were offered in both English and ASL and the "I dos" in sign, and one of the best matches I've ever seen in my forty years was sealed with a kiss.

The reception that evening was multicultural pot-luck, and an eclectic bunch we were - hearing and deaf and the in-between, like me; Ariel's friends and co-workers who had initially come to Canada as immigrants and refugees from countries around the world; Charles and Ariel's families and all the assorted portly aunts and uncles and running children which that entails; a wonderful chaos.

Some couples, you know, are just right. Sometimes two people you know are just so organically well-suited for each other that you shake your head and wonder how they found each other in this insane world. Charles and Ariel are like that. The chances of either of them finding someone else with the same very odd sense of humour are slim enough. The chances of doing so across a huge communication and cultural gulf - Ariel is hearing, and Charles profoundly deaf from birth, and she met him when she signed up for his class as an absolute beginner signer - are astronomical. So this was a very happy occasion.

So my friend & co-worker, and my friend & ASL instructor are at this moment someplace very warm with white beaches and turquoise water enjoying their honeymoon and it's all good.



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