We are seated at table number 26. My sisters, our husbands, and my mother because she stopped belonging when my father died. Jarritos with Thank You for Sharing Our Day line the table at the entrance to the Grand Ballroom. Buttercup is fidgety after patiently waiting through the hour-long cocktail hour none of us were expecting. But then again, so are many of my adult family members. Formal cocktail hours aren’t exactly the norm at a typical wedding. I’m figuring it’s the Irish payback to the Mexicans for the four hours we all spent at the church without central air.
Mexican weddings are steeped in tradition with prayer and blessings and music sung by Mariachis, but they take forfuckingever.
Dinner is served immediately following the toasts and before the bride and groom share their first dance. One sister raises her voice over the music to tell another sister that there is a woman here with an ass bigger than her own and my mother asks me if I saw the woman in too many colors, a too short dress, and so much hairspray that she has somehow managed to stand out in the crowd of Mexican women. I pretend to ignore both of them because Buttercup is sitting next to me. I can only hope the woman with the big ass is seated on the other side of the room. I focus my attention on the DJ who is announcing the father/daughter dance in English so heavily accented that no one can understand him until he repeats himself in Spanish. Buttercup only hears the words father and daughter and tugs on Daddy’s hand. He shushes her gently.
It’s time for Tia because it’s her wedding, baby, he tells her. I’ll dance with you soon.
The banda music calls half the guests to the dance floor. The other half waits for the DJ to start playing music that doesn’t sound like the Spanish -equivalent of the same polka song stuck on repeat. Buttercup is one of the first people on the dance floor and twirls until her little body tires, only taking breaks when she needs to rehydrate with ice-cold water.
She’s beautiful, Pauline. Aye, que linda. Aren’t you going to have more?
Relatives and family acquaintances I haven’t seen since the last family wedding reach out to stroke Buttercup’s cheek as she ducks and tries to hide herself behind my body.
She’s not used to this, I explain. And we had help to have her, so…
Heads nod in understanding. I am only slightly annoyed that I had to justify the fact that The Husband and I don’t have at least three more of our own running around the reception hall.
Buttercup escapes to the dance floor once again. This time she takes me and three of my four sisters with her. We move with the crowd, sometimes inadvertently brushing elbows with strangers, other times bumping into relatives removed from the Christmas card list for reasons no one discusses because everyone is there for the bride and groom. Rehashing family drama is not on the agenda. I wonder briefly at the fun we are having in spite of the tension I had expected to feel while I move to the music with my daughter and laugh with my sisters. I smile to myself when I realize that I feel just as much as part of the family as I did growing up. Granted, that feeling of belonging may have been overshadowed by insecurity stemming from too much emphasis on the hyphenated part of my identity, but there’s comfort in the fact that not much else has changed.
Mama, I’m tired.
Buttercup weaves her way back to table number 26. She asks to go back to the hotel room and The Husband and I quickly grab our belongings, kiss the relatives we still call family, making our way out of the Grand Ballroom. I take a Jarrito from the table on the way out.
Arms outstretched. He reaches down and lifts her into the air, settling her head on his shoulder.
She tells us she had fun and loved dancing and is so happy she got to dress like a princess for Padrino David’s wedding when we reach the quiet of our room. Then she places her index fingers and thumbs together, showing me the heart she has formed with her fingers.
This, she tells me, is their love. Take a picture of their love, Mama.
So I do.
Time for bed, baby.
I turn off the light and she snuggles against me in the bed. This is where she will always belong.