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January 2016

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Sol Claire

A Bachelor Party, A Wedding, A Weekend

So, basically, I crashed my brother Aidan's bachelor party. It happened like this.

Jeremy (fourth child and third son of my immediate clan) announces on Facebook:

I'm performing at NMB's Friday night showcase 7 - 7:30pm.
Disclaimer: I will be leaving fairly quickly after my set as my brother's bachelor part is the same night.

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney:

A.) Am I invited to the bachelor party? I'm a bachelor!

Aidan Isaac Cooney

Hell yeah it is, Jeremy!
Unsure about party plans yet, but the possibility is there, Claire!!

Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney

I am, after all, more of a bachelor than ALL Y'ALL, and have been one the longest.
...ALSO, I have a Bachelor's Degree!!! So that NECESSITATES an invitation!!!
...WILL THERE BE LAP DANCING??? I've never been lap-danced before!

So that was before I even got to Phoenix. They had plenty of warning of my impending intrusion. Or invasion. Or whatever.

Anyway, Aidan attended his now-wife's bachelorette party, so they're all a buncha big gender-role-bending hooligans anyway. I didn't feel TOO guilty about it all.

Then Sita and I arrive - a day late, due to weather - and are picked up by Jeremy from the airport. Thursday night was settling in and napkin ring making.

Friday was the rehearsal dinner.

Bear in mind that, ahem, I'd only just gotten/helped invent certain details about the specific structure of the wedding the night before. I'd clobbered a script together. I knew sort of what I would say (I was still editing on Saturday afternoon) but I didn't actually get their "challenges" - which they did instead of vows - until 20 minutes before the ceremony.

But it was nice to see the venue, which was MaLinda's parent's HUGE backyard, and to meet MaLinda's four beautiful bridesmaids, Genét, Helena (who sang the processional), Cassidy (a rockstar), and Victoria (MaLinda's best friend) - none of whom I'd met before.

Then there were the best men. My brothers, of course, sans the youngest, Desi the Rajah, who, like Aidan, had finals this week and couldn't make it in from Nebraska. Then there was Ben, or as I like to call him NEB, whom I've known since high school.

And then - OH THEN!!! - there was Matthew, or as Aidan likes to call him, "Stewart," a stranger to me, who's been friends with Aidan for fourteen years. Everyone in the family knows him, apparently, except me. What a delightful surprise he was.

...I somehow always thought that handsome, clever groomsmen who cut curly-smiled swaths through the RANKS of ladies present, beat my brother (a champion player himself) at pool - TWICE (Aidan was perhaps a bit tipsy, it being a bachelor party) - and barbecue bare-chested (he's got Odin's ravens on his shoulders! And Runes and Wintersmiths and Greenmen! Lad's tattooed like a carnie, just like my Cooney boys) were usually only figments of fevered Hollywood rom-com consensual illusion.

...But no. Turns out they're real.

And I remembered I'm a big sucker for anyone who looks on my brothers with tender eyes.

SHAZAM! Eye-candy for a weary jet-lagged traveler, and he bantered well too. But then, he'd have to, wouldn't he, to be friends so long with our Aidan? Bless his holy snowboarding self - I hope he travels far and wide, and flirts with EVERYONE, and SLAYS THE WORLD with those snappy dark eyes. SALUT, NEW FRIEND!

But I digress. Back to my brother. 'Cause really. This blog is mostly about him.

The bachelor's party was at a pool hall. At the wedding rehearsal, we'd convinced our dad, visiting from Chicago, to come with us before he left to pick up my stepmother from the airport.

"I'm 62 years old," sez Cher Popi. "I've never been to a bachelor party before. I think my brother maybe took me out for a drink before my wedding?"

"Then it's about time!" we told him, and cajoled him along.

I didn't play pool myself. Too much fun watching all the boys play. My brother Declan's lady Kylie (we call her Kylie Coyote, or Kylie-ote) came later, as did the new wife of Jeremy's best friend, several more fellows I didn't know, plus a few I did from WAY BACK WHEN, including the brother of MY best friend, Kiri.

There were these weird shots that glowed purple... "Gummyworms" I think they were called? That tasted like purple jolly ranchers? And Aidan had something called "Liquid Marijuana" which my father at first did not think was a real drink, and therefore didn't actually order it the first time my brother requested it. He apologized profusely after, when my brother asked about it. I think it tasted like pineapples? Mostly I just sipped other people's drinks.

This is us, four of the brothers, one father, and myself:


Okay, then home, eventually. And the next day was the wedding. I didn't really have all that much to do. I went swimming in the morning. I edited the wedding ritual. I checked my email every five minutes to see if my lovely couple had EMAILED ME THEIR CHALLENGES YET. I helped pack the food in the car.

Sita and I drove over at about 3 or 4. The bride was closeted with her bridesmaids, her make-up artist, my shutterbug auntie. Aidan was running around cooking and helping set up. My nieces arrived in all their finery and attached themselves to me. People were cooking in the kitchen and the barbecues. Guests began trickling in. I saw more people I knew in my REMOTE YOUTH and more strangers as well. I was beginning to get nervous. My father arrived. I transferred the ceremonial file onto his awesome iPad so that the three of us could read off that and not have to worry about finding a printer or memorizing things.
(The Motherline, with Sita standing center, in ivory)

In fact, I would like to include the whole ceremony here. I've permission from my green-thinking newlyweds.

And I'm pretty proud of them, and myself, and this ritual we made, and who knows? It might be useful to someone out there. I will hide it beneath the "Ceremony" cut, so as to make a long story... slightly less long.


Wedding Outline
Jazz Song Processional “Our love Is Easy” Melody Gardot

Opening words:
The bride and groom invite their parents to step forward and witness this loving union.


This evening we have come to celebrate the intertwining lives of Aidan Isaac Cooney and MaLinda LaVonne Zimmerman, two people who have dedicated their great hearts, passionate spirits, bright minds, and strong bodies to sustaining, preserving, mending, and improving this planet we live on, through art, community, education, travel, and labor.

The good work they began together here in Phoenix, Arizona will in less than 10 days continue in the forests of the Amazon, and after that, far and wide throughout the world, as they travel with the Peace Corps as global citizens, seeing to the most pressing needs of its people everywhere.

The poet Rosario Murillo wrote:

"I'm going to a plant a heart in the earth
water it with love from a vein
I'm going to praise it with the push of muscle
and care for it in the sound of all dimensions.
I'm going to leave a heart in the earth
so it may grow and flower
a heart that throbs with longing
that adores everything green
that will be strength and nourishment for birds
that will be the sap of plants and mountains."

When I asked Aidan and MaLinda how they met, Malinda told me, “We lived 5 miles from each other for most of our lives and never knew it.”
Aidan said, laughing, “How small the world is – and how vast the opportunities!”

The poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda wrote:

“But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.”

Aidan and MaLinda met in January of 2008, at MaLinda’s best friend Victoria’s housewarming party. When Aidan showed up, MaLinda was taking pictures of everyone – she always had a disposable camera with her in those days, an early indication of the documentarians she and Aidan are now becoming. She happened to snap a shot of Aidan, who was at the party only briefly.

They hardly even spoke. Later, when she had the pictures developed, she saw this cute boy, wearing a beanie and black jacket, and asked, “Who is this guy?”

The next time they met, they had a passionate and heated argument about the government. They stayed up all night and talked, finding an instantaneous and deep connection with each other. Since Aidan did not think at the time that she was romantically attainable, he did his best just to make her laugh.

MaLinda recognized in Aidan a high intelligence, a person who would challenge her, with whom she could become more herself, more real.
Aidan recognized in MaLinda an energetic and bouncy being, someone he wanted to know deeper, to the very core of her. After a courtship of several months, and a particularly catalytic trip to Texas, they decided to go out officially. Six years later... Here we are.



In Switzerland in the 1500’s, if a couple was spotted having drinks together in public, they could be considered married. In this sense, Aidan and MaLinda have been married since the night they met.

However, this is America in 2014, and tonight’s wedding is of a more intentional nature.

There was a tradition in ancient Great Britain and Ireland called “handfasting,” or sometimes “a left-handed marriage.” A man and a woman would take each other by the hand and “plight their troth.”

Aidan and MaLinda will now take each other by the hand and issue each other challenges for their lives to come.

M: You came into my life at the most opportune moment; I was disoriented with heartache and my trust in people was severely lacking. During our very first intimate conversation you challenged me to look deep into my past and accept the uncontrollable. That moment created a paradigm shift in my whole way of thought. Because of you, I found peace and freedom, and as a direct result my passion for life was re-sparked.

I challenge you... to remind me of my passion for life.

A: Challenge accepted!
C: And so the binding is made.
(Bind their hands with ribbons)

M: Studies find that people live longer if they are happy and have a method of expressing this joy. I want you to know, that every day is my best day because of how much you make me smile & laugh. A true Cooney trait, and one that will forever be enjoyed.

I challenge you... to make me laugh every day

A: Challenge accepted!
C: And so the binding is made.
(Bind their hands with ribbons)

M: My last challenge involves a concept you had introduced to me, and I feel it is the most important. Your support, reassurance, kindness, consideration and love blow me away every day. No matter what struggles, doubts or fears we have encountered together, you have consistently been there for me as my friend.

I challenge you... to continue being my friend, no matter what.

A: Challenge accepted.
C: And so the binding is made
(Bind their hands with ribbons)

A: MaLinda, you are the reason I am where I am today. After getting comfortable with each other you were adamant and blunt, like you are, about what you thought was right. You thought I should stop wasting my brain and use it to help change the world through my actions.

I challenge you to continually and constantly inspire me.

M: Challenged accepted.
C: And so the binding is made.
(Bind their hands with ribbons)

A: MaLinda, you have the largest heart of anyone I have ever met. Your desire to help anyone in need selflessly and with honesty constantly reinforces my love for you. The way you try to change lives to the best of your ability is unmatched.

I challenge you to always speak your mind and your heart.

M: Challenge accepted!
C: And so the binding is made.
(Bind their hands with ribbons)

A: MaLinda, you have awakened my spirit of adventure and culture. For too long I lingered in the realm of contentment and indifference. Many days of my life prior to you had been predictable and redundant.

I challenge you to keep me spontaneous and adventurous.

M: Challenge accepted!
C: And so the binding is made.
(Bind their hands with ribbons)

C: Remember then as your hands are fasted, these are NOT the ties that constrain or thwart, but those that support and sustain.


The poet Pablo Neruda wrote, “Love! Love until the night collapses!”

I declare this union solemnized. You may kiss each other, husband and wife.

Recessional: Jeremy on guitar, “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens

After the wedding, there was much food, some dancing, some swimming, a cradle of a crescent moon, rocking down the western sky. More visiting. Some tumbling in the grass with toddlers.

And then, near the end of the night, the newlyweds called me and their two witnesses into the house to sign the wedding license.

I loved doing this the LAST time I married my friends Lea and Mike. Maybe I just like putting my signature on things? POSSIBLY. Anyway, this is the end result:
It's legal.
And I helped!

I have ambitions to marry as many of my siblings and cousins and friends as will have me preside over their nuptials.

I never mind playing the High Priestess, especially outside in my bare feet.

Even if things do get a bit... Discordian.


After the wedding reception (1:30 AM approximately), we all went back to Ye Olde Homestead and played Cards Against Humanity until nearly 4 AM. Oh, and we ate tacos. I woke up a few hours later and had a lovely chat with Victoria, then a section of my family went to go see The Amazing Spiderman II and then out to eat for my uncle's birthday. My friends Lydia and Danny came to play catch-up with me. So that was nice. What happened after that? Oh, yes. We spent the night at my niece's.

Then today happened. Today was the Nieces. Tomorrow will be the Cousins. And the Family Friends. And Wednesday?

Wednesday will be home.



This is so beautiful. Congratulations to you all.

I love the Challenges. What an exquisite way of making a ceremony be a matter of loving exchange instead of projected constraint. It's gorgeous.
Yeah. Those two are REALLY SUMPTHIN! Love them. LOVE.
I love their challenge idea! How awesome! This was so great to read. Thank you for sharing this.
They are awesome, aren't they? THANK YOU! It's my DELIGHT to share, share alike, overshare, share ALL THE THINGS.