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June 06, 2005

Family Wedding

FAMILY WEDDING

I’ve been out of town for five days at a family wedding in the Midwest.

"Marriage in the Midwest!” author Joanne Fluke e-mailed me last week. “Jell-O salad. Pastel wedding mints.”

“Yes,” I e-mailed her back. “Jell-O’s big in my family.”

What am I saying? In the Sixties, maybe. Even the Seventies. But it’s been twenty years since anyone’s shown up to a family function with Jell-O in tow. Here’s what’s weird, though, about weddings: the very word sets me back, evoking retro pillbox-hat-and-white-gloves images. The Wedding Rules pop up:
Mustn’t Wear Black. Mustn’t Wear White. Must suspend judgment of tasteless music, offensive sermons, bad bridesmaid outfits.

The night before my 6:30 a.m. flight to Chicago, I realize I have nothing thing to wear, and I run out to Nordstrom’s Rack, clutching a teabag that approximates the colors in a linen skirt I bought at Ross Dress for Less. I find a sleeveless blouse thing that might work, plus some shoes, and race home to put the kids to bed, pack, pay bills, answer e-mail, clean the house, and do all the things I feel it incumbent upon me to do before traveling, as if each trip might be my last (it could happen; my mother died at the end of an Alaskan cruise) and someone else is forced to take over my life. (Susan, Sarah, and Nancy, divvy up my blog day as you see fit.) (Consider Jo Fluke as replacement author. Always good for a recipe.)

So I get to Chicago, and spend Friday with one of my many sisters at—where else?—the mall. We consider alternative wardrobe pieces. Accessories. I still have my teabag, because I now require a handbag in greige, that beige-gray mutant color. What’s great about my sisters is that we all hear the same wedding directives. In the olden days, a wedding meant staying up all night sewing the dresses we planned to wear. Dyeing shoes. Now we hit the mall.

But—horrors!— an hour before the ceremony, in bright hotel room sunlight, I see that the blouse thing I bought in the dim lights of Nordstrom’s Rack is not greige at all, that it does not match my just-ironed greige linen skirt, greige shoes, greige purse: it is cream-colored. Not merely cream-colored, but approaching bridal white. But there’s nothing to be done, because it’s the eleventh hour and now my 5-year old is expressing a strong inclination to wear blue jeans to the wedding rather than a dress, and I have to explain why that’s just not possible: “It’s the law.”

And then the coup de grace: as we get out of the car, my husband notices me for the first time, and says, “What’s with that blouse thing?” Actually, he doesn’t say that, because before he can, he gets The Look on his face, a combination of amusement and sarcasm as he studies my blouse thing, so I
know he’s going to say it, and it’s not only that the blouse isn’t teabag-colored, it’s that, along with everything else, it hangs strangely. Or something. Whatever his guy-mind registers about it. So I punch him in the gut to forestall it, and yell, “this isn’t the time to tell me I look funny, four minutes before the ceremony!” and he yells back, “I haven’t said anything!” but one of my three hundred sisters intervenes, saying, “now kids, don’t fight, it’s a wedding” and I realize that’s the other effect that weddings have on me, on our family, maybe on the whole world, a near-hysterical irritability with one’s nearest and dearest, at the exact moment you want to be all misty-eyed.

But the wedding itself is perfection, the beautiful bride in patent-leather Birkenstocks, married by her articulate brother, newly ordained by the internet, and when the (beautifully dressed) maid of honor gives a toast to her new brother-in-law that ends with, “welcome to the family. Good f-ing luck” I’m
reminded that underneath that Jell-O salad exterior, we are a family of expatriates, adulterers, divorcees, transsexuals, bluegrass musicians, living with ex-spouses, living in sin, living off the grid, that we’ve gotten married in libraries, wine-cellars, theatre lobbies, cooking schools, courthouses and forests, that we’ve had shotgun weddings, hangover weddings, weddings where the bride fainted mid-vow, weddings where the bride couldn’t stop crying long enough to say her vows, weddings that devolved into ugly political debates, wedding cakes that were covered in marijuana leaves. From this perspective, the fact that my outfit doesn’t match isn’t all that significant. Sanity returns.

At the karaoke reception, the lights grow so dim, I could don a wetsuit and cowboy boots without exciting much comment. We stay through the Cutting of the Cake, and then stay some more. It’s a great reception. By the end of it, my blouse thingie is sagging like a bad shower curtain, and mysteriously shredded, like old pantyhose. I throw it away.

No Jell-O sightings this weekend, but when I unpacked my 5-year old’s suitcase, I found 2 pastel wedding mints squirreled away in a pocket.

Anyhow, nice to be home, in the land of fruits, nuts, and internet access. In my pajamas.

Harley

Comments

Harley, please, please tell us that somebody at the wedding had a camera phone & can send us pix of that thingie!

And--Monday morning or not--I want some of that cake with the leaves!
Nancy

The last wedding I was at was for my brother-in-law. His wife-to-be's choice of color was periwinkle. I don't believe that is a real color although I suppose they had it in the biggest crayon box. Periwinkle is one of the gabillion colors that you paint walls but try to find a dress in periwinkle. I think it is one of those made-up-only-to-torture-bridesmaids-so-they-look-stupid colors like teal. I wore black (to match the guys). I heard someone say in the ladies room "See, you can wear black to a wedding!"

Nice to know I'm not the only mom who's had to lie to her daughter in order to finagle her into a dress!

Hey, Harley, had fun meeting you at RT in St. Louis! More fun than you had in my hometown of Chicago at that wedding -- altho as a former librarian I am intrigued by that brief reference to a wedding held in a library...hmmm....Cathie (writing a wedding-themed novella for Berkley as we speak...no Jell-o sighting there yet either.)
PS in an earlier blog you refered to ironing as part of housework aerobics, just wanted to add note that my mom informed me that thinking required more calories than ironing -- hence we did not iron!

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