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Postcard from Chamonix: Wedding Gifts

Kelly Cordes  /  13 Jul 2011  /  3 Min Read  /  Climbing

A grateful reminder of the beauty of life—and singing, lots of singing.

The happy newlyweds (that’s Max on the left, Zoe on the right) outside the Hotel. Photo: Kelly Cordes

“Just follow the scent of love and eternal commitment!” JT said.

We were lost already. Or maybe not.

“Yeah, c’mon! There’s booze!” Brittany chimed in.

Zoe looked beautiful. And Maxime, what a handsome devil, fancy suit and all. And the ceremony? Short and sweet. (Ceremonies in France—at least if this was representative—are brief, and then you get to the important part: celebrating looooove!) Pretty vows, some nice words, then some papers—kind of like they were signing a car loan. Formalities finished, it was time to celebrate. To the reception, all aboaaarrrd!

Postcard from Chamonix: Wedding Gifts

Brittany and JT on-board the Montenvers train en route to the reception. Photo: Kelly Cordes

We found our way to the Montenvers train station (I can’t recall how finding the train station in downtown Chamonix, just a few blocks from the wedding ceremony, became an issue …), had a drink, piled into train cars and started singing.

Even for a veteran cynic like me (I’m currently ranked in the top 10), great weddings move me. Remind me. What makes them great? Well, like JT said. And what Britt said helps, too.

The train chugged up the hillside to the reception, with Chamonix below and the Aiguilles towering above. Music played—an accordion, a guitar, some bells—and singing. Lots of singing.

In late afternoon light at the Montenvers Hotel, friends and family mingled outside in view of spectacular peaks rising from the Mer de Glace glacier—Les Drus, Grandes Jorasses, Aiguille du Grepon. Day shifted to night, with toasts in more languages than I could count. Sweet words, from the heart. Delicious food. Music. Good friends and family.

Postcard from Chamonix: Wedding Gifts

Mingling outside the Montenvers Hotel, the Dru rising behind. Photo: Janet Bergman

After dinner, a few people spoke. Through teary eyes Zoe and her brothers talked of their father. He was 43 and fit, healthy, active, and one day he went for a run in the woods but never returned—an unknown genetic heart problem triggered a massive heart attack. Zoe was still a teenager, and her father had introduced her to the mountains. After he died, she started camping, hiking and climbing, because it made her feel closer to him and the things he wanted to teach her. The mountains were one of his enduring gifts.

The night rolled on and the music played and people danced, laughed, shared; everyone celebrated life and I kept thinking about gifts. For a little while I wandered outside alone and gazed into the sky, the infinite stars somehow reminding me of our impermanence, our insignificance, our importance. Magnificent and wholly uncaring mountains cast huge and glorious shadows across the Mer de Glace, where I’d last been with Jonny Copp eight years before. It was on that trip that we first met Zoe, an ocean away from all of our homes. Friendships began. So much has changed since then, though maybe nothing really has. I thought about my recently departed mother, and our beloved friend Bean in his final days back home, and the sweet sadness of everyone we’ve loved and lost, just like everyone before and everyone after.

Postcard from Chamonix: Wedding Gifts

Dancing mid-afternoon, at the start of a great evening. Photo: Janet Bergman

Back inside the hotel, the band played until 2 a.m. and then we all stumbled under the stars, infinite and bright, onto the train where someone played an accordion and another a guitar, singers sang and Zoe and Max danced the whole way back to town. I smiled and sang along, grateful to be reminded of the beauty of life, just in case I sometimes might forget.

Check out the entire Postcards from Chamonix series: Access, Totally Casual, Wedding Gifts, Sleep Finale. These stories were first published in the summer of 2011.

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