Monday, April 11, 2005

Sometimes, I Love Surprises

I had a great time because the bitchy cousins who piss me off were NOT there, and the really cool people I never get to see WERE there. Also I had new shoes.

My parents arrived at around 1pm Saturday. Dad chatted with G while Mom and I perused my limited closet. "Ouiser, wear the dress," Mom said. "This is a big deal." I sighed and didn't argue. I went with the Grandma-Would-Have-Approved look. We had to stop by the ubermall so I could buy high-heeled off-white sandals, but once we arrived at the party and handed the keys to the valet (gasp) I realized that this event was not a typical family party, and went far beyond the dress code.

My aunt and uncle literally threw themselves a second wedding reception. One Hundred and Fifty aunts, uncles, and cousins were in attendance. We filled a banquet hall! There was a gourmet Italian buffet, a dance floor, an awesome DJ, an open bar all night (THANK YOU GOD), and an A/V presentation that some cousins had put together with pictures of the family going back three generations. Aunt and Uncle had a whole new wedding, fifty years after their first one.

Aunt was in a wedding dress. It was a modern, rather subdued one, but the woman bought herself a wedding dress! Their best man and maid of honor were there, in full attendant regalia, these tiny little old people with ears sticking out and happy creases around their eyes. A priest said a blessing, and we all stood and held hands.

This particular aunt and uncle have a rather dynamic story to their marriage. Their lives haven't been easy. Uncle was a fireman, and almost died on the job when he fell through a roof. At the time, they were young adults raising a family. Aunt not only nursed him back to health but kept the kids going while she did it. In more recent years, they took care of Uncle's mother as she gradually succumbed to Alzheimer's. Aunt's mother - my grandmother's only sister - died when Aunt was very young.

This couple eloped out of state when Aunt was fifteen years old; their first child followed soon after. Looking at my aunt in her new wedding dress, I wondered if this was the only wedding dress she had ever worn in her life. A long time to wait for the Great White Dress, I thought to myself. My generation whines if we hit 25 without a wedding dress fitting. Aunt and Uncle's kids have all grown up to be fantastic people, some of the "cool" cousins that I wish I saw a lot more of. They all have kids of their own, adorables in smart clothes with smarter things to say.

And here's me, with a failed marriage that didn't even last three years, hanging out with my cousin Slick, a salesman who's 43 and never married, who can *almost* keep pace with me at the bar. His two brothers have long-standing successful marriages and great kids. My two best girlfriends, who are like sisters to me, have also managed to pull this marriage thing off. I wonder if my cuz was wondering, like I was, how people with so many strikes against them managed to succeed at something we haven't been able to get right.

Slick didn't waste any time getting in good with the bartender and the DJ, and they kept my glass full and my feet dancing. I managed to knock back somewhere between six and eight vodka tonics (I lost track). I danced all night with Slick and his cute brothers, and chatted with their wives, and sang "Proud Mary" with the DJ.

Eventually Slick and I got Mom to do a shot with us, and I realized something was different about the air in this place. Maybe we were all inspired my the happy occasion, especially after there have been so many funerals in the past year. Even my dad was having fun, dancing with the pretty Italian girls, swapping stories about when he first met Mom and the rest of this crazy clan. Frankly, it was the best party I've been to in years. It was a celebration of life.

I stayed with my parents in a hotel that night, and at about 3:45am my cell phone rang. I ignored it. The next day I checked my messages, and it was Slick, drunkenly proposing marriage to me. Sheesh. Whattapahty.

Sunday was spent in my new hometown of Nyack, sitting in the courtyard of our apartment building with G and my parents, drinking wine and snacking on cheese and bagel chips and fruit, feeling slightly buzzed at 2pm. It was about 75 degrees and perfectly sunny. Flowers were blooming, bees were buzzing but mostly minding their own business. For a few hours, I thought I was dreaming.

My parents seem to be getting along with G very well, which was an immense relief to me, since their first meeting didn't go so well. The old hippie parents and the Massachusetts Republican boyfriend have heard many stories about each other, and when I first introduced them over dinner in Manhattan last fall, everyone was
nervous, and the conversation was awkward. I had to smooth things over a bit after the fact.

Over the months though, G and I have only gotten closer, and of course are now living together. My parents know this isn't just another boyfriend. I guess they decided to give him a real sporting chance. Everybody was in a good mood. The folks and I had just been to a fun party, the weather was nice, and we had no schedule and no rush to the day. G had been relaxing and enjoying a quiet Saturday while Mom and Dad and I were in Jersey. Everything seemed to come together perfectly.

G and Dad had no problems chatting away while Mom and I got distracted and went off on tangents about girl stuff. We lounged in the cast iron chairs, clinking wine glasses and telling all sorts of stories. G bustled about being the happy host, running in and out the house getting more snacks, bringing pillows, fetching sunscreen for Daddy's head, etc. At some point we took a leisurely stroll into town to the local pastry shop, and we lingered in front of shop windows, feeling free to take all the time in the world. Later on, G drove us around the neighborhood in his convertible with the top down, showing off the beautiful old mansions along the river, with flowering trees and the views of the water through the shady trees.

I've never had a boyfriend make so much effort and do so well entertaining my parents. We even navigated a brief discussion of communism, where they managed to find common ground. Maybe - just maybe - this might work after all.

Man. Just when I expected to have a lousy, stressful time, and for everybody to piss me off.

What was that I said about continuing to hope?

I think it works.

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