Single Girl, Old, Goes to Wedding
August 23-28, 2000

So, two days after I got back from Memphis, I was on a plane to Pennsylvania.

It was strange, because I expected things to be a lot different, even though I haven't been gone that long. There were actually a couple of times that my parents pointed things out to me like I had never been there before. How quickly we forget.

Wednesday night was, of course, all about Survivor. My father had never seen the show and my mother had seen only one or two, so I did a lot of explaining during the commercials, about immunity challenges and reward challenges and alliances and tribes and all.

On Thursday, my mother and I went over to Carlisle and I stopped in at my school. It was nice seeing all my favorite people there, like the bookstore lady and the student services lady and of course, my library boss. It didn't even feel strange. Walking past the computer lab, looking at students already at work on the fourth day of class, I was relieved. Glad I wasn't them.

Friday, my mother and I left for Smallville, where the wedding was. We found everyone at the club where the reception was. My cousin Margo, the bride, was looking very busy but completely in control. She's a very organized person. I went with her to the hotels around town to deliver the baskets she had put together for everyone who was coming in from out of town.

The rehearsal and rehearsal dinner were lovely. I sat with two bridesmaids and one's fiance, and we had a nice time getting to know each other. I knew all the friends of my cousin would be very friendly, and they were, not a snob among them.

Margo was going to give her bridesmaids their gifts at the luncheon the next day, but she and Charlie (that would be the groom) exchanged their gifts at the dinner. She got him an MP3 player and a book, "The His and Hers Guide to Surviving the First Year of Marriage." He got her a Return to Tiffany's bracelet (soooo jealous). The card read: "Now is the beginning of forever. I love you." (Soooo jealous again.)

All of Margo's aunts (one of which is my mother) threw her a luncheon on the day of the wedding, since the ceremony wasn't until 4:30. Margo gave her bridesmaids a ceramic heart ornament. She gave me a copy of "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran, which is what my reading was from, with a beautiful inscription that made me cry.

As part of the meal, all the participants in the wedding got muffins with a charm baked into it. We had to take turns one by one removing our charm while Margo told us what it meant. One was for the next to get married, the next to have a baby, someone who was valued as a friend, that kind of thing.

I was last. Mine was a cupid. Translation?

The next to fall in love.

Everybody cheered. I'm convinced it was rigged, because I was the only one (other than Margo's 18-year-old cousin from the other side of the family) who wasn't already married or engaged, but she insisted they were handed out completely randomly.

Well, then, good. I'm ready.

After the luncheon, I went back to the hotel and changed into jeans for a couple of hours. My mother and aunt were visiting in the lobby, so I sprawled out on a couch and poked my nose into the second to last chapter of HP4 when into the lobby walked my father, my brother, Derek, and his new girlfriend, Elena.

Elena is 24 and from Venezuela, and she is just stunning. 5'9" or 10", weighs nothing but still has curves, long dark hair, big brown eyes, beautiful white teeth. Of course, she is completely sweet, always smiling and laughing, although Derek said later that she is still learning English, so she usually just smiles when she doesn't completely understand what you've said.

We chatted for a few minutes, but it was soon time to dress for the wedding. I wanted to be there early just in case there was anything I could do, but we ended up just grabbing the best seats. I visited with some family that I hadn't seen yet, then took my place at the end of the pew, so I wouldn't have to crawl over anyone to go up to do my reading.

The sucky part of that was that I couldn't really see Margo walk down the aisle. She had refused to show me her dress the day before, and I was able to catch a few glimpses: a dark champagne color, strapless, brocaded bodice, full smooth skirt. Beautiful.

I cried, a lot. They were of course happy tears, but there's always a twinge. My cousin is three years younger than me. I can't help the needling fear about my own future, wondering if all this hullaballoo will ever be about me.

Anyway, I was very thankful for waterproof mascara, because I was up first for the reading and it came up rather quickly. We hadn't gone through that part in the rehearsal, so I wasn't exactly certain when my cue was. Fortunately I followed along in the program.

From the pulpit, I had the most interesting view of the couple. Charlie was staring straight ahead, looking as though he was concentrating very hard on not falling down. Margo kept her eyes down, and finally looked up at me for the last line of the reading. She told me later that she was afraid she would cry if she made eye contact with me.

After they became husband and wife, two bridesmaids handed out flower petals to the guests, and we threw them on the couple as they climbed into the rumble seat that would ceremoniously take them around the block. Then we were off, a mile down the road, the reception.

"At last, my love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song..."

--Etta James, "At Last"

The reception was lovely as well. I sat with Derek and Elena and four friends of Margo's from college, again, all of whom were very nice. We had assigned seating for the dinner, which was a buffet. Then the bride and groom had their first dance, to "At Last," which, coincidentally, I had in mind for my own wedding.

When it came time for the garter toss, only about five guys went up there, so my mother convinced Derek to go. Believe me, this is not Derek's thing. He just doesn't go in for that kind of stuff, but he did it to help out the groom. So Charlie flung the garter, everybody ducked, and it landed in the tree behind them. Derek, like a fool, picked it out, thinking it didn't count. But it did.

So then comes the bouquet toss. I don't think Elena really understood what was going on, but I took her up there. Margo aimed for her, and she would have caught it, but Margo's boss stuck her hand out and grabbed it.

I felt bad for Derek, I really did. They made him do the whole thing of sliding the garter up this woman's leg, and I knew he was kind of embarrassed. They didn't make them dance together. Derek was glad.

Later on in the evening, the DJ announced that he had a special request from the bride, for the bride's aunt and uncle who would be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary the next day.

Obviously, the DJ did not know my parents. He kept calling and calling for them, until my brother and I finally went in search of. Of course, they were at opposite ends of the room, flapping their jaws with some old friends, paying no attention whatsoever to the DJ.

We pulled them away and shooed them onto the dance floor. The DJ played "I Can't Help Falling in Love" (Elvis, how apropos). As they danced, my father kept making this sideways motion with his wrist behind my mother's back. Finally, someone got the hint, and started tapping their drinking glass, the traditional method of getting the bride and groom to kiss. My father used it to his advantage. Very sweet of my cousin, to remember them.

We made it an early night, left about 10:30, and went back to the hotel. We stayed up for about an hour, chatting with Elena, learning about her family and her country a little bit. My brother was very good at putting things in ways she could understand, as well as translating back for us. He's never had any formal Spanish education, but by living with her family for the last few months, he's learning very quickly.

We had brunch the next morning at my aunt's house, basically finishing off the leftover reception food, which was delicious. We then headed back to Hershey, my mom and dad in one car, us kids in another.

My brother kept pointing things out to Elena, asking if she'd ever seen them before, just to be funny. Cows, horses, corn. At this last one, she rolled her eyes at him: "We eat it every day."

I'm very glad to see that Elena has learned how to talk back to him. (He likes it, I can tell.)

Then, of course, we started learning about all the really bad words in Venezuela. I never knew this, but apparently, there are different meanings for words within each individual Spanish speaking country, so that a word that means nothing to someone from Mexico could be the equivalent of "damn" in Venezuela but be extraordinarily offensive to someone in Argentina. When my brother asked if he could use a certain word in front of her parents, she laughed and said, "I prefer, no."

They were breaking up their drive back to Hilton Head into two days, so they left about 6:00. We got Taco Bell (hell of an anniversary dinner) and I went to bed early, since my plane was leaving at 7:30.

So now I'm back, until 3:00 tomorrow, when I go back to the lovely satellite parking lot to let my car roast in the sun for another week. I basically took everything out of my suitcase, threw it in the washing machine, and put it back in. Except for no formalwear this time. Bonus.

Look for the third and final installment of this series, "Elizabeth Goes West," soon after Labor Day. Have a lovely week, and once again, stay out of the heat.


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