Siobhan’s sister is getting married tomorrow. Siobhan’s been spinning in decorative circles for months, which has been bugging the hell out of me. Tomorrow it’s all over and Siobhan can get back to what really matters: Me. And she’ll be glad to, because what could be more important than My happiness?
Speaking of selfish, Mom and Tom got remarried on Daria’s birthday.
Let’s review: on the day before my February birthday, Dad called to say he had cancer. Days after Anya’s March birthday, we learned the cancer was terminal. On Corinne’s birthday, the rest of us were in Virginia taking care of Dad. The day before Todd’s April birthday, Dad died. Last week, I figured, crap, this year no one gets a birthday besides Dara and Daria, but I was wrong. A few years ago, a giant fucking hurricane and the stupid humans charged with emergency response wiped out the civil records for the City of New Orleans, and with it, any official documentation of Mom’s and Tom’s secret-from-everyone-even-each-other hippy wedding.
Yesterday, as actual criminals deserted New Brunswick for the Jersey Shore, Anya, Corinne and I lay across benches in a nearly empty courthouse – because it was funny – waiting for our parents, who are typically two-three hours late for everything. On my way into the building, the cop at the door looked really bored until I couldn’t follow directions but what else is new?
Bored Guy: Where are you going?
Tata: Isn’t that what we’d all like to know?
Bored Guy: Today, in this building?
Tata: I’m going to – I think it’s –
Bored Guy: Family court?
Tata: Room 201?
Bored Guy: Family court? Judge SomeFella?
Tata: No. Judge SomeDude? Judge SomeOldMan?
Bored Guy: Judge SomeOldMan is right at the top of the stairs. Why are you here?
Bored Guy: I guess you’re here to meet them.
He points up the stairs at my – I assure you – very attractive stepsisters. I begin ascending.
Bored Guy: Elevator’s over there.
Much Less Bored Guy: I said – elevator’s over there!
Tata: The fat lady said thank you.
We sprawled across the benches. We hadn’t even had time to pass out before their father and my mother came up the stairs at 3:30, the time of our appointment with legal destiny and Judge SomeOldMan. Daria ran up the stairs dressed like one of Christina Aguilera’s back up singers just as the clerk was about to lose patience with our babbling. Anya and I had signed the paperwork as witnesses. Corinne was holding all the ceremonial jewelry until Daria arrived, and Todd was in Los Angeles, nursing a red-hot grudge.
See, in 1998, we heard a rumor. I don’t know why it happened this way, but it did. As the oldest child and the one therefore closest to death, I called home. It was a local call.
Tata: Are you two married?
Mom: What? I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Tata: I asked you a yes or no question. I’m not asking complicated questions like how or why.
Mom: I have to go bake something…
Tata: Are you two married? Your innumerable children want to know.
Mom: No. Nuh-unh. Yes. Yes!
Tata: Fine! Thank you! Stop hyperventilating, sheesh!
Mom: I’m sticking my head in the freezer. Rescue me before my hair cracks.
For people allergic to marriage, they’d apparently gotten married twice – at least. The story changes depending on who’s listening and their level of involvement with law enforcement. Mom and Tom met at the commune. Have I mentioned the commune? Yeah, I’ve milked a goat. Anyway, when Daria, Todd and I met Tom, we were the oddly small pre-teens in the alley beside the health food restaurant climbing up the sides of a big man. Subsequently, at a time nobody remembers but before I was released from the custody of primary school authorities, Mom stopped arguing about the getting-remarried thing. They got metaphysical in Martha’s Vineyard before the stars and the sea, more conventionally legal in New Orleans, and now dry and permanent before a judge in New Brunswick. I maintain they should have waited out the seventies for Cher’s dozen farewell tours and gotten married across America, Karen Finley-style, but it’s not like I was present and organizing. No, though I care about things like who’s wearing what metals, I was busy running away from home once a week at the time. So almost twenty years later in 1999, as Todd says to anyone who’ll listen in Los Angeles, “We slapped some rings on them for the whatever anniversary of whatever happened. Then we ate cake.”