Valley Voices

Dawn Golik: Celebrating the work of marriage

Grant Garry and Gabriella Golik will be married Aug. 15.
Grant Garry and Gabriella Golik will be married Aug. 15. Special to The Bee

When I met my husband 16 years ago, his four nieces and a nephew were a bonus package. In addition to becoming his wife, I also got to be their aunt. Our niece is the last one getting married, this evening, Aug. 15. As of 5:30 p.m., there’s another branch on our gigantic, crazy, multicultural family tree because Gabriella Golik and Grant Garry fell in love.

The commitment they’re making tonight will bind us all together, a connection sealed forever with their kiss, and our prayers in English, Spanish and Armenian: Blessings, bendiciones and asvadz ortne genats. But there are no words, in any language, for how happy we all are about this wedding.

So many people are cynical about marriage. “It’s a lot of work,” they say. Yes. They’re right. And it is the sweetest, best work any of us can ever do.

Like the effort it takes to eat the greatest meal, or enjoy the most glorious sunset. It is that kind of work. It is the joy of building a home, creating a family and making a beautiful life alongside the person you love the most. It is the work of living out the happiest days any of us can ever have. I hope Gabriella and Grant look back every Aug. 15, and see marriage as the best work they were ever lucky enough to do.

The bride’s and groom’s families have poured so much love into making tonight perfect for them. Our Italian uncle, a professional musician, will sing “Ave Maria” as only someone from Naples can. He just performs it at family weddings, and his voice echoing in an old Fresno church at dusk will make us all cry.

The bride’s grandmother removed yards of 40-year-old crystals from a dress her mother wore. With weeks of meticulous hand stitching, she sewed them onto the wedding gown, adding something old to something new, covering the bride in ethereal sparkles.

Armenian aunties prepared hundreds of stuffed grape leaves and cheese boreeg, and decorated dozens of platters of hummus and baba ganoush for appetizers before the huge dinner. As they kick off their shoes at the reception, feet aching from days of standing in hot kitchens, little cousins in tiny tuxedos and miniature ball gowns will sneak candy off the giant dessert table covered with sweets and gourmet chocolates made by family friends.

Even those who aren’t here with us tonight did something special for the couple. The bride’s father will be grinning in heaven as his prized midnight green 1973 Chevy Nova is carefully parked outside the church. He and his daughter shared a passion for that car. The newlyweds spent hours waxing it to a deep, syrupy shine and tuning the V8 engine. They will roar away from the reception in it late tonight.

There will be so many toasts, in English, Spanish and Armenian. So many wishes for health and happiness, for babies and prosperity, as our glasses are filled and lifted over and over. We’ll tap water goblets with knives all night for the couple to kiss again. Looking at them, so young and gorgeous, those of us who have celebrated five, 10, 20, or 50 years together recall what it was like for us as newlyweds. Those sweet, heady days of being freshly married, with an entire life in front of us to live together.

Watching these two radiantly in love reminds everyone that our huge families are here because of the couples who came before us. We’ll feel the presence of great-great grandparents, who survived the Armenian genocide. We’ll remember grandparents who fled their home during World War II, lived in refugee camps and prayed that their missing spouse was still alive. We are all together now because they kept their commitments to each other, even when it was for worse, for poorer and in sickness. They persevered during the hardest times life could bring, and when love was the only thing left.

Generations later, we honor them tonight as the same wedding vows they made bind a new husband and wife. So as today’s sun sets red and warm over Valley vineyards, and tomorrow’s rises cool and pink above the Sierra, our two families will sing, dance, eat and laugh as we celebrate love.

We will whisper blessings, bendiciones and asvadz ortne genats for this new union, grown from old promises made by others lifetimes ago. And we will pray that for better, for richer, for today, tomorrow and for always, marriage is the most joyful work Gabriella and Grant are ever lucky enough to do.

Dawn Golik lives in Fresno with her husband and their two young daughters. Her email is dawn.golik@gmail.com. Comment by going to fresnobee.com/opinion and clicking on the Valley Voices.

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