From Saskatoon we drive back to the southeast corner of the province, to Melville. Where my mom, my sister, my bro-in-law live. Where I went to high school. Here we visit, barbecue, drink wine, do a day trip to Kamsack and Runnymede, where my mom’s and dad’s families hail from. The cemeteries here are peaceful. They feel haunted. So many ancestors buried beneath the prairie.
Josh & Erin’s wedding looms. Because they have lived together for some time and have a three year old son, they are keeping it very simple and low key. Craig is told he can wear his shorts and sandals. Nevertheless there is a frisson of energy. As the day nears activity increases.
There are hurried conversations about salads. About the weather. The bride’s sisters, Amy & Jaclyn, have almost identical dresses. One finds something else to wear. My mother is too ill to travel.
Saturday, the day of the wedding, is another in a string of hot, blue-sky, windless (well, almost, this is Saskatchewan, after all) days. Thin white clouds do little to shade the intense rays of the sun. We take our time driving to Preeceville, where Erin & Josh live. There are churches and grain elevators to photograph.
The wedding is in an adjacent town, Stenen, where an old school has been converted into a restaurant called Rawhides. Several rooms, old west decor, great food. Our hotel is in another adjacent town, Sturgis. The Sturgis Motor Inn. Two stars for ambience, four for cleanliness. It’s as basic as they come in this part of the world, at the edge of the prairie, where it meets the boreal forest. Far enough north that, driving home at the end of the night, just after 11 PM, the sky to the west is still light. It doesn’t get dark until after midnight and only then for just a few hours.
The bride and groom are a handsome pair, Erin’s black dress very dramatic. An old friend and United Church minister, Katherine, conducts the service. Blake is silent but restless at the front of the room, with his parents as they exchange their vows. Later, when I ask him what his favourite part was, he says: when they kissed. Then he knew it was over and he could start talking.
It is an evening of mingling, eating, sipping. Paper lanterns are lit and set aloft to twinkle through the sky, over the dark trees. The temperature is perfect. Josh and Erin are husband and wife (as if they weren’t before), their marriage blessed by family and friends.
The day after the wedding we head home, back to the coast.
A high school graduation and a wedding: prairie rituals that are as familiar to us as they are foreign. Good reasons to return to our roots, to where our people come from and still are. To eat sausage and pirogies. To drive for miles and see not one person. To be reminded of the enormity of the sky, the flatness of the land, the friendliness of the people. To make new prairie memories. Until the next time.