This is the first chance I’ve had to tell about last weekend, when we drove down to Tallahassee, then to Pebble Hill Plantation for my nephew’s wedding. My hubby in his infinite wisdom had selected the hotel nearest Starbucks for our stay. Unfortunately, it was an Econolodge. His two brothers (Steve and Tom) and their wives (Pat and Pam, respectively) were there too. That made it quite tolerable despite the lowish quality of the rooms because we were able to have a few long talks together in the picnic area. One aspect of the conversation that I particularly enjoyed involved Steve’s work in forensics. His office, it seems, is not quite identical to those we know from television and movie versions of crime scene investigations. The actual procedures and methods and strategies they use were fascinating to me. It’s clear that he loves his job and that he’s very very good at it. We all shared various anecdotes and memories with one another and, for me, it was one of the highlights of the trip.
The first night, we all met for dinner. We spent some time with the remaining sibling (my sister-in-law) Laura and John (who had dropped a good bit of weight since the last time I saw him). We also got to spend a little time with (my brother-in-law’s sister) Marsha and Randy. I remember them quite fondly, especially because of a rollicking dinner we had once at their place. Randy has a twirly waxed mustache, and Marsha has a beautiful warm face, and they are both wonderful charming people. She works for the Forestry Service, and is especially charged when things actually get accomplished there despite whatever political agendas happen to be on the table. It’s always a good time when they are involved.
We had a drink or two while waiting for the table. From the balcony where we finally settled in we could hear some kind of jazz performance taking place in downtown (or is it uptown?) Tallahassee. The atmosphere was invigorating, carefree.
We arrived at the wedding rehearsal the next afternoon a few minutes late. Feeling foolish, we anxiously wandered all over the grounds looking for where it was supposed to take place. Finally we ran into Laura and she didn’t know where it was either! Finally we met up with the others and convened under a huge live oak – rehearsal went well and the bride-to-be was incredibly poised – and on high heels! Ben solemnly practiced his ringbearing duties. As we were leaving, people were getting set up in the next field to watch Glenn Campbell play. Yes. Glenn Campbell. Just as we were passing a man that Laura thought might actually have been him, I happened to be saying, “Well, he’s no Johnny Cash, but…” Faux pas of the day, my turn.
I got a chance there to talk a little bit with Lance, my other nephew and the younger brother of the groom. I’ve had a soft spot for him since we first met, because I was charmed by his desire to sing (and play his guitar) and the way that longing was tempered by a very real shyness. The result was that he sang Eric Clapton songs to me in an almost impossibly soft voice. He’s always been curious about a lot of difficult questions concerning life, the universe, and everything. I suppose I shouldn’t have been so taken aback to hear that he has become religious. He’s become part of a fellowship that meets in homes – pentacostal, healing, anti-trinitarian. We traded some bible verses and doctrinal perspectives. His eyes were bright with the unmistakable spirit of the newly converted. I tried to ascertain where along the spectrum (from “compassionate believers gathered in a spirit of love” to “time to drink the Cool-aid”) this group might fall. He had personally invested in boxes of bibles to send to New Orleans – no fundraiser, no distribution network. He also mentioned that he dropped a course in New Testament when the professor introduced the “Q source” (within the realm of possible biblical scholarship, a fairly innocuous bit of critical text research) that he felt was too challenging to his faith. There were a couple of other red flags for me as well, but I was very comfortable talking to him and look forward to some deeper, more lengthy discussion. I care about him, and I hope it will all turn out all right.
On the day of the wedding, I looked fabulous, even if I do say so myself. John had gotten me a gorgeous burgundy floor-length dress and I felt smashing. I think he had become nervous in reaction to my joking comment that I was planning to attend the plantation wedding in a hooped flowered dress and a hat.
It was my job to pin the flowers on all the guys, including the groom. I managed to do it without puncturing their chests or my fingers and none of the flowers stuck out funny or fell off. Accomplishment!
I did have a weird moment of cognitive dissonance when JT’s (black) professional colleague arrived with his (also black) wife. They were “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” about how gorgeous the plantation was. Um. Well. Suddenly I felt so strange to be walking around on the grounds of a plantation. It’s a historial site. It’s quite beautiful. Still, for a moment, I was in the twilight zone.
JT and Tonya had a sweet ceremony under the oak tree. It was a little full of talk about God’s will, but that’s probably just my JW scar tissue talking. They had written secret letters to one another, which were read by the best man and the maid of honor (matron, really, but she still looked like a maid). There were moments here and there when they each had suspiciously glistening eyes, and I lost it for a moment myself. Ben was given a little bird’s nest for carrying the rings (excellent idea!), which I’m saving to give back on their tenth anniversary.
After the ceremony, we all walked over to the courtyard at the stables, where a band had already set up, and drinks were served. Ben (age 5) garnered an admirer named Elizabeth (age 6), who wanted him to dance with her and visit with the Clysdale horses (My stepson Evan claimed that he – himself, not Ben- had actually hopped the fence and rode one of them). Ben and Elizabeth spent much of the night running around the place together. They taught each other their best dance moves. She had the biggest, most adoring brown eyes I have ever seen. It was outstandingly cute.
I shared some back and forth banter with my beloved “political nemesis” brother-in-law John. He didn’t call me a feminazi this time.. only a socialist. He informed me that not only did I take myself too seriously, but that I was on the wrong side of history. In his opinion, what we really need in this country is a dictator. Sure, and that’s an American value. A benevolent reading would be that sometimes he exaggerates to push my buttons. We’re never going to agree on anything political, but I told him I loved him anyway (“not fair!” he charged as he wagged his finger at me). I can’t help it. As frustrating and unreachable as he is, I think he is an interesting guy. I’m always trying to figure out how this could have happened to him. He says his alliance was formed when JFK was shot, but that doesn’t make any sense to me. He is someone that really ought to be able to connect the dots to understand the ways in which he and his family (not to mention countless others) have been shafted by the right. But he doesn’t see it. He’s too invested in counting himself in with what he perceives to be the “winning side,” whether or not he is actually the sort of person in whose interests the “winners” ever act. Anyway, I think he’s one of the very few far far right wing people that I actually care about and with whom I can converse – and who tolerates me (to varying degrees) as well.
JT wrote and performed a song to his bride. How many weddings have you gone to where the groom pulls out an electric guitar and performs for the first time in public?
We all danced. The band introduced “I Will Survive” as a song for the WOMEN! That made me laugh because my associations have more to do with gay parades I’ve walked in, but I guess that’s what you say that close to “Jeb country.” Why would you play a song about continuing on after a bad breakup at a wedding reception anyway? At least they didn’t play “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.”
It ended with a loud hoot ‘n holler parade around the courtyard – a New Orleans style send-off. They had gotten engaged in New Orleans, and had recently provided a place to stay for friends of theirs who lost everything there. New Orleans is a special place to the bride and groom for a number of reasons, and somehow that seemed exactly the right kind of conclusion.
We wish them a life together of laughter and love.
(Oh, for my friends at Blogazoo, here’s a gAzoo)