Friday, June 15, 2012

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread: Part II -- thankfully, a tranquilizer dart was not required

I didn't mention yesterday, in my seemingly exhaustive catalog of what Long Suffering Spouse did in the days and weeks leading up to last Saturday's wedding, that school was in session that entire time.

My wife had a half day of school on Friday, before we went to decorate the parish hall, and the graduation Mass was held on the morning of the wedding.

Long Suffering Spouse missed exactly zero time from work during all of this (OK, she didn't go to the graduation Mass -- but that's it). So, amidst the flowers and the cakes and the souvenir cookies and the potatoes and the chickens and the potatoes and the potatoes and the chickens, my wife was also grading papers, creating and grading tests, calculating report cards and doing all of the other end-of-term stuff that a teacher does.

I hesitated to mention that yesterday because I figured I was straining your credibility already: I was afraid you'd turn away, saying no one could do so much.

And, yet, in truth, she did more.

But, as Saturday neared, Long Suffering Spouse began to realize that she'd not be able to appear in the wedding photos and start the food. She'd have to have help.

Charlotte and Penny and Mrs. Lork all stepped up to volunteer.

They knew they were entering into a tough spot, but I don't know if any of them, despite their years of friendship with Long Suffering Spouse, could really have understood what they were getting into.

You see, something had to be sacrificed in order to accomplish all of these tasks.

That something was sleep.

Years ago, usually during the Christmas season, my wife and I would put names to our increasing levels of fatigue. I can't remember them all now -- I think at one point we had as many names for exhaustion as Eskimos allegedly have for snow (which, by the way, is largely a myth -- but I won't digress). After "tired" came "exhausted"; after "exhausted" came "cranky"; after "cranky" -- probably several steps after cranky (I just can't recall them all now) -- came a very dangerous stage called "charming."

And Long Suffering Spouse had reached that phase well before Saturday. I'd say she'd reached "charming" by Friday morning. I think it was the flower arranging coupled with Younger Daughter's bachelorette party on Thursday night that pushed her over. By that time, Older Daughter had arrived, of course, with husband Hank and their dog, Cork.

Cork descended the basement stairs for the first time Thursday night to see what Long Suffering Spouse was up to. My wife was in the basement because that was the coolest area of the house and she needed a large table to work on. All large tables on the first floor had been commandeered by blenders and sissy drinks and paper umbrellas.

(Younger Daughter couldn't drink, of course, but that didn't stop her sister and sister-in-law from outfitting her in a feathery pink boa and a plastic, red-blinking tiara. They'd gone out to dinner, but had returned for the aforementioned sissy drinks by 10:00pm or so.)

Meanwhile, in the basement, Long Suffering Spouse had to expend energy she didn't have trying to keep the dog from eating small pieces of rose stems that had fallen to the floor. The dog had a liberal policy for determining what was, or what might be, food. In the dog's view, anything that fell from a table must be food.

Nor was there any way for Long Suffering Spouse to 'ditch' the teachers' brunch following the dismissal of the last class. Yes, the in-laws were about to descend en masse on the Parish Center for the decorating binge, but Mrs. Lork was retiring that day -- and my wife was determined to go.

And then came the decorating itself (I'm teasing the decorating post as long as possible) and the rehearsal (at which the failure to obtain a wedding license added no stress whatsoever -- ha!) -- and the wedding itself.

My wife says she dressed in five minutes. I was otherwise engaged, but, based on what I did see, I don't think she can be exaggerating by much, if at all.

Accordingly, even the very dangerous stage of "charming" was long since surpassed by the time my wife arrived to take command in the Parish Center kitchen.

I tried to be available at the beginning. There were things that had been forgotten, or not anticipated, and there was a shuttle of kids back and forth to the house to obtain that which needed obtaining. My job was to phone or text them and update the list as directed. But I could see the dangerous light in my wife's eyes.

It is not literally true that lightning came out of my wife's eyes or flames shot out of her flaring nostrils. That would be an exaggeration -- at least until it was discovered that the potatoes were taking longer to warm than expected and, worse, that they weren't warming equally.

It is literally true that Penny, Charlotte and Mrs. Lork were working like heroes. Penny burned her arm checking on the potatoes. At one point, during the crisis, I stopped for a nanosecond to ask Mrs. Lork how she liked being retired so far. "I haven't noticed much of a difference yet," she told me, but then I felt the electric discharges coming from my approaching spouse and quickly started moving again.

The one thing one could not be in that kitchen was still. My sister Betty apparently wandered into the kitchen at one point and interrupted my wife. She says she merely asked whether there was anything she could do to help. I didn't see what happened. But I saw Betty moments later, heading for the bar, shaken, and perhaps even singed. "Maybe I can help later," she stammered. "I don't mind getting yelled at. I'm used to getting yelled at," she continued, "but I'm not going in there again."

My wife has no recollection of the incident. Neither, thankfully, does she recall what happened when Olaf's mother strayed into the kitchen with a similar request.

I blame it entirely on the potatoes.

I was in there again, briefly, because some guests ran out of bread. I got bread to pass around. Later, I had to go back because other guests were unable to find the butter on their tables, so I grabbed a bag of butter pats and went out to distribute these. As long as one had a clear purpose, or could respond instantly to orders, one was relatively safe. Make the coffee, I was told, but don't plug it in. I made the coffee.

At one point things must have gotten really stressful in the kitchen. Penny turned to my wife and said, "What are you going to do? Fire the help?" That -- believe it or not -- relieved the tension considerably. At least for awhile.

I never heard any shouting in the kitchen, but I'm told that others did -- those potatoes again! -- and, at some point, my friend (and Charlotte's husband) Steve decided that what my wife needed was a drink.

Steve and I used to put away mass quantities of liquor together. Steve hasn't had more than a sip of ethanol, however, in something like four or five hears because of medication he has to take for a chronic condition. But he doesn't mind when his friends enjoy themselves and he'd appointed himself a bartender Saturday. It was in this capacity that he braved the kitchen, holding a drink in front of him that he'd made for Long Suffering Spouse.

He got her to take a sip somehow. "This is awful!" she said, lightning starting right up again. Steve had meant to bring her a vodka and tonic. Instead he'd brought a gin and tonic. He made an immediate retreat.

Penny's husband, Carl, volunteered to bring in the replacement as long as I watched the twins, Tim and Tom. I readily agreed.

Carl retired from the Marines as a major some years back. Although he's a lawyer by training and never had a combat deployment, he has received specialized training. It was a good match of man and mission.

We conferred briefly before he went in. "Do you think we'll need a tranquilizer dart?" I asked.

"I hope that won't be necessary," Carl said grimly. And he marched off bravely.

Carl succeeded in his mission. Long Suffering Spouse took the drink.

It may have been training; it may also have been timing. The potatoes were finally done.

I shooed the bridal party to the head table and grabbed Olaf and Younger Daughter and parked them in the vestibule. I turned on the wireless mike to introduce them. The party was really underway now.

So I'm doing the stories out of order. So sue me. Next, however, when I get a moment, I want to talk about the decorating. There's a reason (I think) why I should get to that at this point in the retelling. Stay tuned.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

these wedding posts are amazing curmy. i am enjoying them so much. please send them somewhere to get published! i am not kidding...

smiles, bee

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bee. You need to print out all wedding stories and submit them. AND keep submitting them until someone bites...Also, when you get a best seller out of them Bee and I get a signed copy for being the women behind the man who pushed him to do it...:):)