My auntie is lefthanded, as am I. This makes us pains in the ass at the dinner table, the sewing table and, whatever you do, don’t buy us scissors – unless you’re silly enough to think we’re unarmed. Auntie InExcelsisDeo, whom we’ll term a dainty I., went to Catholic school from the beginning of her academic career. The nuns taught her to use her right hand by slapping other-handed on their other hands with rulers. This training was successful until one day in the fourth grade, lovely Auntie I. grabbed the ruler and slapped the nun back. Auntie I. still has the ruler.
Your picture goes dreamy woo-woo swirly as a number of years pass. Our journey through time stops on a dime at Miss Sasha’s wedding rehearsal at Our Lady of Peace Church. This is a shocker because in the mid-sixties, my parents went secular humanist and decided to sleep in on weekends. Later, I chose to be Chosen, along with the delicate Miss Sasha who called me six months ago.
MS: Mommy! I converted back to Catholicism!
Tata: Hey! We were never Catholic!
Two of my sisters are Unitarians – we think. One is a fire and brimstone Baptist with a sensible firehose wit. One of my sisters is “some kind of Cape Cod Protestant” – as is my brother. Our children have been baptized in five different houses of worship. We’ve sat still in Quaker meeting houses, synagogues, churches our great-grandparents built by hand and great European cathedrals. When the priest joins us and members of the wedding party, we’re sitting in the chapel outside the church in which Miss Sasha will be married. Auntie I. surveys the scene and is dissatisfied.
Auntie: They’re chewing gum, laughing, and wearing dirty clothes.
Tata: They’re young, stupid and not wading in your gene pool.
The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and I cannot spend ten minutes together without laughing hysterically. We place bets on who’s going to face-plant on the altar steps. I’m at the top of the list! The priest directs a cast of thousands.
Fr.: You go here, you go there, then you walk around in circles, then you march over here and give your mother a flower, then march over there and give your mother a flower, then you turn this way and go back to the altar and where I talk some more and then you turn this way and the best man retrieves your mother and takes her over here and she stands behind the altar smiling and looking at the candle because that’ll make a good picture and don’t look at the photographer you’ll look all cross-eyed…
I put the candle down. Holding it hurts my hand. The priest picks it up and puts it back in my hand. I put it down again. He is still talking. He picks up the candle and gives it back to me, and gives me the best man to boot. I am advised to lean on a smooth-skinned young man which I do in such a way that he finds it difficult to remain ambulatory. That’s fine, I’ve stepped over less deserving persons on my way into church. Anyway, returned to my seat, I am advised to sit and a critical instruction is missing.
“Am I still holding a thing that’s ON FIRE?” Everyone laughs nervously. The priest advises me to hand the candle to the best man who will return it to its holder behind my cousin, the highly flammable maid of honor. The priest stutters. I quote Young Frankenstein loudly, “Put. The candle. Back.” My sister and the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) laugh into their hands.
When the rehearsal ends a week later, my cousin and I are fleeing to the parking lot when our private conversation is interrupted by a virtual stranger.
Tata: …so we were both shocked when he said, “Cupcake, don’t you worry your pretty little head about it” and I let him live!
Priest: I hear you putting men down and…
Tata: I am so far beyond that I’m not going to listen to another word.
Half an hour later, we’re sitting in a backwoods bar with a hall in which I learn Piscataway, NJ has a Hillbilly-American population. The groom’s mother sits down at the table full of my family and tells us her terrible and uplifting life story. I see a lot of interesting things nobody else notices, so I’m used to staring wildly around the room to see if anyone else is confused. Aside from those daydreams about WCBS newscaster Mario Bosquez, this is the strangest foray into FantasyLand I’ve undertaken without a French maid costume and a bathtub full of Jell-O. Mamie’s on speed dial.
Tata: Did I tell you the annoying thing she did over the weekend of the groom’s graduation? She cornered Miss Sasha and said something about how she carried the groom, fed him, raised him, educated him and now Miss Sasha has stolen him away. Mama’s opening salvo when she sat down was to explain how reasonable a perspective that was. I started laughing like Gilbert Gottfried was lodged in my throat.
Mamie: I’m somewhat comforted to know that there’s insanity on his side of the family, too, so that if Miss Sasha goes ’round the bend completely, he shouldn’t be too thrown.
If I insult this woman Auntie I. will reach across the table and give me a guinea-wop-dago slap upside my head. When Mama tells us her parents tried to marry her off when she was thirteen, I turn to my twelve-year-old niece and say, “No matter WHAT your mother says, I think you should date first and find out if his parents are CRAZY well before you get married.” When Mama tells us her in her country a person’s employer can toss her into an alley and say, “Your bedroom is this refrigerator box,” I tell the niece, “It’s about time you got a job, you shameless freeloader.” When Mama tells us about the assault, I give up, cluck like a chicken and shovel salad into my mouth.
When it gets worse, I run out of salad. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) will not meet my eyes for fear we might decide I could take Mama in two out of three falls on her home turf. Fortunately, my mother arrives and all talk of the Old Country ceases. She’s brought pie, and it’s blissfully quiet in the hall once everyone’s got a mouthful of supermarket apple. And the room is quiet, except for the classic rock soundtrack on the boombox and emanating from the bar. You’ve gotta know how much I love that hit parade.