This column is dedicated to Tony and Jackie DeRose, whose joyous nuptials provided the setting for the miraculous story that follows.
Last weekend, my foster daughter attended her first American wedding. At the reception she danced until the longsuffering folks in charge of locking up the hall kicked us out. When she wasn’t dancing she was gathering rose petals, fallen from various bouquets and boutonnieres, and throwing them into the air so that they fell like aromatic satin rain around the newlyweds.
I even caught a glimpse of my newest child holding hands with the groom’s nephew, though to be fair, my wife told me it was a cultural thing: “she holds hands with everyone,” she reminded me, “relax.” To be fairer still, I hope there was a little romance in the gesture I saw. He’s a good kid; she could do a lot worse.
I’m new to the work of parenting a teenager—our foster daughter joined the family just a little over three months ago and my other children are six, four, and two—but dancing at a wedding and maybe pitching a little woo seem like normal behavior to me. In fact, it was beautiful to watch.
My daughter’s adolescent exuberance at the wedding was particularly beautiful because it came exactly one year after she left her home in a tiny village in the hills of northwest Burma, where the military dictatorship’s violent suppression of human and civil rights is particularly hard on women and children.
I don’t know all of the details surrounding my daughter’s departure from Burma. What I do know is horrific; she lost everyone and everything dear to her. Traveling as what many Americans would call an “illegal alien” she made her way across Burma, through part of Thailand, and down the Malay Peninsula. Eventually she found her way to a United Nations refugee camp in Kuala Lumpur. From there she came to live with us in San Jose.
There hasn’t been any festive dancing for my daughter in the last year, and the life of a refugee doesn’t leave much room for the simple pleasures of teenaged romance. But now she lives with us in San Jose. Things are different.
A story found in second chapter of the Gospel of John tells of Jesus and his mother at a wedding reception. In that story, the wine ran out before the party was over, and Jesus, prompted by his mother, turned water into wine. It was Jesus’ first miracle, and, judging from the joy I saw in my newest daughter’s eyes as she danced last weekend, the Divine is still alive and working miracles at weddings.