Friday, February 18, 2011

Get Her to the Church On Time

I was just chatting with one of my children, Jennie. Having "clocked out" of her soon-to-be-not-so-full-time job as a paralegal for an Estate Planning Firm, she was motoring down to the Outer Banks (group of barrier islands off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas), blissfully alone - and therefore languorously chatty - (Ever notice how your kids will call their work-at-home-Moms whilst they are productively running errands, "So, how's your back?", ". . . CHARLIE Minter. Scott is his GRANDfather. Do you think a 7 month-old would be taking Digoxin and cholesterol-lowering meds? Huh?", "No, Mom. I know you're not on Didge. I'm at the drive-through pharmacy and this moron. . . .") where her in-laws, her husband and their two children and his Uncle and brand-new aunt have already arrived. The occasion: Jennie's brother-in-law, Jay, arrived yesterday with his fiancee, Ashleigh, to spend a weekend getting to know Ashleigh's soon-to-be family. Jay and Ashleigh are in the Air Force. He's with a special helicopter unit and she's a medic. Both will be spending time serving in unfriendly neighborhoods soon after the nuptials in July so THIS weekend is for warm, casual, stress-free bonding.
The Senior Mintons own a modest manse on the sound side of the island where the equipped-with-the-latest/best A-V room, billiards room, outdoor, saltwater pool, dock avec motor boat (serving to augment the 3 bedroom house) should make for some memorable bonding. What with conveniently elevated temps to the 70's, sunshine AND the cuisine of 5-star quality chef Jay - ya think? (To be sure the Minton Seniors' not-quite-miniature pooch, Ruby, will give it up & stop nipping at Murphy, the Minton Juniors' adopted, lab/shep mixed breed, gentle, warm, fuzzy and VERY large, loving pet for the duration) Couldn't help but chuckle (can chuckle NOW. Was certifiable the day of Jen's wedding 7 years ago) when she hung up recalling the preparations for and actual day of the union of Jen and HER husband - a truly beautiful marriage/relationship, bye-the-bye. Come. I think you may have a chuckle or two as well. Our son and oldest, Philip, married his gorgeous bride/marvelous Mom, Robyn in 2000. So this was OUR FIRST show, so to speak. (And Robyn's wedding was an extremely tough act to follow.) Robyn, big-sister Julie, Jen & I had flown to Boston having first made an appointment at THE shoppe to purchase the bride's gown (CANNOT think of the name of the place. Honest) but leaving time to check out other options - like SAKS FIFTH AVENUE where we eventually found THE gown that Vera Wang had obviously created for Jennie (-Bean, her childhood nickname). Julie: "Oh, Bean. . . (tears)"; Robyn: "Jennie-Bean it is. . is. . YOU! (tears)"; Mom: "tears". Simple, strapless, all-grown-up -don't ask. And for the maids - black, strapless taffeta topping biased-cut, black and white plaid skirts. They were to carry multi-colored Gerbera daisies. Two and a half year-old nephew Declan would wear crisp, white linen Eton suit cum shorts. Then we moved on to the cake - tres deco and, therefore, in total sync with the reception site, The (OLD) Cavalier Hotel ballroom, surrounded by french doors opening out to period lanais populated with palm trees, wicker, the aroma of salt air and distant sound of crashing waves. (Scott and Zelda once danced in this room during one of their many visits to his sister in Norfolk. One was just MOVED to call everyone "Old Sport" upon entering) The invitations, the menu, the musicians, guest lists, Nuptial Mass readings and musical selections - a WHIRLWIND of frenzied activity. Oh. Transportation, of course. Well, the church was in Portsmouth, we lived in Virginia Beach - not far from the Cavalier. Soooo, The groom, his parents and groomsmen (Portsmouth) would be limoed to the church. The Bride, her parents, maids, Mistress-of-Ceremonies, photographer and 'helping hands' would dress at our house, take some outdoor candids by the water (carefully) and then -DRUMROLL - board the rented-for-the-occasion antique red-with-gold-trim TROLLEY for a picturesque, quaint jaunt to the church (Portsmouth). Apres ceremony, everyone would be white-limoed to the Cavalier (Virginia Beach). SO special.
On the big day, things were going swimmingly! Those exterior shots were coming out worthy of "Bride's Magazine" and the entire entourage looked stunning and pitched right in to be sure they stayed that way. "Careful! No dirt!" Auntie Sue (by reputation. The kids have known her since they WERE kids. Taught Philip to drive a stick.) was in from California and doing some video cum sound magic with her new computer toys so we were ALL on "Sue-watch" lest a nose scratch or nose pick get memorialized in living color with "I'm just a Broadway Baby!" muted in the background. But we were blessed with spotless success, soil-free snaps, sun-drenched smiles. (You get the picture. Sorry.)

Robyn, characteristically lovely, organized, subtly supervisory, kept a constant, quiet vigil re: the keeping clean aspect of "Showtime, Folks!". And then it was time. We heard actual trolley bells and there in the driveway was the glistening antique trolley, its co-ordinating octogenarian driver listing at attention, hat in hand, memory in the previous century. We queued-up
CAREFULLY and marched toward our waiting chariot. Jennie, ably-assisted by Maid-of-Honor Julie, paused just long enough to share her special ride with posterity. Within three turns (0.5 miles) we were chugging up the on-ramp to the westward-bound, three-lane highway. Auntie Sue was in the car following the trolley, lens targeted; my car, driven by one of Julie's Georgetown roomies accompanied by Julie's fiance riding shot-gun and other maid "significant others" in seats 2 and 3. The Father-of-the-Bride and I were toward the rear of the trolley with Dale, Mistress-of-Ceremonies. Robyn, clutching 2.5 year-old, Eton-clad son, Declan's hand and Philip, clutching a large cooler holding "classified" contents, were toward the front.
Wisely, we were in the right lane as the thing barely went over 40 mph. Suddenly, Robyn, speaking VERY clearly, said, "I smell smoke, y'all." Nothing. Robyn repeats, "I said, I smell SMOKE, y'all!" Driver: "Fumes from the exhaust, Ma'am." Robyn: "You STOP this thing and we're gettin' OFF, hear??" Driver: "sputter, sputter". Philip: "Sir," leaning over the bar behind the driver's seat, "Would you mind pulling over? Now? Right here?" By now, we ALL smelled smoke and could actually see little gray clouds jumping up from under the rubber mat at the front door. He rumbled the old heap onto the shoulder. Dale manually opened the center doors. The disembarkation was swift, orderly and proceeded past the now-obviously billowing front of the cab. Then leg up and OVER filthy guardrail, followed by second leg with apparel swiping same in transit and march, gooey march through the soft dirt until everyone was at least 2 car lengths in front of the difficult-to-see-through-the-smoke trolley.
Driver: "Guess I'll call the garage." Philip: (Wildly batting out the flames WITH THE RUBBER MAT from under which they were emitting) "Did somebody get the COOLER??" Fire out. Philip carried cooler to the downstream 'line-up' of our wedding party. (You just have to use your imaginations. Picture this little grouping, sans Cavalier Hotel, standing behind the guardrail of a highway, plaintively, smudgeingly looking out at the VERY passing traffic. I mean did they think these kids decided to get married on VA 264 or what?) Then Fiona: (Very bright, beautiful, childhood, Filipino friend of Jennie's) "You know, Mrs. L, we should have walked the other way. Because now we're down wind of the trolley and if it blows up. . . ." Me: "I tore my skirt two inches at the kick-pleat climbing over that rail." Julie: (Very sub rosa. "Yes, Matt. That was us." into her (they ALWAYS HAVE THEM) cell phone. "Better get off, turn around, make some calls and get SOME of us to church!" Silence. "NOW you notice you're out of gas?!!"
Something REALLY odd ensued. People - as they drove by - were smiling, beeping their horns, rolling down windows to give us 'thumbs-up' signs. Jennie's crying. Make-up running on ALL female faces. THEN. A Jeep-sort of vehicle slowly pulled over. We heard a young man's voice. "You folks need any help?" He responded to our crazed nodding, pulled over and, helped the bride and Julie into his back seat with his 4 year old son. (Mom and Dad were taking him to the Norfolk Zoo) BRAIN: "Well at least there can be a wedding. Hope Julie calls the groom." (On the other hand, we just sent our 2 daughters off with total strangers!) No time to process THIS threatening thought. About the daughters, I mean. In fact, Julie had NOT thought to call Ross. But look. Another car is pulling over. What a nice lady school teacher. She's also the driver of a beige SUV. It's small, but she's happy to take 5 more maids - by having Fiona flat on her back in the rear compartment. Oh, and here's MY car. (They had cleverly gone back to the house & siphoned the gas from Dad's mower. Who carries money to a wedding? Just cell phones.) Now Philip, Robyn, Declan and the COOLER were on their way! It seemed that seconds later, a huge, new tan Silverado - driven by an off-duty Marine - made a quick assessment, collected the rest of us and burned some REAL rubber. Wouldn't you know, JUST AS we were about to get into the Portsmouth Tunnel lane, we hear sirens. Sure enough, we/he was being pulled over for speeding by a state Trooper.
I don't believe that trooper ever met "fear" before he "met" and listened to the lecture given him by Dale: "You should be giving us an ESCORT not a TICKET!" "Do you realize what this young Marine is DOING for this BRIDE AND GROOM??" etc., etc., etc. Ere long, we were on our way again, no ticket, with trooper (and Auntie Sue 'getting it all') behind us. I daresay the Father-of-the-Groom - who'd not heard about the "Trolley Transport" was a tad surprised when his new daughter-to-be arrived.
Of course, time was a-wastin'. Jennie: (Hugging Driver/Dad) "I love you guys. Now you have a GREAT time at the zoo!" Julie: "Let's hustle it up, now, Bean." After getting into the church, the priest who was to conduct the ceremony, whisked us all into a meeting room for some badly-needed freshening-up. GUESTS were beginning to arrive! And not EVERYONE was happy. After all, it had been somewhat of a trial for the wedding party. And Mr. Sleepy as well as Mr. Teary and Ms. Scary-Nervous was there, too.







DAD: "Of COURSE you can do it. Do you know what this is COSTING me? Here we GO!" And they did. It was just every girl's DREAM wedding. (After some post-ceremony COOLER refreshments in the limo en route to The Cavalier.)

As you can see: going counter-clockwise from the group pose cradling the Bride in front of the hotel, we began with "Daddy's Little Girl", moved down to 'Daddy's BIG Girl', across to Cousin Brennan & Julie - catchers of the garter and bouquet, Jennie and Ramone (The GENIUS with the shutter who gave us these memories), Mom and Fav Uncle Chris 'toasting' the cake, Happy Mom with Jennie, Proud Aunt Eileen, mother of dexterous Brennan of garter fame, Dad and finally-relaxed Robyn gettin' down above the Leavy Clan Traditional "Mad Dance" to "MUSTANG SALLY"! (And if you look closely, Auntie "Mad" Sue - in red-really is an official 'Clan' member when it comes to dancing and kindness and gettin' to the church on tape.)

Later. L. . . .

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