For all of the time that I knew her, my grandmother’s life centered around her home, and as far as I knew, she only left it when my aunt would take her to the store to shop, or (very rarely) to go to the occasional wedding at St. Peter the Apostle’s Serbian Orthodox Church in Fresno, California.
The Serbian Orthodox Church was much more mysterious, and in ways, more interesting than the church I attended growing up, and one of the most memorable services I ever attended was one of the aforementioned weddings.
The wedding in question took place one summer — probably the summer I turned 10 — and due to my grandmother’s advancing age (she would have been 73 or so), she decided not to go, and I took her place.
When my aunt and my cousin and I arrived at the church, I could see why my grandmother had elected to stay behind — there were no seats left in any of the pews, and our little party of three had trouble finding a spot along a wall where we could stand with the other wedding guests who had arrived too late to get a seat.
From my post along the wall, I stood on my tiptoes and strained to see any of what was going on; after what seemed a million years, the groom entered the church and was soon followed by his bride.
My relief at seeing the bride enter the church was short-lived. Her father, an Orthodox priest who was undergoing treatment for cancer, had decided to surprise his daughter by performing her wedding ceremony.
The surprise, coupled with the heat of the Fresno summer, proved to be too much for the bride, and she promptly fainted and was whisked away.
Another millions years passed, and the bride returned to be married by her father, and when the service ended, she and her groom made their exit without incident.
After going through the receiving line to congratulate the bride and groom and enjoying wedding cake and Jordan almonds, we drove back to my grandmother’s house, where I was able to change back into play clothes and set about the business of enjoying the summer, not unlike what I am doing this year as I work to recreate my grandmother’s home, one square at a time: