Saturday, October 18, 2008

(another chapter of The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage)

The Cake Arrives Without Us

The reception was a mosh pit leap of faith for us. We threw our announcement to the wind, did what we could, farmed out the rest, taking people up on any and all offers of aid, and trusted that our friends and family would come through. They did.

Laurie arrived at our front door just after we left for church, with two enormous and fragrant bouquets made up of flowers I didn’t know existed, and stayed on to assist with food, prep, and any friction that might occur between mothers, aunts, or arriving relatives.

Laurie is a “people person” with enviable social skills (as well as that enviable wardrobe) who manages to be simultaneously bubbly and coolly efficient. She is lovely, willowy, and recently single, though when we met nine years ago at the co-op preschool, she was managing to be lovely and willowy, while pregnant with her daughter, Elia, and was married to Matt, who is a nice guy, a good dad, and since cutting off his long hair, bears an uncanny resemblance to my father circa 1962 (chinos, horn rim glasses, slicked back dark hair, sideburns, not the strongest of chins).

Their son, Kade, is a smooth operator who’s been friends with Duncan since preschool, when Kade would routinely fall into a swoon dressed as Prince Charming in order to impress the girls, when he wasn’t challenging someone to a duel. He greeted the news of our marriage with a whoop and a cheer and an “All Right!” while his eight year-old sister, Elia, responded in the way so many children did upon hearing the news--“I thought they were already married.”

Aunt Maureen arrived in a whirlwind of crystal dishes, sterling silver trays, and lace table cloths that elevated our event to a whole new level, beyond Costco, and darned near semi-formal. She dove right into setting out the food, arranging tasty homemade canap├ęs in circles, and moving Costco veggies onto more suitable display.

While we were cutting cake in Fuller Hall, my mother and her sister, Maggie, arrived at our house bearing baklava, pita bread, and hummus. Maggie drove down from Everett, Washington, the day before, having been called into action on behalf of my side of the family, fortunately available on a moment’s notice.

There are three sisters in that generation, the daughters of David and Elaine, who had been socialists, intellectuals, conscientious objectors, and atheists, and put away an astounding amount of vodka, though they always waited until cocktail hour, and were not atypical of their milieu re: such habits. My grandmother, who went by Mima, blessed our relationship early on when she said she “saw waves” between us, illustrating this with a dramatic arm gesture and almost a wink. My grandfather looked on Jannine as a son-in-law of sorts, and a favorite one at that.

My Aunt Maggie is the blonde in the trio of sisters, a vivacious middle child who attracts men in droves. My mother is the brunette, the eldest of the girls, intellectual, shy, and done, thoroughly done, with men. My Aunt Miranda is the redhead, younger by several years, and still deep in the trenches of childrearing.

It is strangely ironic that the women who helped most in making the celebration of our wedding possible are themselves single and divorced.

Our buddy Jason (also single, though never married) arrived with the wedding cake while we were gone. It was perfect: two-tiered, white, traditional, and elegant. Everything I would have asked for, if I’d been asked.

I was not, in an unspoken understanding with my wife, being asked for too many particulars during the days preceding this event, which left a lot up to Jannine.

When our friend Jason called with an earnest desire to order us a wedding cake, Jannine initially told him “No,” but then called him back, and asked if he was serious. He was. She gave him four pieces of information: when, where, approximate number of guests, and to keep it traditional.

When we thanked him again and again later, he told us to stop, “It made my week!” Apparently, he had gone to the bakery, Helen Bernhard’s, and asked to see the wedding cake book with photographs of all the various designs, options, and prices. He and the bakery assistant started looking through it, beginning with the very traditional white, tiered cakes, and moved toward the unconventional. When he told her that it was a lesbian wedding, she said, “Oh!” and opened the book to the rainbow section. Jason told us he said, “Oh, no,” grabbed the book back out of her hand, and flipped right back to the traditional cakes. He knows us well.

With the cake, Jason brought a porcelain wedding topper of two women in white dresses with actual veils that can be flipped back and forth like bridal action figures. They came from a company that makes mix-and-match wedding figures that come in a choice of genders and ethnicities. You can have an Asian man and an African-American woman. You can have a white man and a Hispanic woman. You can have an African-American man and a white man. Or, in this case, two white women. The clerk told Jason he’d made a mistake when he brought them to the checkout, drawing his attention to the fact that they were both female, and Jason said, “Where have you been all week? Haven’t you seen the news?”Maureen and Laurie arranged the table in our dining room bay window, the wedding cake taking center stage, flanked by flowers and food.

Everything was ready.

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