Paulie and I put down our beers and walk outside as the shuttle bus arrives. My cousin Marguerite and her boyfriend Arnold - if we can call retirees "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" - coo, cackle and exclaim when they meet up in line with Mom and Tom. I walk up behind them and the cacophony begins anew. We are the bride's only relatives on the bus, which becomes patently obvious when the other shuttle riders stand an average of six inches taller than Marguerite and me. I've never met Arnold and Paulie vaguely remembers Marguerite from some occasion years ago. At the bridal shower, Marguerite told us a story about Arnold's amusing choice of timepieces.
Tata: Arnold, lemme see your watch.
Arnold: I wore the good one!
Marguerite: He wore the Casio!
Tata: Yeah, but it's the formal
Arnold: We don't go to a lot of weddings and we're not living in sin, precisely.
Marguerite: We have our own houses.
Arnold: So, Tom and Lucy, where do you live?
Tata: In sin, precisely.
Marguerite: Domenica, you're a card!
Tata: Thank you, dahhhhhhhhhhhling.
Arnold: Where are we anyhow?
This is an exceptionally good question because the shuttle has stopped after a sign that said MANSION. One thing strange to those of us from Jersey is that to get anywhere you have to drive ten miles on state highways. The roads have no names - just numbers. Though we know the site of the wedding has a name, for highway purposes we're standing in the MANSION parking lot. Half of everyone I know is standing around, sweating. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and his fiancee Karen can't wait to tell me everything.
He: Guess what! Guess what!
She: We drove in and parked ten minutes ago!
He: And after dinner we're driving back to Pennsylvania for our nephew's bar mitzvah tomorrow!
She: I've never been to a bar mitzvah!
He: We got changed in the car!
Tata: That is ...awesome!
Stranger: Walk this way, please.
Tata: C'mon, Igor! The kids're gittin' hitched!
I follow someone I'm probably related to through a door, where an employee asks, "Are you coming in for the bathrooms? The wedding's outside." I say, "No, dahhhhhhhling. We simply lack direction in life." Back outside, we turn a corner and -
Look! Paulie and I meet Dad and Darla. My sister Daria, her husband Tyler, their three children. My brother Todd. I didn't know Todd was coming from Los Angeles! Miss Sasha and her roommate Irena. Around us sit other people who have played significant roles in our family life and a bunch of guests I'll never pick out of a lineup, even after the reception. Paulie and I sit down in the same row as Mom and Tom, where we box in Daria's three-year-old son between Tom and me. Sandro's got Matchbox trucks and pennies. Paulie and I look around and spin back to one another with the same observation.
Us: That kid's not wearing any pants!
Indeed, in the row behind us a kid has chosen the unique fashion statement of seersucker blue and white Bermuda shorts, a white t-shirt and a blue dinner jacket.
Paulie: He looks like the kid from Caddyshack!
Obviously, I'm trying too hard, wearing a shirt with buttons.
Somehow, the dearly beloved miss some significant cue. Some of us haven't taken seats yet when a bridesmaid walks past with a young man in rented clothing. Dozens of people murmur, "Whoops!" and rush for chairs. For the first time, we notice we're sitting in a little glen with a rectangular pond at its center, a platform at the far end and Doric columns. A pack of young men in odd suits appear from nowhere. Bridesmaids continue streaming past us. It happens so fast Arnold says out loud, "Hey, quit sprinting!" Auntie InExcelsisDeo walks down the aisle. My cousin Monday is escorted down the aisle by Uncle Frank. The ceremony is brief and quiet until Paulie and I hear the words we dread: "The bride and groom have written their own vows."
Few moments in life offer a chance for one's family and friends to see into the vast mediocrity of one's soul like poorly written homemade wedding vows. You promise what? And, for cryin' out loud, what else?
Sweet hopping Christ, you're going to regret that in divorce court. If you're contemplating such a revealing maneuver, by all means DON'T. Take the standard vows and bug out for the open bar, kids. Fortunately for dozens of people, the sound system tanks, and nobody hears Monday's and Barry's vows. I tug on Marguerite's sleeve.
Tata: Is this wedding subtitled?
Don't get me wrong: we love and adore Monday, the bride. She is a good person and during expecially difficult times for our family, even when she was very young, Monday demonstrated a character we could all be proud of, without question. At the moment, it is above 80 degrees and the clouds have parted after a three-day rainstorm, we are wearing uncomfortable clothing and it's not like we've ever shut our mouths for more than a minute. Daria gives a reading and bursts into tears. Auntie InExcelsisDeo is crying her eyes out. Uncle Frank is teary. Monday's sister Sandy's tears interrupt the ceremony several times. I keep looking at Paulie like 'Wha...?'
We all miss another cue and the marriage is suddenly legal, which we know because the bride and groom reach for one another's tonsils for all their worth but everyone plays along since Monday and Barry are, like, really nice looking and who could blame them? The recessional music causes us all to chatter out loud.
Tom: What is that?
Tata: That's Superman
Paulie: I thought it was Star Wars
Tata: So which is it?
Tom: I think it's Superman.
Paulie: It is! It's Superman!
Yes. I squealed with glee. No one noticed, and no one was wearing tights and a cape - that we know of.
One cue we don't miss: the cocktail hour starts now!