The word “witch” comes from the Russian word that means, “one who knows,” but all the witches in my family seem to know everything, except when to go home. Therefore having my brother’s wedding at the other end of the island produced many heated discussions about when our taxi was going to be booked to take us home. Eventually the Wicked Witch of the East decided to keep our options open and hire a few staggered through the evening so we could have options. Options were good. Midnight was always a good option for me to call any party to an end, even before I had children, and the hour is thus referred to in modern lore as “the witching hour,” because after the clock strikes twelve witches and evil spirits come out to play and are at their most evil. Midnight was also about the time when my mother had had a few too many vodka flavored potions, and the Wicked Witch of the East would be at her most powerful, but she was under heavy manners to be on her best behavior, after all this was not “her” wedding because of course, the grand affair was being hosted by the other side of the aisle.
When the wedding ceremony ended, the guests filtered out into the garden for cocktail hour, otherwise known as hour from hell for mothers of toddlers. After wedding pictures which always take forever, I spent the rest of the hour trying to dodge conversations while chasing a toddler and trying to stuff her pre packed dinner down her throat. There were highlights of course, like when she threatened to throw her self in the Koi pond because someone said it was a fish pond and she adamantly insisted that toads not fish live in ponds. Of course with two year olds, the word is full of absolutes and not just for toddlers. Meanwhile while my mother was necking absolute vodka and sodas in celebration, Eva, Chris and I started to move toward the wedding tent.
Finally they rang the bell for the next phase of the evening, the dinner. We found our table number. We were sitting with a bunch of Eastenders including the Gruncles, because if the family is separated for too long we get anxious, so we had all been carefully divided. Chris and I, Gruncle Michael, Gruncle Michael, Oralene and Betty who were practically family because they had worked for the family for so many years (think the witches’ familiars,) and friends Barbara and Bob Lee, and of course Miss Eva. Each table was named after an East End landmark, and ours so fittingly was “The Unfinished Church.” Fitting because we were all unfinished in our way, and some of us were very certainly heathens.
Before dinner we saw the Reverend’s bright yellow car screeching out of the narrow driveway, escaping rather than spend another minute with a witch, a witches’ familiar, or a Spurling, and he had probably been seated on the table plan next to my mother. At about the same time, someone at our table popped a champagne bottle. The vicar was gone; the party can begin.
My father was MCing and to begin the evening he introduced the wedding party. As he called each persons name they walked through the party to their seats. After the bridesmaids were seated, they called for “The Flower Boy, Trystan Hocking,” and he walked through the party to his table. I wasn’t sure he would be too happy being called a Flower boy, but never mind.
“And the Flower Girls, Sadie Hocking.”
Sadie ran and somersaulted into the party, which was met with a roar of applause.
“And the smallest flower girl, Eva Worsick.”
And then it happened, the tantrum we were fearing and expecting earlier in the evening began.
Eva started throwing punches and slaps in my direction, then kicks.
“Can you do a somersault like Sadie?”
I tried to pick her up but she fought me until Daddy scooped her up and paraded her through the party screaming and kicking in a fitting display of toddlerhood. I was thankful later that she hadn’t taken me up on the suggestion to somersault into the wedding as she wasn’t wearing any underwear, as with her multiple objections to clothing at the beginning of the evening, we had called a truce at underwear and happily forgot she missing a significant part of her apparel. She was only the latest in a long line of women who had “forgotten” to wear underwear. I can remember getting a note sent home from nursery school because I had chosen not to wear any, and then there is my mother who just finds underwear a hassle because getting to the potty is so much quicker without them. I think that might Eva’s thought process as well, they had so much in common.
After Eva, the smallest flower girl’s uproarious introduction, and the introduction of the now married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Spurling, it was time for the speeches.
My father introduced the Father of the Bride and the Mother of the Bride to start the evening. The Mother of the groom, Wicked Witch of the East actually refrained from giving a speech at the wedding and gave up the spotlight to the Mother of the Bride, otherwise known as the Wicked Witch of the West. The speech drifted from teddy bear picnics to the musical Wicked and at the climax she brought out her brand new broom she had been given, complete with its own parking place outside Danielle and Giles’s Cambridge beaches hotel room. At least my mother had left her broom at home, in Alda’s closet. As the night went on I am sure she contemplated more than once if she should summon Alda to retrieve it.
When it was my brother’s moment to shine he opened with “This is the first time I have been able to speak without being interrupted by my mother, “ a reference which seemed like the same thing- an interruption by my mother. He continued with a tribute to his beautiful bride. During his speech he recounted the first time they met:
“ I first met Danielle at a 4th of July party at Coral Beach Club 13 years ago. I was 18 and she was 15. It was 2001. I was standing at the bar with my mate drinking a black and coke. I said to him, “who’s that girl over there?” he said, that’s Danni Chiappa.” I said “Who? He says,”Danni Chiappa, CHIAPPA, it means butt cheek in Italian.” I said “oh ya, well I like that set of butt cheeks.”
Danielle was going to fit right in with the Spurlings, with a last name like that she probably has a dislike for underwear too.
Lastly the groom introduced his best man, Nick. Everyone looks forward to the best man’s speech as much as every best man dreads it. Nick’s speech was so heavily edited for content that his jokes were about editing the speech with small hints at much more involved stories. He ended with the true and tested quote, “A happy wife means a happy life.” I think my brother has learned more than most in that department after a lifetime of watching my mother and father’s relationship mature.
When my father introduced the cutting of the bride’s cake he asked the Bride and Groom,
“Now who is going to hold the knife? Danni?”
The crowd peeled in laughter. I wondered how many of them were remembering when my mother and father were newlyweds and having their first argument in their first apartment. My father turned his head for one moment, and one of their brand new butcher knives, gifted from a kind relative or member of the wedding party, sailed through the air past his face landing upright sticking up in the linoleum floor. My mother had not been trained in knife wielding, therefore she missed, and now neither of them can recall the argument but they can both recall the knife sticking up from the floor. Knowing my mother she probably threw the knife when she realized the floor was linoleum and not real marble. It is scary to contemplate that the three of us came within a knife’s breath of being born and Danielle would have been a Chiappa forever.
My father’s next one liner summed up his experience of marriage perfectly,
“I was a fool when I married you, I was a fool I didn’t notice.”
“She thinks she’s perfect but I don’t always agree.” That was my mother inside and out she was oft heard saying to my father, “There must be some mistake I can’t be wrong.”
I am sure my mother was tutting at her table but I couldn’t see her from where I was sitting because the Gruncle Michael’s hand kept obscuring my view while he kept ordering fresh bottles of wine for our table.
Chris had missed most of the speeches chasing Eva around until two thirteen year old neighbor’s daughters appeared like out of a dream and offered (put up to by their parents) to babysit for Trystan, Sadie and Eva.
“Yes please” was our enthusiastic answer. Chris was able to return to the adult table and enjoy some of the evening until he decided it was Eva’s witching hour.
When Daddy finally collected Eva from our opportune babysitters, she was watching Finding Nemo with one eye propped open, looking like the Bride of Chuckie, with dark circles drooping down over the apple of her cheeks, and drool dripping down her chin whilst maintain a fixated stare at the TV screen. She protested when we collected her, but soon passed out, dress and all on Daddy’s lap, and Betty and Oralene who shared the taxi ride home did not seem to mind if Eva drooled in their respective laps as long as Chris continued to listen to them complain about how they weren’t allowed to make the wedding cake.
What remained of the “Unfinished Church” table continued partying until someone decided the taxi had waited long enough past midnight and that if our coach wasn’t going to turn into a pumpkin or run out of petrol from idling in the parking lot for so long, it was time to leave.
We gathered all the wayward family members and walked through the dark night, but not before Gruncle Michael went back for a roadie bottle of red wine. We did have an hour’s drive and there are traditions to uphold. When we got to the taxis we counted family members and we were missing my father so I was dispatched via hitching a ride in a van to find the missing Patriarch.
After locating him, and forcing him to end the party, my brother, the groom, made one last attempt to remain a child forever.
“ You are going home, can I come with you?
“No I don’t think you can come with your parents on your wedding night, Gee.”
“But Danielle doesn’t want to leave, I just want you to drop me off at my hotel.”
“No Giles, you have to wait, not every night but tonight you do.”
So I left, Dad in tow, and Giles became for the first time a West End boy, and ever so much closer to becoming an adult, but as many of us know that only really happens when you have a child of your own.
The next morning there were more weary reprisals of the night before, phone calls made, post mortems had over eggs and bacon and that was only within the gates of Speakers Drive, then we all mustered enough energy to go to the post wedding brunch, the last party in a series of parties that was the wedding to end all weddings. Codfish and bananas and a side of coffee roll topped with bacon bits, you can’t beat a Bermudian spread. On the way home I snoozed in the back of my parents car, meanwhile my sister’s husband had driven home from the brunch and when he made it back to the East end he found that both his wife and two kids had fallen asleep, so rather than disturb them, he left the engine running and fell asleep, himself in the drivers seat with the radio blaring.
An hour and half later when he woke up, the entire neighborhood had tried to get through the shared driveway and had to accomplish forty point turns to negotiate their vehicles past the sleeping family, making them all inevitably wonder if they really were asleep or if they had witnessed the murder suicide of entire family by carbon monoxide poisoning, but no they were members of the Spurling family, they were just hung over from the wedding the night before.
And just because two parties is never enough my mother woke up two days after the wedding and started planning wedding number three in the east end of course. Why you ask? Who is getting married now? No one. She is planning another wedding party to invite all the people they couldn’t fit on the guest list at wedding one and wedding two. It is an eternal cycle, as long as there was still a party to be thrown, she would still have my brother wrapped around the handle of her broom.
Perhaps now that her three children are married, she might feel it is the appropriate occasion to stir the cauldron one last time and pass the broom on to a new Wicked Witch of the East. I am nominating Gruncle Michael, after he ate all the crucifix cookies my sister brought home from a Christening bake sale. But I highly doubt that my mother will allow any one else, certainly not me to determine her witching hour.
Xx Derelict Mom