Saturday, August 16, 2008

(another chapter from The Brides of March)

What Now?

The ink wasn’t dry on our marriage license when flowers arrived at our house. While we were making our weary way home from the church (it wasn’t even one o’clock in the afternoon), our neighbor, Carol, was leaving a message on our voice mail asking if we’d had “a happy event?”
At Marty and Terri’s house across the street, flowers were waiting on the steps. At Chris and Lisa’s house, a neighbor had delivered wine and an enormous flowering shrub. We arrived at our house after a pit stop at the County Building to rescue the chairs, dragged our exhausted and elated selves into the house, and collapsed.

The vans were a mess of chairs, air mattresses, sleeping bags, and uneaten granola bars, but that could wait. Duncan and Anna went off to play Game Cube with McKenzie, while Marty and Terri recovered for a moment in the privacy of their home. Soon, they were over at our house, and Lisa, too, coming through the door carrying bags of eclectic groceries she’d gathered from home. In a post-traumatic mania, she began whipping up eggs, pancakes, and hash browns for everyone at our house, while Chris slept on the couch at home and their kids joined the Game Cube crowd upstairs.

Jannine and I could only sit there at our old round kitchen table, alternately catatonic with wonder and wildly verbal as we rehashed this synergistic experience we had just been through; the sum total of the waiting, the emotion, and the sharing of these precious moments far greater than its parts.

Graeme was in his high chair, wolfing down milk, yogurt, and scrambled eggs. He’d been too stimulated to eat while in line, too tired in the car, too disoriented at the church (except for that handful of Ritz crackers which will always remain in my memory, and possibly in that of the church janitor’s as well). Now, he was scarfing too much, too fast. He coughed, sneezed, or just burped, and everything he’d eaten came out in a stream of milky baby vomit that cascaded through my long hair, over my shoulder, and onto Lisa’s coat.

So experienced were the parents sitting around the table that not one person blanched or even paused. They smiled and went on eating, while Jannine dropped her jaw and grabbed a towel to begin clearing up the wreckage. Into the wash went Lisa’s coat. Into the shower I went. Graeme got a washing up for which he was long overdue, considering the ground he’d been crawling over.

While I was in the shower, three bouquets arrived, two from parents at Anna’s school, and one from our friend and neighbor, Megan, who came in and joined us at the kitchen table to enjoy our collective buzz, hear the story firsthand, and glory in our county’s liberal progress. With a fresh coat of paint, and smelling a whole lot better, I rejoined the crew in time to help finish the recap for Megan, accept her hearty congratulations, and resume my lunch.

After Megan left, the question around the table was: what do we do from here? Is this it?
Lisa leaned back in her chair, and said, “I don’t know about you gals, but I feel good and married.”

Jannine nodded. “Me, too,” I said, “I thought we’d want to do it again, but no, that was just right.” Terri and Marty were nodding, too.

We had, all of us, thought that maybe we’d have another ceremony later, a few days later, or a couple of weeks, to allow relatives and friends from far away who would like to come, to come. Jannine and I had spoken to Tom Disrud about saving time the following Saturday, thinking we’d schedule it soon to better ensure it happening before the county stopped issuing licenses, which wouldn’t necessarily invalidate our marriage, but would have made any ceremony anti-climactic as heck.

We all felt that it would be redundant to do it again. Yet, as the phone calls came, we felt some sort of celebration was in order. Sleep deprivation making us indecisive, we shelved that topic, and Lisa suggested we needed cake.

Wedding cake for Jeanna and Ellen’s wedding that evening.

I got on the phone and called bakeries optimistically, and they laughed when I asked how soon a wedding cake could be thrown together. After the fifth try, an actual wedding cake was out, but we knew Costco was always good for tasty sheet cakes, and Lisa offered to go.

In fact, Lisa seemed to need to go, go, go. We all deal with the unexpected in different ways. All Jannine wanted was to crash, Marty and Terri had snuck off to sleep on our couch, and I wanted to make darn sure Graeme had a good nap before we tried to take him to any more weddings. Anna had money to spend on canned food for the food bank collection at school, so since Costco is the place for canned tuna and beans, she went with Lisa and Katie, where they bought sheet cakes, seltzer water, and an impulse purchase television/DVD/VCR combo which imploded months later when a bolt of lightning struck their house.

Jacob, McKenzie, and Duncan played video games upstairs, unaware of any of this, while the rest of us went into sleep mode.

By the time we got to the First Unitarian church that night, we were showered, dressed up, and reasonably rested.

I didn’t get to see Jeanna and Ellen’s exchange of vows, though. The second the doors of the Channing Room closed for their ceremony, Graeme began struggling and let out a piercing shriek that bounced off the walls and echoed through the building. He’d had quite enough of weddings for one day, and wasn’t going to be silenced. Since Jeanna and Ellen were one of three couples getting married back to back, I escaped quickly with him to the church toddler room for the duration.

As I hustled Graeme down the hall, I passed two local reporters and a camera man grumbling about not being allowed in for the ceremony, saying what was wrong with these people anyway, not letting them in when they’d been sent down to the church to cover the story? As if our weddings were only news.

After the ceremonies, Lisa brought out the cakes from Costco, and set them on tables in the same hallway we’d had lunch in that day. All the kids were in remarkably good humor considering what they’d all been through, and their own lack of sleep. Jannine and I were already pondering the possibility of wedding presents for our three. Seven weddings in a day is a lot for any kid (or adult), and after we ate a great deal of cake, we were all ready to call it a night.

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