The Underline of the Word

Part One
Part Two

Part Three
This morning, I walked to work on a day where the weatherman promises 99 degrees. I wonder if my dinner plans include hospital food, but don’t let that worry you. Try this instead:

Pete: I thought we were just going for a walk.
Tata: We did. Then our clothes disappeared. Hooray!

Terrifying – but not nearly as terrifying as calculating how many of your parents’ weddings you’ve attended. Let’s see.

Mom & Dad: check!
Dad & Summer: check!
Dad & Darla: no!
Mom & Tom: no!
Mom & Tom, the sequel: no!
Mom & Tom, Electric Boogaloo: check!

…carry the two… I’ve been present in one form or another for 50% of my parents’ marriages to each other, though my average drops considerably when you add in Summer’s additional marriages, and Tom’s and Darla’s first, each. I’m barely holding on at 30%! It’s like I’m not even trying.

Inside the courtroom, we have no idea what to do, where to stand or how to act. The court clerk stares at us, then returns to a pile of folders, smiling. The court officer leans against a desk and makes a valiant attempt to keep a straight face. Daria arrived after Mom and Tom doled out jobs. Anya and I were assigned the task of signing documents as legal witnesses. Daria and Corinne were ring bearers. Daria was late in arriving and is so tense she’s spinning like a top and babbling constantly. I’m holding very still, hoping this counterbalances frenetic camera, makeup and phone message checking. Anya and Corinne comment on artwork lining the courtroom walls. Finally, we all stop talking for one tiny moment and the officer says, “Shall I get the judge?” He is so amused we can do nothing else but chatter amongst ourselves. He gets the judge anyway.

The judge is a Very Serious Person. His time is valuable! He stares at us over his glasses and says, “Who’s getting married?” Mom and Tom snap to! “Who are the witnesses?” Anya and I raise our hands. For no reason whatsoever, my sisters and I squaredance from places where we could see everything to four other places where we can see everything…and stop! The judge stares at us over his glasses, then lowers his head to contain a laugh. Daria then says magic words, “Can I take video?”

Now we would be a genuine security threat if Daria weren’t obviously going nowhere in five-inch heels. The judge stares at her, then says, “Stand over here.”

For the next two or three minutes, the judge talks about love, devotion and responsibility, jewelry is exchanged, Daria cries her eyes out, Mom’s voice wavers, Anya beams, Corinne hugs everybody and the officer lets Daria take pictures from all over the courtroom because in a post-9/11 world, nothing says security like not training your gun on six foot Jersey chick at her parents’ third wedding. The judge wishes everyone well and retires to his chambers, where I’m sure he hurt himself laughing.

When Daria sends out the digital pictures, some family members’ email accounts go belly-up, but that won’t happen for another six hours. As we tumble down the stairs and out to the street, where Daria takes more pictures, the city is unusually empty and quiet. It’s not unusual for Daria and me to be the loudest things on any blocks where road construction’s shut down for the day, but this is ridiculous. We have the city to ourselves, so we bug out.

To be continued.

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