As the plane taxied down the run-way in Little Rock to take me to a family wedding, I glanced up and saw the El Dorado News-Times headlines two rows ahead of me. As I reached for my camera, the guy turned the page. Ever my knight in shining armor, my husband asked the reader to turn back a page. The reader obliged and mentioned that his father had worked as production manager at the News-Times for 37 years. I had never met the reader, but I knew immediately who he was.
The woman next to me shook her head and murmured, “Isn’t that just like Arkansas.”
Isn’t that just like all of us anywhere: always looking for a connection to those around us – and many times finding it. Some call it ‘Six Degrees of Separation’. Others refer to it as the “Mennonite Game.”
Whatever the name, the game goes like this, “which Hershberger family that I know, do you know, or to whom are you related? Where do you or your parents originate?”
Family weddings, of course are a great place to score high in the game. Friday, sis and I visited Dad and a couple other relatives, a drive she usually makes on Saturdays. On our way home, sis made her ritual stop at the little gas station in the tiny community where my mother’s family originated. Our cousin was tending the cash register. She does work on Saturdays when my sis is in the area. Before we left, she introduced us to another customer, a tall teenager, son of another cousin.
Family and friends reunite on wedding days. A niece and her husband came from Philadelphia, a nephew’s family drove in from South Bend, Ind. We flew in from Arkansas. I met my brother’s in-laws and was struck with the family resemblance between generations and realized anew that we all had attended the same school for several years. Just watching the bride’s family enter was enough to verify their connection to her.
I saw a physical connection with the woman old enough to have lived during the Great Depression. Her clothing and hairdo reminded me of other women who successfully survived that hardship with astute penny pinching. Sometimes it is not so much a physical connection that with others as it is an emotional connection. An unrelated stranger understands where family does not – because they made the same choices in similar situations.
As one of the celebrants said, “This is why you go to weddings – to meet people.” It is one reason: to reconnect as we celebrate a young couple’s decision to make a legally, binding commitment to each other before their families and friends. Their marriage forges another link in the chain that connects us with others.
Ironically six years ago, the bride and groom were closely connected but did not know each other: they lived on adjoining country properties. However, their homes were in different in school districts so she went to one high school while he went the another. They both are of the same faith, but worshipped with different congregations – until her parents began attending his church during his college years. The former neighbors-strangers are now husband and wife.
On the flight home I found six degrees of separation with the woman across from me. She was reading a book in the Mitford series by Jan Karon, an author I enjoy. Having established our connection in literary tastes, she wanted to know where I was from and whom did we know in common? We connected through the family of a friend of her son. One of my daughter’s college friends is from the same family. And so the game continued: former strangers, neighbors on the plane, yet connected through our children’s friends.