Not too long ago I received a message on Facebook from my old friend Carl. Any longtime readers of this website over its various incarnations across the years might remember him from my time studying at the University of Stuttgart. I had not seen the boy in the many years since then, when he posted a thread announcing that he was getting married and inviting us to join him.
I immediately said that Elise and I would be in attendance. There was no question in my mind after sharing such a great time with him in Stuttgart so long ago, it would be a perfect time to see him again. I was also excited to be able to take Elise to Sweden as I had been there and she unluckily had not. However, Stockholm was going to be new to the both of us.
So just a couple of weekends ago we flew into Stockholm. I had been to Gothenburg before, which I found to be a lovely town, however the old town of Stockholm was simply beautiful. It had all of the tiny, twisting streets, ancient buildings and churches, and charms one would expect from such an old city, but with a distinctly Scandinavian style to it. Think of the old town of Rothenburg meets IKEA. Stockholm was nothing like that.
Carl and his bride-to-be Maria were getting married in an ancient stone church well outside of Stockholm. The first I had seen Carl in so many years was when he walked down the aisle. Not much had changed except for the beard. I suppose that I am also sporting more facial hair than years ago. The ceremony itself was as simple and lovely affair. It reminded of my wedding in that I could not understand a word that was said. I did recognize the Lord’s prayer when it was said and I tried to say it along, but the rhythm is a bit off in Swedish which meant that I kept fucking it up in English. Should one say “fucking it up” in reference to praying? Well, I know that God said “thou shalt not lie” and the truth is that I was fucking it up. As they walked back down the aisle as man and wife, I saw that Carl saw me in the last pew as his eyes lit up and his trademark broad, animated smile crossed his face. Time had passed, but some things hadn’t changed.
Buses carted us to the reception after the ceremony. Of course all Swedes speak marvelous English. Those who claim they don’t speak marginally less marvelous English. However, Carl was nice enough to seat us with some of his English-speaking friends. We found that at our seats were programs for the evening. Each guest at the dinner had a mini bio written about him/her. Mine read thus:
An American in Karlsruhe. Studied at the Unithekle in Stuttgart with the groom. Accomplished hacker. Impressive facial hair.
As with any wedding there was of course a speech by one of the fathers before the meal. Then there was a speech by one of the mothers. Then the other mother and father spoke. Then the dinner. Now this is the point where the American weddings I have attended would cut the cake and degenerate into a horrible, booze-fueled display of the white man’s version of dancing. However, there was first desert served with coffee and schnapps. Then the speeches continued. Then there was a stop motion movie that someone had made about the couple. Then another speech. Then a slideshow. Then a folk music artist played for a bit. Then another speech. Then songs were sung together. At some point there was some delicious cake on top of the desert as well and a band eventually started playing where people properly danced. Like ballroom style. I have had good times at weddings before. Truth be told however, most of the time I have not. This wedding was a blast. I knew no one there asides from the groom and my wife and yet the conversation was great, people were friendly, food was wonderful, and the mood was so boisterous. I did not understand a single speech, and despite this I still found them to be quite good. I did hear the words “Margaret Thatcher” mentioned. I was told that the translation was “Carl, you had a choice between Dolly Parton and Margaret Thatcher.” It was not made clear whom he chose.
The evening ended with me getting to chat for a long time with Carl. We spoke about what we had been up to over the past years. I filled him in on our wedding. He told us about his latest classes he was teaching We invited him to Karlsruhe. It was such a great time to get caught up after so many years. Given that the wedding party was rather large, it also meant a lot to me that he spent so much time with us given his large family. We truly felt welcome and part of the celebration and we were certainly thankful for the invitation and for the wonderful time.
It is only now that I realize that during all of this I do not think I got to speak to Maria. I guess we’ll just have to visit them again.