Elijah was the ringbearer at a friend's wedding over the weekend, though he might more realistically have been called "cute boy in tuxedo who ran very fast down the aisle with a pillow flopping around in his right hand." Perhaps having me hold out a new Batman figurine as a lure wasn't the best idea. With less incentive, Elijah might have walked more slowly.
At home, the act of getting Elijah into his tuxedo had resembled a sequence from Cops more than a getting-dressed session. Around the point that he was slinking down the hall on his stomach, screaming "It's too tight!" while I tugged on his pants leg to pull him back into the room, I thought, you know, this really isn't worth the trouble. Regina got it even worse, since she had to put on his vest.
But once we actually got to the wedding venue, the boy's behavior picked up. This had partly to do with the rubber bugs we'd brought to entertain him, partly to do with the bag of Jelly Bellys that Regina had purchased as bribe material, but mostly to do with Liberty the beautiful flowergirl.
Liberty's parents adopted her from a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The groom informed us that she's a "crystal child," only one step below the Dalai Lama when it comes to holiness. "She exhibits incredible spiritual wisdom for a four-year-old," he said.
"Elijah has spiritual wisdom too," I said.
I looked over at him. He'd just picked his nose and was proudly turning in a circle, showing off his booger, loudly and repeatedly saying "poo poo nuts."
Still, Liberty saw his charms. Plus, she enjoyed playing with Elijah's bugs. He was in love.
"Liberty is my favorite person in the whole world ever," he said.
After the ceremony, Elijah and Liberty danced in a circle during cocktail hour, oblivious to the fact that the string quartet wasn't really playing dance music. It came time for dinner. As we were sitting down, I heard:
"Grab the baby! Save my baby!"
This came from a woman at the table next to us. I looked to my right. People were falling down. Other people were shrieking. Fat men were wrestling on the floor with thin men. Shirt-tails flew. A fight had broken out.
"Regina!" I shouted. "Get Elijah out of here. Now!"
It's not as though I was going to have anything to do with this fight, which had its roots in an internecine family dispute. But that's what a patriarch is supposed to say to save his family, right?
The fight ended quickly, though I was somewhat disappointed that they hadn't knocked over a cake. That would have been hilarious. Elijah looked very scared. They'd battled not ten feet away from us. But he didn't say anything. We kept him eating chocolate and dancing with Liberty until it was time to leave.
"I've never seen a fight before," he said in the car on the way home.
"We know, sweetie," said Regina.
"Fights are weawy weawy bad."
"Bad people fight at weddings."
"It's bad manners."
"Very bad manners."
"When you...when you...when you go to a wedding and get in a fight....that's....that's...bad. People shouldn't do that. Why do people do that?"
"Sometimes people fight," I said. "It shouldn't happen but it does."
"They might have been drunk," said Regina.
"Daddy gets drunk!" Elijah said.
"Not very often," I said.
"Daddy, you don't fight at weddings."
"Can I pway wif Wiberty sometime?"
"Don't be scared, son."
"I don't want to see fights anymore."
We'd taken Elijah to a wedding in total innocence, so people could gurgle over how cute he looked in a tuxedo. Instead, he witnessed the human animal engage in meaningless territorial combat. Typical. Of course, unlike adulthood, childhood isn't traumatic all the time. We tried to reassure.
"There were good things at the wedding, too," I said. "You danced."
"Uh-huh," he said. "I also got to eat a chocolate eye."
"It's called a truffle," Regina said. "It looks a little bit like an eye, but it's actually a very special chocolate."
"I ate poo-poo nuts!"
"Yes dear," I said. "You ate poo-poo nuts."