The Date, Part 2

December 18, 2009

“So, do you know when you’re getting married?” I asked my daughter.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She said.

“Why not?” I said.

“Because I want to get married the first week of June and M wants to get married in February, and I can’t plan a wedding by February, and the whole thing is freakin’ me out!”

I was so lost.

Plan a wedding? Was that completely necessary?

I had a perfectly wonderful wedding, and I don’t remember doing any planning. Hundreds of people joined us to celebrate our blessed union. We greeted them, fed them and opened their gifts—what was there to plan?

I was in school and working, and I didn’t think much about the big day, though K did her best to involve me as much as possible. I think she asked my opinion on the wedding announcement—the paper, the lettering, that type of thing. I chose one. She chose another, which you can see today in our wedding album. 

“How many for your side?” K asked me.

“15,” I said.

“Never mind, I’ll ask your mother,” she said. My mother ended up requesting 125.

At some point, while we were driving down Interstate 15, K told me she didn’t know what to do about a photographer.

“A photographer? I don’t want anyone taking my picture. No photographer!” I said.

“We’re having a photographer,” she said.

Well, someone was taking pictures that day because I have the album full of pictures to prove it, but I don’t remember meeting with a photographer or posing much. I believe the pictures we do have came from the collective efforts of family members who happened to bring their instamatics that day.

Two days before the wedding I bought a black suit and put a rush order on the tailoring. I had some brown dress shoes, which didn’t go with my new suit at all. So I took the shoes down to a shoe repair place and had them dyed black. Rush order on that too.

I was given five months to get ready for my wedding, and I was confident that I had used those five months wisely. Everything was in place. Still, I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something….

I called a good friend.

“Hey, I’m getting married!” I excitedly told this friend.

“That’s great,” my friend said, “When?”

“Tomorrow. Can you come?”

After a few more of those phone calls, I had everything in place.

That was all there was to it.

“Your wedding doesn’t have to be complicated,” I said to my daughter. Then I proceeded to tell her all the possibilities, one of which included a big pancake breakfast. She didn’t like any of my suggestions.

“Then do a simple ceremony in February and have a blow-out reception in June,” I said.

“I don’t want to plan a reception for Utah while I’m living in Texas.”

“Why not? Mom and I will take care of everything. We were living in Utah and had an incredible reception in California, and grandma did the whole thing. We just showed up.”

We had been married close to three months when it came time for the California reception. We’d already had two: one in Utah and one in Idaho. But I was confident that the California reception would be the best. That was my side of the family.

The California reception was for family and friends who could not attend the wedding.  The drive to California should have taken us eleven or twelve hours. We had one stop to make in Las Vegas to pick up my sister. We started the trip at four o’clock in the afternoon, and the way we figured it, we would get to my mom’s house about two in the morning.

Traffic out of our valley was uncharacteristically at a standstill. No one was moving. I figured we’d have better luck on the surface streets and got off the freeway at the first opportunity. We were really moving then, until the railroad crossing gates came down. The train was travelling at five mph, if not slower. Car after car we counted. Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight. We waited for the train to speed up, but it never did. Forty-two, forty-three, forty-four.  We were boxed in with no way of turning around. Besides, I could see the freeway from where we were, and traffic still was not moving. Eighty-nine, ninety, ninety-one. It was the longest train we had ever seen, and we got a pretty close look. One hundred thirty-three, one hundred thirty-four. After an hour, we finally saw the caboose. We started our engines, very anxious to be on our way. Just as the caboose was about to pass, the train stopped. The wait continued.

After many minutes, the train gave a mighty oomph and started rolling…in reverse. One hundred sixty-two, one hundred sixty-one, one hundred sixty, one hundred fifty-nine. It was the slowest déjà-vu we had ever experienced.

Eventually we were on the road at highway speeds. By the time we reached Las Vegas, it was after midnight. We didn’t have cell phones in those days, so we hadn’t alerted my sister to the delay. Didn’t matter, when we got to her place, she wasn’t there. So we waited. At least an hour.

This was the second time K would see my sister. About five months earlier, I was taking K to California to meet my family. It was President’s Day weekend. We, naturally, got a late start, and my sister kindly let us stay the night with her in Las Vegas before continuing on to California.

“Whatever you do,” I said to K, “Act like you want my sister to come with us to California. I don’t really want her there this weekend, so if we insist, she will say no.”

We arrived at my sister’s place and sat down on her sofa to visit. She was smoking two cigarettes, one in each hand. She sounded nervous.

“You’re really getting married? You’re really getting married?” She must have asked twenty times.

“I’ll prove it to you,” I said. “We have our announcements in the car.” I got up from the couch and was out the door.

I wasn’t thinking. I left the two of them alone.

“Hey,” my sister said to K, “Are you seriously going to marry him?” She took a puff on each of her cigarettes. “You better be careful. Steve’s horrible with money. It burns a hole in his pocket. He can’t hold onto a dime.” Puff, puff, puff, puff, puff.

The next morning we packed up the car. Many times we begged her to go with us to California. She refused.  We were nearly home free, but I had to seal the deal. “Why don’t you come with us?” Please say no, please say no, please say no, please say no, please say no.

I didn’t like the look she gave me.

The ride down to California was one of the worst in memory. She had the back seat all to herself, but she chose to lean in towards the front, framing herself between the bucket seats. Her mouth was inches from my ear, and her face filled my rear-view mirror. For the next four hours she gave me a free driving lesson. I really lucked out.  It turns out that I wasn’t doing one thing right. My sister pointed that out, not wasting one minute of the drive. And it’s a good thing the lesson was free—the way I am with money…

Now we were sitting in front of her apartment a second time, and for reasons I can’t explain, I wanted her to come with us to our California reception. I thought we should all be together for this occasion.

I told K: “Pretend you don’t want her to go. Act annoyed that she coming.” When she finally showed up at her place, I could tell she had been drinking. She deliberately tried to miss us. She thought it was safe to come home, banking that we would have given up and gone on without her, but we had been delayed by the train.

I should have been glad. My sister had misbehaved horribly that President’s Day weekend. She yelled at everyone. She criticized me incessantly. She introduced me to old family friends as if we were total strangers. When they reminded her that they knew me quite well, she’d say, “Oh, I figured you’d never met the way he was ignoring you.” After all that, I still wanted her to go. Turns out we didn’t need her.

Our reception was at the family home, which at the time was being rented by my sister and her family. My sister planned to spend the morning of our reception at a friend’s house making us a wedding cake, so she did all of her housecleaning the day before. The place was spotless, and she wanted it to stay that way. As she was leaving to go bake the cake, she left specific instructions.

  1. “Do not leave any valuables lying out. R’s wife will be coming today.” (R is my brother)
  2. “Do not open this door.” (The door she referred to led to a well-stocked toy room. At the top of the door, out of reach from children, was a hook lock.”

Then she left.

Shortly after, my brother and his 3-year old son came by to say hello. He wasn’t quite used to the idea that my sister was renting my mother’s home. He plopped himself on the couch and, reposing, demanded Sunday brunch from my mother. My mother tried to explain there would be no brunch that day as we were preparing for a wedding reception. But he insisted, “we always have brunch on Sunday” he said, so my mother sent me to the store with a grocery list. When I returned home, my brother was still resting comfortably on the sofa. I heard a loud crack coming from the backyard. When I looked out the sliding door, I saw a large piece of wood flying from the roof, landing with a whack. My sister’s husband decided he’d finally get around to reroofing the covered patio, where the reception would be. My sister had asked her husband to fix the roof months before, and he didn’t want to get on her bad side. Another loud crack. Another whack. K was panicked. Guests would be arriving in five hours.  Crack. Whack. I told her not to panic. Everything would turn out.

“You’ll see,” I said.

I know most people don’t pray for rain on the day of their outdoor wedding reception, but I did. The next CRACK we heard was thunder, and rain it did. The reroofing would have to wait. Fortunately, my brother-in-law had not done too much damage to the roof, and I couldn’t see anywhere where the roof was leaking onto the patio. Neither could my brother-in-law. In fact, it was so dry under that roof that my brother-in-law decided to paint the railings and support beams.

Inside, my mother was frantically preparing sandwiches, which she hoped would pass off for brunch. My brother, at some point, got off the couch just long enough to lift the catch of the lock on the toy room door and give his son unfettered access. My nephew, the natural disaster in training pants.  Somehow he did a cannonball in the middle of that room, and the toys landed everywhere. Almost instantaneously the entire house was messy. Toys, newspapers, dirty dishes, and stuff. Everywhere. It all happened so fast. We never even noticed that my nephew got into K’s bright red nail polish and painted a big, solid square on a bedroom door.

We had table and chairs to set up, food to cook, and K wanted plenty of time to get ready. Now we had to add cleaning to the list. Before we could get started, the door bell rang. It was my uncle, my mother’s only brother. He was hours early. The last time I saw him was at his wedding a few years before. I think it was his third marriage. He was forty something.  So was his new father-in-law. He was still married when he came to see us that day. To a different wife. This one came with credentials. She was a former Miss California and rumored to be wealthy. We visited for about twenty minutes and learned that my new aunt had relatives in Provo, Utah where K and I lived.

It was so good to see my uncle. More importantly, they brought a gift. We waited for them to leave before we opened it.

“I heard she’s a millionaire,” my mother said as K unwrapped the present.

(to be continued)

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