The Date

December 5, 2009

After we demanded to see the ring, we demanded to know when they planned to get married.

“I don’t know yet,” my daughter said. “I told M I’d let him know in a week.”

I figure they’ll get married sometime in the Fall. My wife thinks I’m crazy.

“I know they’re going to get married in May,” she said.

According to her, it has to be May. It’s perfect! After all, that’s when we’re planning a trip to Mexico, and something has to ruin our plans. And don’t forget about April 15, and don’t forget that we always owe taxes on April 15.

Oh, I thought. I forgot that we’re supposed to be worried about money.

I’ve never been good at estimating expenses. I remember years ago when I bought my first car. Not the green one that I bought for $300 when I was in college, the one I drove for three weeks, the one I abandoned in a downtown parking spot on the street because it wouldn’t start, the one I didn’t  repair because it never occurred to me to repair it. I don’t count that one.  I’m talking about the Honda Civic. K and I had been married for a couple of years and decided we needed a bigger car. Yes, compared to the car we were driving, the Civic was a much roomier upgrade. Anyway, we hadn’t planned on a Civic at first. We had budgeted $200 a month for a car, and K thought the Honda dealership would be a good place to start looking, which was fine by me. We had plenty of time to make it to the Cadillac dealership, where I was certain that with a $200 monthly payment, we would have our pick of any brand new Cadillac on the lot. To me, $200 was a ridiculous amount of money to spend monthly on a car, and anyone who could afford that kind of money must be buying Cadillacs. Imagine my shock when I learned that the Honda dealership wanted $210 for a stripped down Civic–$230 if we wanted air!

So a few months ago, when I was out running with a neighbor, we got to talking about my daughter and her boyfriend, M. My neighbor wanted to know if I had any money saved should there be a wedding.

“Enough,” I said.

She didn’t believe me, so she asked me how much I thought a wedding cost.

“$500,” I said.

She laughed.

“Do you think K’s family is going to be satisfied with a $500 wedding?”

Then I laughed.  “K’s family would be happy with a bag of Cheetos and some Pepsi,” I told her. I love my wife’s family, especially around birthdays and Christmas. They make absolutely no financial demands on us. They are not cheap, just easy to please.

I thought back to my own wedding reception, which was in my in-law’s living room in Driggs, Idaho. I vaguely arriving at the house only to see a small crowd gathered in a back room eating sandwiches, potato salad and maybe chips—these were the leftovers from our luncheon the day before in Utah. At least that’s how I remember it. When I asked K about it, she remembers a buffet of deli meats and salads spread across the washer and dryer, but she isn’t sure if it was fresh. At any rate, K and I, her sister and our parents (minus my father) later that evening lined up in the living room to receive guests. Guests came through what we referred to as the back door, made their way through the kitchen, wished us luck in the living room, then circled back for some strawberry shortcake. Along the way, they would stop to admire our wedding cake. Three magnificent tiers, the top layer strangely tall and ill-proportioned and Styrofoam. I have no memory of cutting the cake, though I’m sure it went to good use, eventually.

Yes, I think $500 is plenty.

I have many vivid memories of that night in the small hamlet of Driggs, Idaho. Two doors down from my in-laws was another wedding reception, so everyone in the valley was out and bustling about, and they came to see us, some more curious about the line than what was at the end of it. I only know that the stream of people lasted three or four hours, and we were in part responsible for one of the biggest social nights in the town’s history.

K remembers everyone who came; I remember only a select few. The year before we married, I worked one winter in Driggs, that’s how I came to meet K. She was living in Utah at the time, and I was working in Driggs to earn enough money to return to school in Utah. K happened to be visiting her parents on Thanksgiving, and I happened to be living across the street with her cousin. When he heard she was in town, he wanted to visit her, and I tagged along. We met in her parent’s kitchen. K was wearing a black, backless dress that was very form-fitting and very elegant for the surroundings. I was wearing glasses, and they were completely fogged (due to the extreme cold outside vs the warmth of the kitchen).  K turned abruptly to see us. She had a huge turkey leg in her mouth. We didn’t fall for each other til later. Anyway, there was another girl in Driggs who was away at school but occasionally would come to town to visit her parents. I saw her once or twice in the grocery store where I worked. I don’t remember speaking to her, but I talked to her parents often. I’m not sure if I ever knew this girl’s name, and I’m positive that she did not come to our reception that night. Her mother, however, did.

She first spoke to K.

“Oh, hello, K. Congratulations. You look so beautiful. You know, we have always liked Steve. He visited us often, and we just really grew to appreciate him. Say, you remember my daughter Laurie? Well, you know, Steve and Laurie, well, there were sparks, but she was engaged.”

Laurie’s mother made her way to me, congratulated me and hugged me. She told me how happy she was for me, then turned to K. “You know, there were sparks, but she was engaged.”

I introduced her to my mother. They made pleasantries. When they were through, Laurie’s mother turned to K again and said, “There were sparks, but she was engaged.”

All that was left to do was sign the guest book, which Laurie’s mom graciously did. She put down the pen, turned to face K, then, with a booming voice, said, “Just remember! There were sparks! But she— “ pausing to emphatically and repeatedly point at her ring finger “—was engaged!” Then she left.

Yes, there were others. I remember meeting two of K’s friends, one of which was quite beautiful. K introduced me to Marla, and Marla in turn introduced me to the lovely Juanita.

“She’s single,” Marla told me.

“He’s not,” K told Marla.

Another old friend of the family came through the line. “I’ll tell you,” he said to K, “I’ve gained all my respect back for you.”

“What do you mean?” K said.

“Well, I figured you’d never get married. Now that you have, I can respect you again.”

That comment bugged K the most.

 There was only one other stupid thing said that night. By me. After the reception, the whole family gathered in the living room to watch us open gifts. K comes from a large family, eight children in all, and it was the first time in years that the whole family was together, and they were together for only one reason: to celebrate our big day. I had met about half the family before we got married; the other half I was meeting for the first time, specifically one brother, the eldest, who came all the way from Seattle. We had so many gifts to open. I remember only one: a little ceramic bird that doubled as a night light. I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever seen, and I said so. I think my exact words were, “I hope this breaks real soon so we can throw this away.” I think you can guess who was giving it to us…

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