My Brother’s Perfect Wedding

     “… and on the weather front: heavy rains and wind expected throughout the day and into the evening,” the cheerful DJ announced as the clock radio alarm interrupted my wonderful dream of a sunny garden. I fumbled for the snooze button but could not find it. I pulled the pillow over my head and screamed repeated and very rude instructions for the DJ to go and cheer someone else up.

     With only two hours sleep, and woken up three hours earlier than usual, I desperately wanted to crawl back into my warm dream. I stayed up most of the night with my son who alternately, and sometimes simultaneously, vomited and cried. Somewhere during the night he confessed to raiding the freezer and eating dozens of frozen cookies as a midnight snack. When he finally emptied his abused stomach, and fell asleep, I crawled into my side of the bed. My husband slept through the whole disaster, having just finished ten days in a row of sixteen hour shifts.

     It was raining. I could hear it thundering on the roof and the wind smashed the drops against the windows. I pulled the quilt over my head and tried to go back to sleep.

     The cheerful DJ happily announced disasters in every part of the planet. My husband turned him off and tried gently coaxing me to get up. He failed. Not even pulling the quilt from my clutching hands helped.

     “You have to get up NOW!!” my husband yelled in exasperation. “Or you are going to miss your only brother’s wedding.”

     I dragged myself out of bed and realized I had no time for a shower. I pulled on some clothes and brushed my hair before throwing everything from my dresser into my carry-on bag. My husband carried our suitcases to the front door just in time to greet our friend, Jan. She stood in the entry dripping.

     “Nice day to fly!” she said with a chuckle and tried to hug me. I managed to evade her until she pulled off her rain gear. I tried to remember everything she needed to know about taking care of our three kids, three cats and one dog.

     “Look,” she replied reasonably. “The kids are old enough to know what to do. My mother lives a block away if anything goes really wrong. Go. Have a great time.”

     “We are going to see my family.”

     Jan hugged me and patted me on the back gently.

     There was no time for breakfast. This didn’t matter much. But there was no time for coffee. This did matter. It mattered a lot.

     I am seriously addicted to my morning coffee. My husband does not expect anything sensible from me before I have started my second cup. If my children need me to get up early to drive them anywhere, they arrive at my bedside with a cup of coffee. They all learned, at a very early age, to press the button on the automatic coffee maker. I seldom forget to refill the water and coffee before bed.

     The taxi driver honked the horn for the third time, making sure our neighbors were awake too. Pulling on my raincoat while juggling my carry-on bag, I followed my husband and our suitcases. I pulled up my hood, but my hair was already soaked.

     We arrived at the Mall. Somehow I managed to follow my husband, dragging my bag. We checked in. Nothing else was open in the Mall.

     We staggered onto the bus with other dripping, sad-looking, passengers and sat, half dozing as the old bus, and the even older driver, ground through the gears and bumped our way noisily to the airport terminal where the staff hurried off the bus and opened the doors for us. The small airport had one check-in desk, washrooms and the usual hard, uncomfortable plastic seats.

     The plane was late. We sat watching the rain and waited.

     My husband is one of the founding members of the local rescue team. He personally went on over two hundred rescues that year. He is also the only good car mechanic in town. I do understand why people need him. It is easier to find a decent doctor, even a competent hairdresser than a good mechanic. About five minutes after we sat down, several men wandered over and started asking my husband about some mechanical trouble they were having.

     I sat and waited without my husband’s emotional support, and without coffee.

     We were checked through security. We waited some more. Finally the plane arrived. People got off and boarded the bus. We walked through the rain and boarded the plane. We were all tough, northern residents who were paid isolation pay for choosing to live and work in a remote community. We did not require indoor loading through covered walkways.

     We fumbled with our wet coats, managed to get settled in our seats, and stared out at the rain running in streams down the tiny windows. The plane took off, shaking dramatically, and finally leveled off for the two-hour flight.

     We were even farther behind schedule.

     The coffee machine on board was not working. There was no breakfast. There was a storm, rattling the plane. My head started aching.

     We missed our connecting flight and had to wait in a secure waiting room. Coffee addiction was not considered an emergency. We were not allowed to leave the room.

     My headache increased dramatically.

     The connecting flight was too short to offer us any refreshment. We went up. We leveled off. We came down. We stumbled off the plane, shaken and queasy. The sun shone. We managed to find our rental car in the huge lot. We found a restaurant.

     I flung open the car door and rushed inside, almost colliding with a waitress.

     “Do you serve coffee?” I asked frantically.

     She backed up a few paces, tried to smile, and nodded. Fortunately, my husband caught up with us and managed to tell her the story of our day. Looking very sympathetic, the waitress led us to a quiet booth with a view of the gardens outside. She returned immediately with cups and filled them with coffee. We ate something. The pounding in my head lowered from a sledgehammer to a small Teflon frying pan.

     Things looked much better as we left the restaurant. Although we have perpetual rain at home, the June sun blazed here.

     We went to the Botanical Gardens and spent a few minutes admiring the beautiful, luscious flowers. We had planned to spend the whole afternoon but there was little afternoon left to spend. I took lots of photos and picked up some postcards. At least I could enjoy making pages for my scrapbook when we got home.

     We drove to the hotel I had carefully chosen from the fabulous brochure. The rustic looking chalet bordered a huge forested park. Breakfast was included in the price without having to leave the grounds.

     The room looked lovely once we climbed the stairs. I started to undress to have a nice leisurely bath and a much needed nap. As I reached to undo the last button on my blouse, the door opened and a man came in. I screamed. He mumbled something and hastily retreated, closing the door behind him. My husband was irate.

     Someone from the front desk called. Apparently the manager had used his pass-key to come into our room to do some repairs. He hadn’t contacted the front desk to see whether we had checked in yet. We were told he was too embarrassed to apologize personally.

     By the time we calmed down there was no time for a nap. My husband dozed in a chair jammed in the bathroom doorway while I had my bath and let my clothes hang in the steam. I spent all the time I had left making sure I looked presentable. I checked my clothes carefully for any wrinkles. My husband checked me over. I was ready.

     We drove to my mother’s.

     Having carefully coached my husband not to leave me alone with my mother’s husband, Douglas, I arrived boldly at the door, only to find myself whisked away, with Douglas’ hand firmly gripping my arm. My husband tried to follow but was firmly cut off by my mother who launched into her complaints about the bride and her family.

     My mother’s greenhouse is an award-winning, serene retreat of scented exotic flowering plants. I found myself roughly pushed through the door, and then Douglas turned on me.

     “Your mother doesn’t need any further upset,” he announced angrily as though I was the cause of her current crisis. I waited, trying to look helpfully neutral, or at least like someone who would not cause any further upset. Douglas nodded at me approvingly and explained the situation.

     Mother was not speaking to the bride’s parents, and was extremely upset by their behavior. I am still not sure exactly what they did or did not do, but apparently Mother felt it was a gross breach of proper manners.

     I found myself volunteering to host the wedding rehearsal dinner so my mother would be spared the ordeal of dealing with the boorish future in-laws.

     Upon being released by my captor, I rejoined my husband who was still trapped by my mother’s tirade.

     She stopped long enough to give me her usual close scrutiny. No detail missed her inspection. I thought I was ready this time. I had starved and exercised off fifteen pounds. Visions of photographers, demanding family groupings, the photos immortalized on the walls, and in scrapbooks, drove me onwards. My hairdresser and I combed through magazines before deciding on the perfect, fashionable haircut. Several friends helped me choose new clothes. I wore a turquoise crepe blouse with slightly flared matching pants and leather sandals. Guaranteed to be appropriate afternoon wear for the season.

     My mother looked me over several times and curled her lip slightly before rendering her judgment.

     “You look very professional,” she said.

     My husband and I went to the restaurant picked by my mother. We greeted people as they arrived and tried to remember who was related to whom, and their position for the wedding.

     The only people we knew were my brother, and my father and his wife. My mother and her husband were unfailingly polite to them whenever they met.

     I attempted to be gracious and charming. The menu had been set by my mother weeks earlier. We were served lamb. My husband cannot eat lamb. The restaurant chef offered him another choice. We got through dinner. I could not remember anyone’s name.

     At the end, we approved the bill. As this was a wedding, we authorized everyone’s drinks.

     We checked the route to the church on the way back to the hotel.

     The next day dawned beautiful and sunny. A perfect day for a traditional June wedding. I was confident we would have no further problems.

      I went to breakfast with my husband and discovered the much advertised “included breakfast” consisted of store-bought muffins and coffee.

     We went up to dress for the wedding. I searched through my suitcase. I turned it upside-down on the bed. Somewhere at home, my beautifully embroidered cotton under-dress lay waiting to be packed. All I had to wear to the wedding was a translucent overdress in a lovely shade of dusty pink. There was no time to do anything.

      Knowing I am unable to read a map in the best of circumstances, and always get lost in cities, my husband ignored my cries when he carefully drove past the turn-off to the church. About fifteen minutes later, he admitted he did not recognize any of the landmarks, and turned around.

     We were late for the wedding.

     My brother refused to get married while his only sister was missing. When the bride arrived, expecting to find her groom and his attendants anxiously waiting for her entrance, she was told to by the usher watching for our arrival, to wait.

     We arrived at the church and where the angry bride and her father were pacing in the vestibule. Everyone was expecting the bride, and stared at us as we tried to quietly enter the church. The photographer carefully videotaped our entrance. My husband kept close behind me, keeping me in shadows so no one could see through my dress. Both sections of my family glared at us and demanded in loud whispers to explain ourselves. The usher ran through the church to inform my brother we had arrived.

     The ceremony was perfect. There were no hitches. The flower girl did not have to go to the bathroom. The little boy carrying the ring did not drop it. The best man did not fumble the ring when he passed it over. No one forgot their lines. Everyone cried appropriately.

     I was hounded by members of my family in the parking lot after the wedding.

     “Why are you trying to ruin your brother’s wedding?”

     “How could you do such a thing?”

     “How could you let her navigate, you know she always gets lost!”

     I was forced to smile through the interminable photo session while explaining why my husband had to stand behind me to block the sun from shining through my dress. The sun felt too hot. My aunt, who had not spoken to me for over fifteen years, decided she was my bosom buddy and blew her cigarette smoke over me with every breath.

     For years, my husband had listened to the praises from my mother about my younger cousin.

     “She is so beautiful. Just stunning really,” my mother claimed.

     In one of the short breaks between photos, my mother dragged us over to greet members of her family. My husband finally met my beautiful cousin. After we were dragged back for yet more photos, he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “You were much more beautiful at her age.” Then he looked at my cousin for a few minutes and whispered in my other ear, “You still are.”

     Weddings in June are wonderful. And even photo sessions come to end.

     We managed to find a store with something reasonably suitable to wear under my dress. But the detour turned me around and we were hopelessly lost. We pulled over to the side of the road while my husband read the map. We finally arrived at the reception, to be greeted by my mother who was not happy with anything. As she was not speaking to the in-laws, she had no chance to help plan the reception. She was miserable and unhappy.

     “That dress is not suitable for a wedding. A funeral maybe. Ashes of roses is not a happy summer color.”

      “I assume you think we are made out of money.”

     “You are still four pounds overweight and it shows even more in that style.”

     “You know how much your father drinks. Did you really think I should pay for that too? There was wine – why did anyone need a drink too?”

     There were more photos. After we got home, I sent my mother a photo of the two of us smiling into the camera with our arms around each other. We look very happy.

     We should both be actors.

     There was a lovely buffet meal. I remember enjoying the vast selection of great food and the beautiful strawberry and cream cake. As we finished our meal, my mother joined us.

     “I was at the end of the line, because of the photos, and there wasn’t much left.”

     “And what there is – isn’t very good either.”

     My mother is particularly delightful at parties. She can tell you to the calorie how much is on your plate, and how many calories you have already overindulged. There are NO occasions or circumstances where such essentials facts can be forgotten. She will launch into these topics with pregnant women at their baby showers, and birthdays are her specialty. We left her explaining the number of calories in the cake to the bride’s great-grandmother.

     I remember little else about the reception. There were more photos. I have a whole album dedicated to my brother’s perfect wedding. My brother and wife happily waved goodbye and left on their honeymoon, secure in the knowledge their duties were over.

     My mother planned a simple alfresco breakfast at her home the morning after the wedding. Only her relatives were invited.

     The alfresco meal was served in the formal dining room on the good bone china family dishes. There were omelets which had to be prepared individually by her gourmet cook husband, while we waited at the polished antique oak table. Built long before the invention of Verathane to protect furniture, the table marked from every drop spilled on it. My mother circled the table polishing off each drop spilled from the chilled juice glasses, and encouraged us to relax and enjoy ourselves.

     Some of us ate, others tried to carry on a pleasant conversation, while we waited for our food. There were copious amounts of my mother’s coffee although no one managed to finish their cups. My mother’s coffee can be used to strip paint, and the lining of your stomach. If I take half a cup of my mother’s coffee and add hot water for the other half, I can almost drink it. She did not offer us any hot water, and looked horrified when anyone added cream from the polished silver jug.

     There were more photos. My aunt insisted on smoking and talking to me. I choked.

     Eventually we were able to plead we needed to leave for the airport. Thankfully no one offered to come and see us off. I do not remember the flight home. I was asleep. There are compensations for living in a remote area. Relatives who need the amenities of a City, like covered walkways from the plane, seldom come to visit. And rain is also a useful deterrent. I left my hood off as we walked into the tiny terminal.

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