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