In Italy it’s called the “Passegiata,” the wonderful evening stroll that families take together in the town square after the workday is done. It is a time to reunite with your children and family and friends before supper. It happens every evening in the villages of Mexico as well. I should learn the Spanish word for it. I know why it doesn’t happen in the U.S. and all of the reasons are to our shame.
My wife and I were sitting on a town square bench in Mexico watching the evening stroll wind down when we noticed the open doors of a beautiful stone church. We went exploring. Inside, the old sanctuary looked like a magical, candle-lit cavern. A small wedding was in progress all the way in the front. My polite and classy wife slipped into the back row and took a seat. She was less than pleased when she discovered that, instead of sitting next to her, I was creeping toward the front. Sliding in and out of the deep shadows between the massive columns, I inched my way along the side wall.
Finally, I was far enough forward to see the faces of the bride and groom as they knelt before their priest. They were young. We married at 21 and we were young, but these two were love struck teenagers. They looked like they were floating. Whenever the priest wasn’t looking, they would sneak a secret, “we’re really doing this!” smile to one another. My own smile must have beamed out of the shadows because suddenly the bride looked right at me. The groom noticed her distraction and turned back over his shoulder. I backed more deeply into the shadows and flattened against the stone wall as various family members and wedding guests craned their necks to try and spot the ninja wedding crasher.
At the next diversion I made my way back through the shadows and collected my own embarrassed bride. We fled the scene and took up our old perch on the town square bench. From there we could still watch the newlyweds exiting. The groom held the door of his clean white Oldsmobile while his new wife and her five teenage bridesmaids piled in. He then walked proudly around the front of the car, not taking his eyes off his treasure. He got in, but they didn’t leave. We could see them talking in the front seat, he was receiving his first orders as a husband. Finally, she kissed him and he got back out of the car. He then made the long walk across the square and directly to our bench. In shy, broken English he invited us to their reception.
I absolutely love the Mexican people. We were too surprised and too embarrassed to accept that amazing invitation, but to this day and probably the day I die, I will wish that we had.