st. stephen's wedding
When St. Stephen emailed me to tell me that he was coming back from the Far East to get married, I expected something strange. I'm not quite sure what it was that I envisioned, but the overall assumption was that it would be a rush job, an obligatory gesture for Canadian parents with little regard for ornate celebration or luxuries. I thought we were going to stand in a field and then go to a small house party. I certainly didn't expect what we got.
It took the morning to drive to Iroquois, and the build-up alone was hair-raising. Unlike other operations on this scale, I made almost all of the preparations and did almost all of the packing. I made food for the potluck. I got the card and the wedding present. I dressed Blake. I did everything I could thing of.
What I skipped over was myself. I was so busy getting every other detail ready that I didn't stop to think about what I would do or wear once we arrived at the motel. You'd think that because I spent the whole summer on a quasi-diet, that I would therefore pack something flattering to show off my discipline. Instead, I threw together a blouse from my nursing days (too big now and kind of dowdy always), a long iridescent skirt handed down to me and never worn, and just for variety, a work skirt. Prettiest element: the g.d. work skirt. In essence, I looked mismatched, frumpy and tired. I might as well have eaten that ice-cream in August, because you couldn't tell any different in that outfit.
Ok, I'm over it.
Anyway, adding on to my crap outfit stress was some weird airborne toxin in the motel room that made me sneeze continually for 10 minutes. All of my carefully applied makeup reformed into an Alice Cooper-worthy mask. Meanwhile, Blake was making a career out of ripping tissues from the box, despite several timeouts. After we finally left the Smoky Room of Chaos & Doom, and when we were 10 minutes down the road, I realized that I had left the wedding card in the suitcase. The suitcase back at the SRoC&D. By the time we arrived, I was so grumpy that I cannot begin to tell you how grumpy I was. Reeeeally grumpy.
The Boy summarized our entrance perfectly: "I wish Dirk were here. He's always so good at this kind of stuff."
Meeting the old UofT crowd was awkward. Team Trebouchet was well-represented, and I even felt uncomfortable around people that I'd liked. It's hard meeting people from your single past when you spend so much of your time keeping your toddler from doing something destructive. Every sentence is in danger of abbreviation as I run to save Blake from himself. This leaves me with not very much to say. At least St. Pete & St. Jack were there; I actually feel comfortable around them.
The ceremony was set up with an arch, a table for signing, and rows of blanket-covered straw bales. We were right next to the St. Lawrence River, a picturesque location even though the sky was dull & heavy & close. Blake ran around frantically, refusing to sit still even when the ceremony began. "We're in church," I tried, but I couldn't convince him to be still.
I was told that the maids and the bride's family would be paddling canoes around the bend. I scoffed, inwardly. Then it happened, and I realized anew how stupid I was: the ceremony of the bride's arrival is made more precious, more lovely, more ceremonial when she arrives over the water. St. Stephen used to have a print of "The Lady of Shallot" in his res room; this was an active re-scripting of that moment, with life and anticipation substituted for resignation and death. It was tremendously moving, not the least because the minister was a piper who played the party to shore. The moment made me, obsessed with The Mists of Avalon for at least 5 years of my youth, content in a way that I hadn't known was possible.
The ceremony was short, which was a blessing for me, as I was keeping Blake from creating mayhem the entire time. St. Pete sang while they signed the register. It was all too beautiful. And then, when it was over, Blake made a bid for New York by walking into the river.
Yes, I was supposed to be watching him. I just couldn't believe that it was happening…even when I got Blake's attention (when he was in to his waist), he just looked at me for a moment and kept going. The Boy was half-incredulous, half-furious, which pretty much sums up our typical reaction to Blake's misdemeanours – there always seems, to the observer, something that could have been done.
The Boy waded in, soaking his Fluevogs but only wetting the hem of his kilt (thus proving, once again, that rough use is what kilts 'r built for). We travelled back to the motel for a record-busting third time, only to find that we didn't have much in the way of weather-appropriate clothes for Blake - we had packed for late summer, but were in the middle of a misty fall day. That, plus the fact that Blake had been on my watch when he got away, made for a tense interlude. There was some crying, some shouting, some accusation & blame-throwing, it's true. We did make it back, though, and found seats for supper with Lady Godiva, her amusing husband, & St. Pete. People stopped us to laugh about Blake's dip in the river, which had been very funny to anyone not his parent. ("That little boy just fell in!" "He didn't fall in.")
Dinner was a pot-luck affair, with tables called by random drawing. I made myself useful soon after the calling began, as the sound system wasn't working and I have that big old teacher-voice just dying to be used. I ended up creating quite the ruckus: first I would smack the heck out of the signal gong, then roar out the table number. I enjoyed myself immensely, and the people who knew me from long ago finally realized what I did for a living.
"I didn't really think you were a teacher. Now I'm kind of scared." - St. Pete
In between getting it on / banging the gong, I prowled the tables for amusement, making my friends smell my seasilk shawl. While dinner was served, the kids (including mine) started stacking the strawbales into a fort. The Boy got into the act and shaped the fort into a spacey triangle - a strawket if you will. Then the strawket turned into Strawhenge, built by the Boy & destroyed by the other children. Our table was one of the last to be called, which made me awfully popular when we finally got to eat. But we did eat at last, and all was good with the world.
Most of the evening was spent wandering & talking. There was a big bonfire near the shore, which drew varying crowds of people. There was a small roots band to play reels and jigs and let us whirl wildly in the grass (nothing like dancing at a friend's wedding.) The strawbale sculpture continued into the night, meaning that Blake & the Boy were well-occupied. And when Blake finally fell asleep, we bundled him into his stroller and danced a little more.
I spent most of the celebration in tiny snatches of conversation, wishing I had been better prepared for the night. Boys said things to me of such extreme bawdiness as not to bear repeating, but which made me giggle like the girl of 20 they used to know. The bride's loveliness and the news that the couple would be honeymooning in Italy caused me to temporarily lose my head and give her the painstaking seasilk shawl (better that it be off on a grand adventure than sticking around in the basement with me, I guess). And even though the Boy & I never got a proper dance, we did get to cuddle our boy to sleep while a fiddle played, which made me feel like I was in the middle of a grand montage. It was an excellent wedding: simple and elegant and rowdy and precise and heartfelt, an accurate reflection of the couple and thus perfect in every way.
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Don't make me send out the Blake. He doesn't listen to *anyone.*