As I packed the night before (the wedding was outside of Los Angeles) my sister texted me to let me know that a group of people were going hot-tubbing after the rehearsal dinner. Not having purchased a swimsuit in ten years (and thereby not having one that fit) I drove to Target in a flurry to pick up a cheap one. It would seem that Target introduced their swimsuit a few weeks prior because when I arrived I could only find a total of THREE suits in my size.
…And that is how I ended up with what I dubbed the Bob Marley String Bikini. Oh dear lord.
(The pictures may be deceiving, but make no mistake, this sucker was skimpy and unlike anything I have ever worn.)
And that was how the weekend started. And then before I went to bed Thursday after packing, I realized that it was 20 degrees colder in California. And then a repair guy randomly showed up at my house Friday morning as I was frantically repacking and drying necessary items (underwear) in the dryer - who, by the way, did not speak any English and forced me to keep the gringo stereotype alive. Return-o the day after Domingo? Repaso au demain? No fix-o ahora? Lo siento. No hablo espanol. Je suis muy stupid. Gracias. And then I was so frazzled that I forgot to pack the underwear. And then I got on the wrong freeway to the airport.
But I made it there, and I didn’t just survive. I actually enjoyed it. Who would’ve thunk it, huh?
What made it different? I suppose it begins with the relationship between my brother and sister-in-law. They were seven years of on-off with the only serious 'on' portion being the last two and a half years. My sister in law knew from the start. My brother…I think…questioned it for awhile (though last week he told me he knew in the first few months…ha!) He always used to say that he cared about her, but that they just didn’t work together. And they were crazy at times, but somewhere along the line, they determined that they weren’t going to be absent from each other’s lives, and after a period of basically not speaking to each other, they settled into friendship. He chilled out, she chilled out, and one day I looked at him and said, “Dude. She’s your best friend. Why the heck aren’t you guys together?” And a little bit after that they were – only this time they were the most disgustingly sweet couple I have ever seen. Once they dropped all the pretenses, grew up a little bit, and realized that they had something special, all of the bullshit kinda fell away. They absolutely adore each other and work together at everything they do. Everyone and their dog showed up for the wedding because as one of their friends told me, “Their story truly is the Hollywood ending.”
For all the pomp and circumstance that comes with planning a big wedding, it felt like nothing more than a gathering of friends and family. My parents, who grew up in L.A. invited their old friends from high school and college and had a sort of mini-reunion. The officiant was my brother’s godfather, my father’s best friend from high school, and the best man at my father’s wedding (as my father was at his). He was also a judge from northern California who wore Birkenstocks and a toe ring. The wedding was held on the beach and there were no religious references or outdated sexist phrases. At the end, my brother was not told, “You may kiss the bride,” but rather both were offered to embrace and express their love (total hippie awesomeness). There was laughing and crying by all during the ceremony.
At the reception, a bazillion people got up to talk about my brother (now age 38) and how for years he was the ultimate bachelor who all the guys envied, having spent most of his twenties as a ski bum only to move to LA, become a film editor, and live in an apartment with a living room that held a collection of 300 different beer bottles, a kegorator, and a regulation-size pool table. (I’m now starting to see where my taste in men comes from. Perhaps the dominant male figure in my childhood left the teensiest bit of an impression.) However, my favorite story was one that I’ve heard a thousand times and was told by my mother.
When my brother was in kindergarten, he use to come home from school every day with a note from the teacher pinned to him (and the note chronicled some form of inappropriate behavior). One day my mother sent him off to school just as it was starting to snow. (They lived about a block away.) Midday, the teacher took the class over to the set of bay windows in the classroom so that they could all watch the snow fall, and she could explain the mechanics of snowflakes. A few seconds into her spiel a kid pointed out the window and said, “Look! There’s [Ana’s Big Brother]!”
He was on the playground making snow angels and had never made it inside the building.
For this act, my mother was summoned for a parent-teacher conference (because now my brother was a truant at age five). After listening to the teacher recount the seriousness of my brother’s offense my mother looked at her and said, “It was snowing…in DALLAS, TEXAS. That never happens. Why the hell weren’t all of you out on the playground making snow angels?”
She also told a story about the time one of his schools tested him for the gifted program and brought my parents in for a conference. As the story goes, he passed the test, but the administration didn’t want to place him in the program because he had zero ambition and motivation. To this my father replied, “I just took half a day of work to come here. Please tell me something I DON’T know.”
As for me, I behaved myself, got my hair done, and wore my required chiffon party dress (aka the cheesy David’s Bridal special). One particular guy told me repeatedly throughout the evening how fabulous and classy I looked. This was when he wasn’t complaining about being the token gay man at the wedding.
Despite a full bar, my brother, sister, sister-in-law, and I drank nothing but longnecks of beer all night kept cool in a commemorative wedding Koozie - awesome. (We somehow managed to drink all of the Mexican beer the hotel had in stock. Someone commented to my mother that she'd raised a family of beer drinkers and my mom, a teetotaler responded, "Yeah, you'd think my house was a liquor store when they visit during the holidays.") My sister and I shut down the dance floor, and even my parents were impressed with my skills.
As mentioned, there were no religious references in the wedding, but there was a reading done by my younger sister, not from the bible, but from the Velveteen Rabbit, one of our favorite books from childhood. Here it is…
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
It was a great time.
And as my mother said during her speech, "Before my husband and I were married, we sat down and discussed our future. He wanted four children. I wanted none. I wanted a career and a house with white carpets. I wanted NO children! After my third one, I said if he wanted another... he could have it himself. I was done. Three was already too many. I DID NOT WANT KIDS. But today, our family finally got that fourth child, and we're so happy we did."
Yeah, I don't think anyone's holding their breath for child five and six.
PS – I rocked the swimsuit. Heck, I might even wear it again.