(another chapter of The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage)
Paper Plates Please
Grandma and Grandpa were ready and waiting for us on the bench at the train station, sitting peacefully side by side with their overnight bags. They were, for once, alone. Usually they arrive toting one or more grandsons from Seattle in their camper van, a jolly crowd descending upon us. We’d requested they arrive solo, not because we don’t love our nephews, but because we needed their help to get this party off the ground, if only for the moral support.
When we reached our house with a take-out lunch, the Maid Brigade women were still trying to find our kitchen countertop under the dirt, so we huddled around the coffee table in the upstairs playroom having lunch, hearing gossip, and bringing the grandparents up to speed on the agenda: I was putting Graeme down for a nap, the older children were going to be angels and play quietly, and they were going to Costco with Jannine to buy lots of food.
Grandma and Grandpa love Costco.
On the way, Jannine explained to her parents (in, I trust, a diplomatic fashion) that they were not to dirty a single dish, fork, or spoon before the wedding reception the following afternoon. We would be having take-out meals: paper plates only, plastic cutlery, paper napkins.
She knew (but didn’t tell her parents) that I was a woman on the edge, severely sleep deprived, on emotional overload, up to my aching armpit in unused breast milk, and I couldn’t handle normal wear and tear on top of prepping for a reception. Jannine didn’t want dirty dishes to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, sending me running to the store for beer and cigarettes, and never coming back.
Her parents, bless them, said OK, and happily ate off paper plates, scrupulously avoided non-disposable kitchen items, and in no way hindered our efforts to arrive at Sunday without a nervous breakdown.
Hours later, they returned from Costco with provisions for an army. It was good that Jannine was in charge of food procurement, she came back with things I’d never have thought of: smoked salmon, barbecued pork, cold cuts, crackers, and cream puffs, in simply enormous quantities. We enlisted the kids to carry in the bottled beverages, lining them up along the deck for the night to keep them cold.
Sunday morning arrived sunny and uncharacteristically warm. I managed to get up before the rest of the family, and stepped out to get the newspaper in my bare feet and pajamas. The galvanized bins were ready to fill with ice and drinks, the steps were decorated with flowering annuals, and the silver “Just Married” banner that Terri bought us was hung over our porch, announcing our news.
The newspaper was on the lower steps by the sidewalk, and as I reached for the paper, I saw the pile of dog poop directly in front of our bottom step.
I tried to imagine a scenario in which a dog owner would allow his dog to poop in front of someone’s steps, and not at least clean it up, or pull the dog away mid-poop. I didn’t like to think it was on purpose, but that pile was perfectly positioned.
I slipped the plastic bag off my Sunday Oregonian and picked up the dog debris, then started back across our lawn to the driveway and garbage cans. Three steps across the grass I saw it, the razor blade wedged blade up in the grass path, seemingly placed so that a barefoot adult or child walking from door to driveway might get sliced. I stooped, looked closer, and tried to wrap my mind around any other way it could have arrived there. Maybe it worked its way up through the soil, or fell when someone was walking across the grass, carrying, for some reason, an unwrapped razor blade?
I picked it up and dropped it with the bag of dog doo in our garbage can, grabbed my newspaper, and went back inside to read the comics and regain my Zen for the day.
It was a slow motion morning. Somehow, the rush was over. Everything that could be done was done. We’d cleared the decks as much as is possible when you have three kids and fifteen pets: one dog, two rabbits, two guinea pigs, five birds, two lizards, two frogs, and a fish; Maid Brigade had done their best, and now it was time to let it be. If it rained, we had no idea where we would put people, but if it didn’t, we could open the front door and use the porch for overflow, the side deck could take another dozen, and the back steps four, in a pinch, though they were pretty rickety, and would later come down with a couple of blows from a sledgehammer one weekend morning when Jannine was feeling inspired.
Jannine got dressed in five minutes flat, as usual, in jeans and a Ward Cleaver shirt buttoned over a white T-shirt, after asking me, “Honey, what do you want me to wear?” I dressed the boys: Duncan in khakis and a jean shirt, Graeme in jeans and his cowboy shirt from our friend, Pam, a long-sleeve onesie with retro cowboys printed all over the fabric, and Anna dressed herself in the white lace T-shirt and black velvet skirt we bought in a speedy shopping excursion the Friday after our wedding. In consideration of my grotesquely lopsided condition, I wore my jean jacket over my black tank, thereby coordinating with our girl, both boys, and my wife!
I slipped on the black and white striped garter belt Terri bought for me during her visit to the party store, and was disturbed that it bit into my thigh, though I shrugged and kept it on for luck, figuring it was a sign that I needed to think about some exercise. Pulling it off hours later, and returning it to its package, I saw that Terri had accidentally bought an arm band, instead of a garter.
I brushed Anna’s hair into an upswept, glossy blonde pony tail. We even had time to paint our toenails in what our friend Sheila calls “Hooker Red,” and I gave her a kiss of lipstick and a brush of blush in honor of the day.
Everything seemed under control. The sun was shining. The children looked like angels. All was right in our world. No dog doo or razor blade could dampen the day.