QUAIL MUTTERINGS #36. An Imperfect Wedding (July 13, 2015)
There’s that saying about when bad things happen: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I can lean one way or the other depending on the situation, but I still pretty much straddle the fence on that one. One thing is clear though, life is full of those events which can fall into that category. For each and every one of us. Often there is some sliver of a silver lining even if it’s obscured, delayed or presents itself years later in an altered attitude in some distantly related way.
Our beloved canyon was, once again, home to a beautiful wedding between Kali and Edwin. Months of planning and extensive yard work occupied us yet again. Two years ago, Jessie and Sean tied the knot here, providing the stage for her sister and his cousin to kindle their romance. Several of us had noticed the two of them, rocking chairs pushed close together on the front porch. Getting to know each other after the main festivities were winding down.
The magical day arrived on Saturday as our log cabin bustled with the bridal party and helping friends and relatives. Kent and I did our best trying to keep ahead of the game: providing food and scrambling under the avalanche of details, crossing things off our own list of things to get done and adding new ones as they presented themselves. Two hours before ‘Show Time’ our parking attendants were already directing cars up the side of the canyon to the cleared fields. But the flowers had not arrived yet. The bridal bouquets and boutonnieres were to be delivered by the florist at noon and it was now after 12:30.
The photographers wove through the house arranging varying groups of individuals together for digital preservation. The loft was strewn with the remnants of the morning’s hair and make-up scene, furniture pushed aside to make room for artful gatherings of the bridesmaids. Out front, a few guests milled around under the oaks listening to the music coming from the speakers of Kali’s dad’s band.
An hour later, the flowers still had not arrived. Kali had just confirmed with the florist two days before and everything had been set. She’s extremely organized and on top of things. Nikki, my assistant; my sister, Bo; and Jessie and I brainstormed and made phone calls as we were getting dressed. I then decided to get Susan and Dina to pick up whatever they could find on their way back from town. The two of them had already spent all morning decorating the split-rail fence as well as the front porch entry and had gone back to the motel to shower and change. Of all the people involved, Susan would be the one most likely able to pull this off on such short notice. The minutes ticked by as we continued to get ready while trying to not appear too concerned – for Kali’s sake.
It was now ‘Show Time,’ but still, no flowers. I know it’s not a huge deal in the scheme of life, but we were finding it more and more difficult to simply smile and enjoy the moment. When I called Susan again they were just leaving the store. I sent Bo out to grab our cousins and my artist friend Helen, who was also serving as the officiator for the ceremony, joined the flower team. I asked Kent and Chance to meet Susan and Dina as soon as they drove in as I laid out scissors and leftover ribbons and accessories on the dining room table. Nikki apologized to the guests and explained the reason for our delayed start.
Kali came into the kitchen holding an assorted bouquet of fresh-cut, colorful flowers. “Look what Edwin gave me. He wandered around the yard and picked them himself. They’re perfect.” She carefully wiped her tears with the corner of a tissue, touched by her soon-to-be- husband’s thoughtfulness.
“I wish my husband would do that for me.”
“That’s the most meaningful bouquet of flowers.”
“Far better than a florist would do…” We all shared the specialness of the moment.
“This is what you’ll remember,” I told her.
Helen added, “You have to have at least one thing go wrong at a wedding or it’s bad luck.”
Susan and Dina stormed in the door and the group sprang into action. As they arranged, clipped, pinned and tied ribbons I pointed out to Deborah, Sean’s mom and the groom’s aunt, the number of actual working artists in that magical circle surrounding the table. It wasn’t exactly an assembly line, but the creative efficiency was miraculous to witness.
Better late than never, we sashayed in to Vivaldi’s The Four Season’s, down the aisle on the wood chippings and found our seats. Edwin and his best man danced in to The Imperial March, Darth Vader’s theme, and laughter erupted. And then we all stood when Kali and seven-year-old- Ian came down together to A Thousand Years played by The Piano Guys, bringing tears to our eyes.
A special seat was left vacant, except for some flowers, for those special, close relatives who had passed on before this very special day. Hopefully, they too felt included in this blending of our families. I was struck by how beautifully elegant and simple the bridesmaids’ uncluttered, white flowers were. So appropriate, I thought, for this occasion. And Kali’s special, hand-picked by the groom, bridal bouquet. An unexpected upgrade had come out of the failed, best-laid plans to create an even better image to deposit into our memory banks.
Three of us: Edwin’s two aunts, Lori and Deborah, and I read special passages. Kali, Edwin and Helen performed a sand ceremony layering the different colors into a glass frame. Ian took his rightful spot joining his mom and Edwin in the pact. They had written their own vows and, of course, more tears. And laughter.
The band played. Tacos were served. Hilarious, tear-jerking toasts were made. For about an hour several of us searched, off and on, for the missing garter. Again, not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but another funny little glitch in an amazingly well planned wedding. By this time, Kali really didn’t care, as someone had handed her a left-over ribbon to use in lieu of. It was finally discovered by two members of the bridal party, in the dumpster, still wrapped in its zip-locked bag. Another one for the memory banks.
Earlier, during dinner, while talking with a long-time family friend, I watched as one end of our split-rail fence toppled over after one of the groom’s cousins had attempted to vault over it after being summoned by the photographer. I turned away shaking my head, not wanting to see the damage. I turned back to watch Kent prop it back up.
“You know, Chi,” my friend said. “You really have a blessed life.”
I studied her face and thought about it. “I guess I do,” I answered. “I have a pretty bitchin’ life.” I looked around and surveyed the scene. Friends and family eating, talking and laughing together. At peace under the oak tree canopy.
Chi Varnado is a contributing writer for The San Diego Reader. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.