Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part 2: Wedding One

When the week of the family wedding arrived there was a sense of anticipation palpable in everyone except the two year olds who had no idea that they were expected to preform in the wedding by walking down the aisle, pretending to be the cute well behaved children they were not, throwing flower petals instead of tantrums and smiling on cue. What Eva and her cousin Sadie had planned for the day was unknown. Their parents knew that the success of the entire week of events would somehow depend on a precise series of events being adhered to, and if any of them went wrong, it could spell a total and mounting disaster, late bedtimes, missed meals, and then there is always throw up. Throw up ruins everything.

The wedding events began with a party at my mother’s house, of course. Proper Etiquette requires the Groom’s parents to throw the rehearsal dinner, but for my mother there was no such thing as a rehearsal it was HER wedding. She had already had several rehearsals (daughter number 1 and daughter number 2: and daughter number 2’s wedding 1 and wedding 2, to the same man- just to clarify.) So just in case you are counting: with child number 3, it was going to be wedding number 4 and she was going to out due herself, or me as it would turn out.

There were weeks of ruminations over the menu and the guest list, my mother enlisted all of our opinions and could still not make a decision. My opinion was void when I suggested a gluten free/ dairy free menu. What no fried chicken? My mother had passed her love of fried chicken- I think there is a gene- to my brother, but somehow they compromised on fish and chips. It was close but slightly more sophisticated. My mother liked to pretend she was sophisticated, my brother, sister and I went along with it, rolling our eyes behind her back. Once when she invited the Governor over for “luncheon” she introduced her housekeeper Alda, who on the day she made dress in a white top and black pants, and said she had been in her employ for twenty one years. My mother was bragging, and Alda still doesn’t speak English so their relationship works out quite well. But then on another day she cut out an employment ad placed by an older couple in her circle of friends, and was laughing that they were advertising for a driver and butler who would be in charge of “Marketing” which meant she told me, going to the grocery store, not marketing as in my sister’s career; my mother rolled her eyes. I suppose sophistication is relative.

Speaking of relatives, I rue the day I ever spent weeks in past less busy decades crafting slideshows for relative’s birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. After giving birth to Eva, I decided I would retire from this pastime and would no longer be available. And then my brother had to go and get engaged. I agreed to come out of retirement for this special event, as long as everyone in the family would keep it a secret so in the event that I did not have a chance to complete it no one particularly my brother, would be left disappointed. You have to keep your cards close to your chest when you are a parent because time seems to evaporate in increments of bedtime stories, swimming lessons and the aforementioned tantrums. As much as I try and plan ahead it never works out, inevitably I ask my parents to babysit and my sister has beat me to it from now through 2016. So in November, in a rare moment of peace I decided to start collecting pictures, and over the next several months I was able to sort, select, meet with and scan about 500 pictures from Danielle’s family and my family to aggregate a collection of childhood through adulthood pictures of both Danni and Gee and begin figuring out what themes would appear in the slideshow. I was careful not to give away what I had planned in case I would not be able to deliver, but my mother would take care of any kind of dalliance, doubt in my ability, or scheduling conflict by at some point around Christmas spilling the beans to my brother that I was creating one of my slideshows. I sighed and knew there was no way out. You would have thought being under employed for several months would have given me ample opportunity, instead I was applying for jobs, launching a fundraising campaign etc etc. in order to be able to pay for the necessities of life as you do and the slideshow got a sideline.

In the blink of an eye, and what seemed like only a few diaper trash empties later, it was May 1st, four weeks before the wedding. If I didn’t start now I would never finish. So I started by putting 500 photos in chronological order, that Xd a day off the calendar. As the days continued I was struck with the most obvious inspiration, I would craft the slideshow interspaced with clips from one the best films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. My husband constantly quotes from the film, and it is in our DVD library and evidently every kid growing up in the UK watched it every Christmas Day. Oh the Brit’s are so inspired. Now it was my turn.

I used this apt clip in my slideshow from the Wizard of Oz

The similarities were just too funny to not include. The raven haired Danielle is a fan of Cairn terriers, and she grew up with her parents at the West end of the island and her husband to be, my brother Giles grew up on the East End of the island, and of course there is a historic rivalry between the East end crew and the West End crew, which they were defying with their marriage. But really the 20 mile spread between homesteads just made their dating life inconvenient in the beginning and the wedding events difficult in the end. Therefore my mother decided to throw the rehearsal dinner on the Thursday night before a Saturday night wedding, to let all the weary travelers have a rest day in between events. She also wanted to make sure her party didn’t suffer from anyone deciding to save themselves and their energies for the wedding night and that none of the guests on her side of the family would miss the five o’clock wedding because of a hangover.

I was still editing the slideshow when the men came with the tent, but luckily I was exporting it by the time they left. My husband had vetted it the night before and by the time I burned the DVD the caterers were arriving to set up the food stations, but the censorship authority was still open with Judge GiGi presiding. So she took out thirty minutes of her dressing time to watch the slideshow. At the end she was a good sport and her only comment was “It sounds like Derelict Mom.” “Who Me?” I said. I was a bit nervous about the reception at the actual event because although my mother had grown to accept and expect that I was going to call her “The Wicked Witch of the East,” I wasn’t sure my brother’s mother in law would be okay with her new nickname, “Wicked Witch of the West.” But I couldn’t resist and if I was going to spend three weeks crafting a thirty minute slideshow it was going to be funny.

After an extended cocktail hour, the guests watched the slideshow and laughed and enjoyed the pictorial walk down memory lane and no one seemed to hold it against me. Relief hit with a wave of fish and chips and red wine. As I was eating my dinner the speeches began, now it was everyone’s chance for a tribute. Maybe I had taken all the jokes, but there were more tears than there was laughter. My mother although not allotted a speech, took to the microphone anyway.

“Good Evening Ladies and Gentleman” She began.

My dad yelled from the crowd “Do you want your pitch fork or your axe?”

“I want everyone to know that I posed for those pictures in the slideshow.”

“There is a saying,” she continued, “that goes your son is your son until he marries his wife, but your daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.”

“I know this to be true as I have two daughters, and have yet been able to get rid of them, but we are happy to have Danni in our family and we have grown to love her as our own daughter already over the years.”

This was my mothers attempt to be soppy.

And then just because my mother cannot help her self from indulging in an inappropriate confession, she added

“When Danielle first met Giles she couldn’t have been more than 15 and she got off of the boat one day after hanging out with Giles and some friends, and it was late and she insisted she had to return to her home in Somerset, but I insisted that she stay the night….. but of course I didn’t mean in Giles’s room. But I wasn’t trying to match make or anything.”

At this point, I was thinking I should have set up Danielle as Little Red Riding hood in my slideshow and my mother as the Big Bad Wolf.

She was always trying to be the “cool” mom by the time my brother was a teenager, she always said what she got up to when she was young was far worse than anything we could imagine. I never believed her until recently- but that’s a story for another blog.

And then, not to be outdone, my sister gave a speech comparing her experience of running the NY marathon with my brother to the marathon of marriage. A few minutes before she asked me into mom’s computer room and asked me to vet her speech which she said she had just typed up that very instant, but when she read it, it felt like perfectly timed advertising copy. She was in the business.

“Marriage is like a marathon.”

“I am only at mile five, but I know that there are uphills and downhills, struggle, and balance, compromise, sacrifice, joy and camaraderie.”

Then her husband yelled, “and smelly feet.”

Instead of mile five, I thought, child number 2, was probably a more fitting marker to marriage and the uphill climbs, but it wasn’t my speech.

“It is not the finish line, it is the journey,” she continued striking the perfect balance between tears and composure.

“The people here around you are your water stops and your medical tents.”

At that point her husband looked like he was downing his entire glass of wine, just to get through her speech.

Afterwards, she wiped away her tears and hugged the bride and groom.

Then it was Christine’s turn, the mother of the bride. She kept it short,

“I think I am having a good time, I have been called a witch, the only problem I have so far is there wasn’t a sign to tell me where to park my broom.”

Then one of the bridesmaid’s got up, and started to cry before she could speak. She made one very salient point though, about marriage, which bears repeating,

“There is a saying that the most important things in any marriage, is one, a sense of humor and two a short memory.”

I would also add that these two qualities also come in handy within a family, especially when a family member has a blog called Derelict Mom.

After dinner the core group of hangers on, that would be myself, my husband, my sister and her husband, my brother’s groomsman and his wife who live on an island in the harbor and my parents settled in on the porch for a night cap and for some a cigar. It had been a successful evening therefore everyone had to celebrate until 1:30am on a school night. Luckily I disappeared in the vanishing act of an early bedtime (by Spurling standards) by midnight. For the rest of them, the only thing that vanished was groomsman Jeremy’s pack of cigarettes because my mother and sister chain smoked them all. At least my mother had given up bumming weed off my brother’s friends after he turned 21. The next morning it wasn’t the toddlers who looked like they were going to be sick, but the adults when they counted the cigarette butts and empty wine bottles. That Friday felt like the night after a party rather than the night before a party but there was one responsibility we had to adhere to that day, and that was to attend the actual rehearsal at 5pm, at the other end of the island.

 

Tune in next week for Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part III: Wedding Two

Two Weddings and a Funeral: Part 1: The funeral.

The auspicious arrival of wedding fever was set to kick off at a preparty at my brother’s god mother’s house for lunch on May 25th a week before the wedding. In the Spurling family there was always a pre-party but in this case it turned out to be more of a wake. Sudden death, like overtime in a football match, is certainly something derelict mom thinks is an apt description for the last week of a single man’s life, but on this day it was as tragic as it was symbolic.

The Saturday morning started off like most of the others, up with Eva, breakfast and a pint of coffee for mommy dearest. When Chris stirred I went in to see if he had had a pleasant morning.

“How was your sleep in?”

“I have been counting, Babe has barked 56 times.”

“Babe is a morning person, we are not.”

“Fifty – Seven” was Chris’s only reply as he pulled the pillow over his head.

Eva and I wandered next door to see Hamma and Gigi. We played with Babe so she wouldn’t bark, and then Anna Laura and Sadie showed up to go swimming. I declined an invitation to join in because I had already decided to bake a paleo dairy free gluten free apple pie. I am a baking geek I know and so when they all descended on our little beach I retreated to the kitchen to whip up my dessert. Chris took Eva to join in on the fun, and soon most of the family was in the water, it was in fact a Bermudian tradition as the beginning of summer is celebrated on May 24th Bermuda day. Out came the noodles, the floaties, out came the rubber rafts, out came the kayaks and the swimming implements got bigger and bigger as each kid tried to out do a grandparent, while Anna Laura and Chris tried to make sure no one drowned, a kid or a grandparent. And then Piccolo my little dachshund got in the mix, barking and running his little roly poly body up and down the stairs, dreadfully worried about all his humans and their dangerous obsession with bathing in the sea.

“I am worried about his heart,” my mom said watching Piccolo run up and down keeping up with Babe, the Doberman who had a bit of an advantage.

“Whose heart?” Said Chris

“Piccolo, he shouldn’t be doing so much vigorous exercise with all that excess weight.”

“The vet said he should exercise.”

‘The Doctor said I should too.”

“Time to abandon the floatie.” Chris pointed to the teddy bear floatie mom had appropriated off of Eva who was crying.

“She should really have water wings.”

“Maybe, if you can convince her to wear them, she goes everywhere naked.”

My mother decided it was time to show off, so she broke out all of Babe’s water toys, which just drove Piccolo even more crazy. Meanwhile to appease my mother, Chris put Sadie and Eva in a kayak and was floating them around like twin Queens of Sheba.

My mother threw a Frisbee, it narrowly missed Chris’s head but I am sure if it had hit him she would have said it was an accident.

Babe bounded after it, effortlessly and with much enthusiasm. Babe and my mother’s game of water fetch was her favourite thing to do in the world, and here we were finally the first day of summer and Babe was loving it.

At some point Chris made the parental judgment that Eva was waterlogged, when her knees began to look like raisins and he brought the kayak back into the beach, wrapped her in a towel and told her it was time for lunch and left about ten minutes after Sadie and Anna Laura had left to shower and change next door for the party.

When Chris came into the kitchen, I looked at him and asked,

“What’s all that barking, why is Piccolo barking like that?”

I said unfamiliar with the regularly occurring summer cacophonies as I tried desperately to hang on to the vestiges of our mild winters, hence the baking of an apple pie.

“Oh your mom is throwing toys for Babe.”

“Oh, of course.” I answered and resumed the finishing touches on my culinary masterpiece.

“Where is dad?”

“He went out for a kayak.” Chris replied.

Chris rinsed Eva off and was watching a cartoon with her when about ten minutes later I brought her some lunch. I could still hear Piccolo barking.

“That’s weird,” I said to Chris.

“What?” Chris answered.

“Piccolo is still barking.”

“There is nothing weird about that, I assure you.”

“Yes there is, I said.”

“Look”

I pointed to the clock.

“My mother can’t possibly be still on the beach, she needs at least thirty minutes to put her face on.”

“Her face?”

“You know, her makeup.”

“Oh.”

“And listen..” I said.

“He has probably gotten stuck trying to climb a palm tree again. Let me go out and see.”

Meanwhile I had no idea what had been transpiring on the beach because I was elbow deep in almond flour egg batter and coconut stewed apples. As I wandered out of the garden toward the beach I dodged, chewed Frisbees, dog toys, sticks, and children’s floaties, discarded swimsuits and partially deflated water wings missing their pair. As I rounded the stairs I located Piccolo barking on top of a kayak at Babe who lay in the sand, understandably exhausted from all her running about.

“Mom?”

“Dad?”

I figured Mom had left to get dressed as she often will leave Babe on the beach, who eventually gets bored and comes home. And I figured Dad had done the same, and left his kayak pulled up on the beach.

I took another look at Babe from the top of the stairs.

“Babe, Babe!”

No answer.

Piccolo kept right on barking.

“Oh god, Oh no.”

I noticed she wasn’t looking at me, and then I surveyed the scene, instantaneously remembering my CPR training from age 14. It was at that moment I observed a large bowel movement next to her in the sand.

I ran down the stairs and put my hand on Babe, and tried to move her head. I stroked her fur, and all that came to me was “Oh Babe.” And I patted her again.

I stood up, picked up Piccolo and told him.

“Babe is dead, she had a heart attack on the beach.”

Piccolo was very upset. I ran up the stairs with him in my arms and brought him inside to Chris and whispered so Eva would not hear.

“Babe had a heart attack on the beach and she is dead, look after Piccolo and I will find my parents.”

He nodded, and I locked Piccolo in the living room with Eva and Chris and sprinted next door.

Babe was really my mother’s dog, she was home the most, fed, bathed and walked her, and they had a mother daughter bond, that she didn’t really have with her biological children. So naturally, I ran yelling to my parent’s house looking for my mother,

“Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom where are you! “

Out of breath I checked the shower, she wasn’t there, finally she emerged from the back with Anna Laura, Sadie and a pair of scissors, they had been half way through cutting Sadie’s hair.

Out of breath and high on adrenalin, I started half yelling half breathing.

“Mom, you have to sit down right now, I have bad news to tell you.”

She looked terrified and sat down, my sister then came rushing out.

“Oh good, you are still here, you sit down too, I said to them.”

They looked ashen.

“On the beach,” I said, “Piccolo was panic barking on the kayak. I ran out to see what had happened and…”

“Oh my god “ my mother said, swooning with her hand over her eyes.

“Babe is dead, she had a heart attack on the beach.”

“Oh, is that it?” Mom looked relieved.

“What!!! Babe Died” I said.

“Oh Phew” my sister said.

“What do you mean, phew?” I said about to pass out from the sprint I had made in record time.

“Babe is dead.” I said again.

“We thought you were going to say your father.” Anna Laura said.

“Does anyone know where your father is?” mom asked

“No, I said- I came yelling and I didn’t see him anywhere.”

“He went out on a kayak.” Anna Laura said.

“The kayak is on the beach, he must be back somewhere?”

“Let’s go see Babe,” My mother finally mustered.

“What shall we do with her?” I said pointing to Sadie who looked like she was about to burst into tears.

“We should bring her so that she learns.” Anna Laura said.

“Okay, I will get Eva too but we all need to remain calm.” I said even though I had unintentionally let everyone believe that Dad had had a heart attack on the beach by accident.

We reconvened on the beach around Babe’s body. Myself, Eva, Chris, Anna Laura and Sadie.

Mom bent over and tried to feel for a pulse.

“Mom, I already did that, she is gone.”

“Shall we do CPR?” Mom said

“No mom, she has been gone about ten minutes, there is no point, it was a massive coronary.”

Just then we noticed something on the horizon. My father, paddling back to shore.

Like all dreadful moments, when you can see something has happened but you can’t tell what, Dad thought something had happened to one of the kids but upon counting heads, he realized he was only missing a fury one.

“We can’t just leave her here.” Mom said.

Chris volunteered to get a wheelbarrow while we filled my dad in on what had transpired.

“How many valiums did you give her last night in the thunder storm?” I asked.

“Three.” Mom said. “And she had her pee pill this morning and her eye drops.”

“Too many medications.” I said

“She only has half as many as me” Mom replied.

“Did you give her your pee pill by accident, that would probably kill a horse” I said.

She ignored me and instinctively, like you do after you put your child to sleep, started collecting Babe’s toys which lay scattered on the beach, a testament to her last happy moments doing what she loved. She took the Frisbee and fired it in the air trying to make the garden but it got my dad right in the face.

“Jane!!!!’ Somehow the trauma of the moment had made my mother a perfect shot.

The drama of the moment had everyone else scurrying about.

“Jane, we need an old sheet or something to lift the body in.”

My mother left and returned a few minutes later with my father’s limited edition St. David’s landmarks, hand-woven furniture throw, a collectors edition item from the American Indian descendants of the Pequot tribe.

“You can’t use that to wrap her body in” My father yelled.

“Why not?” my mother asked, always ready to throw his historical interests under the bus, or in this case the dead body.

“Because,” my father stammered not wishing to say he didn’t want to part with the throw.

In the meantime, Sadie and Eva stood together looking over the sea wall at all the activity. Listening to them talk to each other helped give the moment some levity and inspired this blog post.

“Babe died.” Sadie said to Eva

“Mommy, why did Babe die?” asked Eva pulling on my pant leg.

I crouched down between them.

“Because she did a poo.” Sadie pointed at the poo.

“No, Babe died because it was time for her to go to heaven and become an angel.” I said.

“Poos go in the potty.” Eva pointed down at Babe’s body.

“We are not going to die, Eva, because we do poos on the potty.” Said Sadie.

Hamma and Gigi and Chris moved Babe into the wheel barrow and wheeled her back to their house, outside the gate to the garden where all the pets are buried and where Chris and I got married.

Hamma laid her body on the grass.

“Now we have to clean the sand off of her.” said Gigi.

“What! “ said Hamma, “Why!”

“Because she is covered in sand and she can’t be buried with a sandy face.”

My father sighed and went to fetch the hose.

“In a situations like this, you just do as you are told.” He said.

I thought by situation he meant “marriage” not “death.” I wondered what he would do if he could go back to his “sudden death” week before he married my mother. I know he attempted to delay proceedings but she insisted that they get married before the end of 1969. He waited until December 27th but now it’s been almost 45 years… forty five years of fetching the hose.

My mother affectionately washed off Babe’s body. I wondered if the next step was taxidermy, but then I realized that that was something only I would consider, and my dogs were small enough to fit into a freezer, Babe was not.

Chris stepped in and decided to dig the hole in the garden.

“We had better do it now before rigor mortis sets in.” He returned with a shovel and got to work.

“I’ll call the Jones’s and tell them we will be late.” We were always late but they deserved a warning that we would be arriving even later and with a large risk of spontaneous crying.

Mom was already crying and so Sadie went around and hugged everyone to make them feel better. Whereas Eva just wanted to know,

“Why is Daddy putting Babe in a hole?”

“Because after she died, she needs to be buried and then she will go to heaven to become an angel.” I replied doing my best. I probably could have done better if we had had more warning.

My sister piped up, “But you said you were a heathen on your blog.”

“I am a heathen but I still believe in heaven and angels… and fairies and ghosts.”

“Mommy what’s a heathen.”

“It’s your mommy’s nickname.”

We decided to go to the party and return afterwards to host a proper funeral. Meanwhile my brother arrived at the party and was told by his godparents the terrible news. He was shocked and devastated, devastated that the sister he lost was the one that didn’t talk back, and the one who couldn’t read or write blogs, and for a moment Babe’s passing took emphasis off the event at hand. The rest of us arrived forty five minutes late, the approximate time needed for Chris to dig a hole and the rest of us to argue about it, shower and dress.

And so my brother’s wedding pre-party became Babe’s wake, as the family, the wedding party and the soon to be “outlaws” toasted to her memory. Who doesn’t love a dog, even one that barks fifty seven times at 8am.

Later at the funeral, even Chris wiped away a tear for Babe, for the dog, who would never bark for the fifty eighth time. I played Taps on my laptop and read a poem by Lord Byron.

Epitaph to a Dog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epitaph_to_a_Dog

It begins:

Near this Spot
 are deposited the Remains of one 
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
 Strength without Insolence, 
Courage without Ferocity, 
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

It ends:

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; 
I never knew but one — and here he lies.

A video of the funeral:

http://youtu.be/sy0tU3KxpcU

A week before my brother’s wedding, my mother had lost more than a friend, she had lost her last daughter, her final child, and when my brother was lost to the institution of matrimony, when he and Danielle exchanged vows she would for the first time, have an empty nest. My father was going to have to take Babe’s place in my mother’s affections, by peeing the bed, being spoon fed, stealing roast beef, and tearing up my mother’s decorative pillows, it wasn’t after all, far from believable. A few days later after Hamma was forced to go on my mother’s regular dog walk at Ferry Reach, I found Hamma hiding Babe’s collars and leashes and he tried to give me one of her dog beds, out of fear that my mother would have his initials embroidered on a new cover by LL Bean.

It was clear after the wedding, my mother would need a new focus.

Stay tuned for Two weddings and a funeral part 2.

Here is a note that came back from Eva and Sadie’s nursery the following day as Auntie Zoe had been informed by both girls of Babe’s untimely demise.

Babe died003

Babe was always part of the fun.

Babe was always part of the fun.

A Flask of Gin ( Meet the Fockers Part III)

Three weeks after our bridal shower the day arrived for Bridal Shower number two, hosted by the Bride’s mother, which was the bridal shower I thought would adhere to proper wedding etiquette as all showers I had been to at that point had been hosted by the Mother of the Bride. This one of course was the first I had attended that had been usurped by the Mother in Law of the Bride. I decided to look it up just to be sure, and where else would I go but to my mother’s idol’s website: www.marthastewartliving.com. As it turns out, I was wrong, but my mother was not right either. To Quote directly “ According to tradition, a shower should not be thrown by the bride’s immediate relatives such as her mother, future mother in law or sister since it would appear that they were asking for gifts. The maid of honor usually hosts. “ Well we all got that one wrong, but the gifts had already been bought and accepted so we were all, already offending common proper practice. To Hell with Rules! Bring on the presents, or parcels as it would turn out.

As anticipation mounted for the big Saturday night festivities, the uninvited male members of the family started to tease those of us who had cast our busy social lives aside, our usual Saturday night rendezvous to attend a teetotal dinner come shower, come Moroccan game night. It was exciting for me, as my Saturday nights usually consisted of putting a toddler to bed, cooking dinner and watching TV, the only difference from any other day of the week was that I didn’t have to pack a lunch for the next day, clean up, set my alarm, and I could enjoy a nice glass or more of red wine. Giving up the red wine and getting a toddler free evening and not having to cook dinner seemed like an even trade for me. But for my mother, alas, she would be missing a party somewhere, an invite turned down out of familial duty, a vodka tonic turned down with pure will power. This was not going to be easy for her. She promised she would be on her best behavior, a voluntary contribution tempered by the fact that she had already outdone the mother of the bride with her over the top lavish bridal shower number 1 three weeks before.

See blog posts Meet the Fockers part 1:

https://derelictmom.com/2014/05/23/meet-the-fockers-part-1/

And Meet the Fockers part 2:

https://derelictmom.com/2014/06/06/meet-the-fockers-part-ii/

She had recovered from her party and had convinced us all she was going to put her most gracious foot forward, it turns out on the gas pedal.

“ I will be the designated driver.” She volunteered while batting her eyes and coyly smiling.

“Mom, it’s a teetotal party, we can’t drink too much lemonade.”

“Think of what could happen if your sister drank too many sugary drinks.”

Visions of the game Nazi flashed through my head.

“I’ll drive.” My mother insisted.

This was mom’s attempt at generosity and grace. Then next week she would say it was someone else’s turn to drive home from the raging party, so she could swig a wine with out fear or inhibition.

On the night of the shower, Mom put her best face forward, got decked out in her Moroccan clothes she had purchased on a reluctant trip there several years ago. My Dad giggled as she sighed, without knowing what the girly night ahead of her had in store. Mom was not much of a girly girl, despite the makeup, the walk in closet and hefty credit card bill, she loved to shop, go to the spa, and entertain but if she was invited to a girly trip or a dinner party without men, she would decline. I don’t think she could think of anything worse than spending a weekend with her two daughters and now she was about to get a third one by marriage. Mom only really preformed for men and so an estrogen filled evening untempered by booze was going to be hard. I figured she would be uncharacteristically quiet the entire time. I wasn’t all wrong.

She pulled her car around to the front of the house and honked the horn. Chris kissed me goodbye.

“Before you go, give this to your mom.” He handed me a flask, which he had filled with gin and three cans of Perrier.

“Tell your mom to have a roadie on me.”

This is a reference to two years ago when I climbed into the passenger seat of their car to attend our Easter brunch, and found a discarded roadie- a plastic cocktail glass with red cocktail straw and slice of lime fermenting on the floor mat from the night before. At the time I was still expressing breast milk for Eva and was struck with both jealousy and amazement. To be nearly 70 and still be drinking roadies, ah that’s the life. And to this day I do not know how she convinces my father to drive home from every single event.

When I climbed in, I offered her a gin and soda. She laughed.

“We aren’t really going to drink it are we?” She asked.

“No of course not! Unless you think they will just think it’s mouthwash?”

“No, we better not.”

I put the flask and Perrier cans on the floor of the car, and laid back to enjoy the thirty minute drive to Paget, without worrying about a toddler or stop signs or traffic, that’s the life for a busy mother, thirty minutes of uninterrupted looking out the window.

Then it started, the continual pestering.

“What do you think they will have for dinner?”

“I don’t know, maybe a Moroccan dish!’

“Oh No, I hate Moroccan food.”

“Why do you have to be obsessed by food.”

“I hate Morocco.”

“What do you think she will be wearing?”

“Who?”

and on and on and on.

We picked up my sister and twenty minutes later we finally arrived. We were the first ones there. Rich, Danielle the bride to be’s step dad directed us around the back to secretly park as the party was supposed to be a surprise, but my mother had already blown that too. Maybe on purpose? Maybe by accident?

“Why did you tell Giles?”

“I felt he needed to know?”

“Why?”

“So that he could bring her a little bit late, in case we were late.”

“Mom, that defeats the purpose.”

“I don’t like surprises, and he is just like me, and anyway Danielle doesn’t know.”

“But you know, and I know that if Giles knows he will give it away.”

“As long as he doesn’t bring her on time then it will be okay.”

“Mom we are early. We are never early.”

“Great, it’s just going to be awkward without anyone else around.”

I open the door to exit the car. Mom yells,

“Wait! “

“What?”

“Aren’t you going to cover up the flask?”

“You didn’t cover up your roadie in 2012. No one is going to see it.”

“You never know! “ Mom said.

So we got back in and put the flask on its side underneath the floor matt.

“There no one will ever know.”

“It’s not like we drank it anyway.”

“Yeah but no one would believe you.”

We are ushered into the house through the back door by Christine, the mother of the bride.

“Hi Jane, thanks for coming” Christine says.

My mother grins and without any hesitation responds,

“Christine, are those eyelashes FAKE?”

Christine blinks several times trying to take in my mother’s version of “Hello, How are you.”

“Yes,” she admits blinking vigorously already defeated.

Mom- 1

Mother in Law -0

Anna Laura and I look at each other too bad we weren’t wearing black and white stripes as we may have some refereeing to do tonight. Thank god my mom hadn’t touched the flask, it could be worse.

Next, Christine said,

“What would you like to drink?”

I ushered my first prayer of the evening. “Please mom, don’t say wine, please don’t say wine.”

“Iced Tea.”

PHEW…

The dog barked and I thought, thank god someone else, and so the other women began to arrive, parking behind us in the backyard. Company at last.

And then finally, DING DONG. The doorbell rang. The Bride and Groom arrived, and we all conspicuously hid in the lounge before jumping out and yelling “SURPRISE!”

Danielle’s mouth dropped she feigned surprise. They were perfectly late, I am sure my brother had let it slip but I could not be sure.

Rich ushered Giles out the door as they were taking him to his own special stag party, an AA meeting, and dinner at Specialty Inn. I am sure my long suffering husband would have given up beer to join in but he was babysitting a toddler and a few Coors Lights at the time.

The men disappeared and Christine put her party hat on.

“Let the games begin!”

“Oh no, I hate games I thought.” I would rather watch my ice cube melt.

I had visions of passing life savers on toothpicks and playing pyramid but I would be spared, THOSE games from my youth.

“QUIZ TIME.”

Oh that’s not so bad I thought. Christine began passing out tests and pencils. She was once a teacher, and somehow that doesn’t surprise me. I had a feeling the family was about to gain another game Nazi.

I could hear my mother sharpening her pencil in the background, she was quiet but it might have just been the Iced Tea, or maybe it was her game plan.

“Our first game this evening is Guess the Bride.”

I flipped through the fifty page document of wedding photos where someone had painstakingly cut the faces out of each bride’s picture, and then photocopied masses of copies. I supposed she needed something to do last Saturday, but maybe cutting out famous brides faces gave her some sort of passive aggressive pleasure, I know it probably would for me. Maybe when Dani and Giles are expecting their first born, I will recreate the game with famous new moms, and cut the faces out of the likes of Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the rest of those skinny bitches who spend maternity leave in the gym. Ahhh just the thought gives me passive aggressive satisfaction.

I was always good at fantasying and by some miracle I won the guess the bride game, although I have never picked up an issue of BRIDE in my entire life. Full of pride and surprise I accepted my gift of scented bamboo reed diffusers.

“Thanks, just what I wanted, bamboo sticks.”

Cocky and self assured I started the next game, name the movie, the actress and the year of the bride pictured.

“I am really good at this game.” I said.

I was too big for my britches and came in an underperforming second or third. But then I realized I was not much into bride movies anyway, and Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride had been the stumper for me, not that I am running out to see it now or anytime soon.

“That was fun,” I announced.

“Next” Christine stood up to move on proceedings.

I looked over at my mother, she gave me a smug half smile, I looked down at her test sheets, 2 out of 50 and 10 out of 32. I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t trying or she really didn’t know.

“I am too old for this game.” She said with regality.

“Next,” Christine called the class of women to order.

“Next, we are going to play Pass the Parcel.”

All of the women already gathered in a circle looked around at each other with a pretend excitement.

I whispered to mom, “If you are too old for the quiz, then you must be about to be reincarnated for Pass the Parcel.” And I made a sign of the cross like the good catholic I was not.

Christine launched ITunes on her laptop and started the music, we were to pass the parcel until the music stopped. She admitted freely herself that she was attempting to recreate Danielle’s birthday parties when she was growing up, but I am thankful that she did not go as far as to play nursery rhymes. I had no need to relive my childhood as I was living Eva’s right now.

I wondered if Pass the Parcel was a passive aggressive way of pretending her daughter wasn’t really old enough to get married, or maybe she was just desperate for grandchildren. That would be a good thing, as my mother was not, she already had three and was struggling to come up with creative excuses not to babysit. If this was what Christine wanted to do on a Saturday night, then my mom’s future Saturday nights were going to be free to partake in many roadies to come.

As Pass the Parcel progressed the person it stopped on had to unwrap a layer and then could take the lollipop or present that was on that layer, but they would also have to read the poem and do the dare.

The dare, sounded risqué, but the poems certainly were not. As each parcel unwrapper read off their sentimental poem about mothers and daughters, my mother’s lip curled in distaste.

I could read her mind, “Cheesy” she was thinking.

Her secret hope that my brother might be gay so that she could get another son-in-law to outnumber the women in the family was not going to happen, but as long as there weren’t any more sober bridal showers in her future, she might just make it through the night. My sister and I weren’t sure. My mother was in denial, she was marrying off her son, getting a third daughter and god forbid more grandchildren, and now Pass the Parcel. We were all having flashbacks to 1985 or maybe it was just withdrawal symptoms.

Our side of the family had been neglected by the music wizard, but when it stopped on one of Danielle’s bridesmaids and her dare was “Share your most embarrassing moment.” The three of us looked at each other with a sigh of relief that the parcel had not landed gracefully within our grasp, for fear one of us caught off guard would answer honestly. Of course all of those stories probably contain a roadie or two and Pass the Parcel was not really the venue.

By the end of Pass the Parcel we were all worried that Musical Chairs would be next and my mother would end up with her ample derriere wedged on top of a younger, quicker Christine in a chair but it was not time for more games, it was finally time to eat.

My mother and Christine have one similarity they both are amazing hostesses, and Christine had a spread of Moroccan food that was twice as much as all of us could eat, all of us of course except for my mother.

Never reluctant to grab a dinner plate, my mother uncharacteristically hung back, then gave herself several ungenerous portions while Christine introduced each food group,

“ We have roasted butternut squash with cinnamon, Chicken and prunes, and a kale and chickpea salad.”

My mother looked like she was choking on a digestive enzyme as she chewed on a piece of butternut squash wishing it was a roast potato. And Kale, she never touched super foods unless it was a Smirnoff raspberry martini, and she could have used one of those right about now to make up in calories, what she was loosing in appetite.

The rest of us thought it was delicious. As we were finishing up dinner, the boys arrived back. I could sense my mother’s relief for male company. She began picking on my brother within two minutes.

“Why are you wearing that shirt?”

“You need some new clothes for your honeymoon, which reminds me.”

“What mom?” Giles answered.

“I have forgotten to give you, your Trousseau. Do you know what a Trousseau is?”

“No” he said.

People were milling about getting ready to leave.

I was thinking mom would be the first one out the door if it was going to get her home quicker and closer to that raspberry martini, but now that my brother was back she had threshold paralysis.

“Come on mom I said, every one is getting ready to leave,” as the other girls said their thank yous and goodbyes. I was desperate not to be the last ones here in case my mother tried to touch one of Christine’s falsie eyelashes.

My sister and I gathered her bags, and as I put them at her feet, she asked

“Do you know what a Trousseau is?”

“Isn’t it like some sort of hope chest?” was my answer.

“Wrong” she said. I was actually right.

And then proudly like she had won a game of jeopardy after loosing at pass the parcel, announced. “A trousseau is gift of clothing for the honeymoon.”

“Isn’t that for the bride?” I asked. Right again.

“It doesn’t matter, I can give one to the groom if I want.”

“Of course mom can do what ever you want.”

“A Trousseau is a gift of lingerie for the bride to use on the honeymoon.”

“You bought Giles lingerie for his honeymoon?” I had visions of Giles running around Venice Italy in a Chippendales outfit.

“I bought him clothes for his honeymoon.”

“Then stop calling it a Trousseau.” I said.

By this time the family squabble had distracted my sister and I from our mission to leave. My mother would not stop talking so we ended up outside with step dad Rich who was directing traffic exiting the back yard.

“I think I better back your car out of the yard for you because it’s tight getting out.”

He offered.

“Oh that’s nice of you.” I said.

“Or would you like to do it, I can direct you.”

“Oh no, that’s okay you can move the car if that’s easier,” I said, looking forward to a snooze on the way home and not wanting to volunteer to be the driver as mom had already gracious offered to stay sober.

“Oh we don’t have the keys,” I said looking through moms purse.

“I’ll go and get them from her.” Rich said

He came back dangling mothers keys as mom stood in the entry way still talking about Giles’ Trousseau to his mortification.

Anna Laura and I follow Rich around the house to the backyard, as we walked into the lawn area, I suddenly remembered our drive to the party. My stomached turned and it was not the butternut squash, I had remembered, THE FLASK. My first thought was “Thank God mom put it under the floor matt and on the passenger side.” But it was too late, Rich was steps away. As he was turning the key in the door, I thought about yelling something about a shooting star or a meteorite but it was cloudy and he would have thought I was crazy, so I just watched it happen.

Anna Laura climbed into the back seat and I returned to the passenger seat. As I opened the door treading very lightly on the floor matt while getting in, I was hit with a waft of something so pungent it was unmistakable, GIN.

Rich didn’t seem to blink an eye, he got in and turned the key and began backing us out of the yard. My mind was racing… Mom had laid the flask on its side under the floor matt and it had clearly leaked- proof perhaps that we had not in fact consumed the Gin, but would that matter in this situation? I think not. As Rich backed up the Perrier cans started to rattle around, I slipped my foot out of my shoe and tried to contain them as the little car made tight turns backwards and forwards out of their driveway. Finally brilliance struck,

“Smells like Windex” I said.

“Hmmm” Rich said.

“I think he bought it.” I thought.

Rich put the parking break on outside the front door, there was a slight tinkle of aluminum can on titanium flask but I was betting Rich was going deaf. I rattled my bamboo diffuser reeds hoping to mask the sound.

Mom climbed in and as she was driving home we told her about the flask. I fetched it from underneath the floor matt and sure enough it had leaked. I read the engraving on it.

“Awarded to Chris Worsick for outstanding athletic achievement September 1980.”

“They gave him a flask for athletic achievement?”

“It was England in 1980. It probably hasn’t been used since 1982.” I said.

“Shouldn’t have married an older man.”

“You tell Chris, he could have ruined the wedding!”

“No mom, that’s your job.”

“So what’s really in Giles’s trousseau- did you get him a thong too?”

Meanwhile, Anna Laura looked up Trousseau on her blackberry,

“A trousseau is a wine grape also known as Bastardo, it is also a syndrome- a migratory thrombophlebitis.”

“An over mothering syndrome or under grandmothering syndrome.” I said.

“Migratory Thrombophlebitis sounds bad.” Mom said.

“It is bad, you probably get it from drinking too much Gin.”

“Or from playing Pass the Parcel.”

We topped the night off with a night cap when we got home and celebrated what was just a precursor to the main affair. The wedding was only weeks away…..

Stay tuned for the wedding series of blogs: “Two weddings and a funeral.”