I was mad

Maybe this was a few days before

What I saw: it was thirty years ago the other night (if you know what I mean by that), and I had arrived at the wedding rehearsal at the church. I’m not sure who told me, though I assume it was my fiancé, but neither his father nor one of his sisters were there for the rehearsal, and they weren’t going to be coming to the wedding. 


What I wore: I don’t remember. I know what I wore to our engagement party (a purple silk abstract floral dress with puffy sleeves and a dropped waist). I know what I wore to the wedding shower (a bright royal blue silk shift with pleats at the shoulders and cap sleeves). I know what I put on after I changed out of my wedding dress (a two-piece, abstract-striped tan, gray and dusky blue dress with long sleeves and a long, flowy skirt). Clothes were very important to me in those days, right up there with mathematics and smoking.

What I did beforehand: there was some excitement around which of our college friends showed up, and where they should stay, and I think other people handled it. I probably sat in the sun, snuck off for a drive and a smoke, and spent a long time drying my hair. Maybe I got my nails done; it was the first time I had gotten my nails done by someone else. I went with my mom. I thought it was weird. I didn’t get my nails done again until New Year’s Eve, ten years later.

Who went with me: my mother and father and brothers were there at the rehearsal, along with my two maids of honor and my fiancé’s mother and the one of his sisters who came, and his brother, who was his best man. 
Why we got married: we were 23. I was in graduate school. I think we thought we would have been perfectly happy to keep living together, but once my boyfriend’s mother suggested it, getting married became this new thing we talked about all the time. I remember going out to dinner and our decision to get engaged, and spending the rest of the evening planning our engagement, which was to occur formally on another night when we would go out to dinner. We had to budget for this.
Things that were sad: when I told my parents that we were getting married, they were probably on the verge of telling me they were getting divorced. They did not say anything about getting divorced until we returned from our honeymoon. They were married 26 years. 

Things that were funny: I knew, when I found out I was missing a bridesmaid, that this was going to be the Thing That Went Wrong at my wedding, because there was always a Thing That Went Wrong at every wedding.  I thought that worse things could go wrong at a wedding. So I accepted it. But I stayed mad.
Things that were not funny: I was pretty angry at my fiancé’s family for not telling us sooner, or not trying harder to be there, and took it as a personal slight for many years. I do not know when I stopped being angry about it. Sometime between 1986 and now, definitely.

What it is: someone not showing up at your wedding is always their loss, and not yours.

Who should see it: If you are invited to a wedding, you should go. If you can’t go, express your regrets in a note. If you know you’re supposed to go,  but can’t, say so. 
What I saw on the way home: at our wedding ceremony, the next day, I got dressed at the church because I guess it’s easier to transport a big, fancy dress like that in a car and have it arrive looking perfect than it is to transport a woman wearing it. My grandmother made my dress for me, so it was new. (She also made the bridesmaid’s dresses, including the one for the bridesmaid who didn’t show up). She lent me an antique beaded purse for the day (old and borrowed), and gave me a blue-trimmed handkerchief to carry inside. One of the Church Ladies who helped with weddings did not approve of my choice of dusky mauve lipstick, and attacked me with frosty pink. 

The Numbers

Americans write the date in the format “Month/Day/Year,” so today’s date is one of those fun sequences (10/11/12) that makes a memorable birthday or wedding anniversary. I have a friend whose birthday is 11/11, so last year’s fell on 11/11/11. I think I probably know someone on the Facebook who has the birthday 12/12, but if I can search by birthday on the Facebook I do not know how. The 12 months of our calendar and 30 or 31 days within are pretty arbitrary anyway; a 52 week year breaks evenly into 13 four-week-long months, so why don’t we add a month?
I know a bunch of folks with birthdays which fall on other holidays, like Halloween and Christmas, dictating not only the color of the wrapping paper of every gift of their whole lives, but also over-shadowing their anniversaries. No doubt there were children born on a December 7th in the 1930s for whom the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor forever ruined their birthdays. I have a couple of friends who were born on September 11th.
Church Street, TriBeCa, September 11th, 2012
On September 11, 1857, something like 120 Arkansas emigrants were murdered by Mormons and either Paiute Indians or some folks dressed up to look like them. There many different accounts of this story, and you might be interested to compare this one to others you can find.
September 11, 1971 marks the death of Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor. Khrushchev is famous for a shoe-banging incident at the U.N. and for warning us all that “We will bury you!” and, “Your children will be communists,” which Barry Goldwater used in his political television ads for his run for President of the United States. In 1959, Khrushchev visited the United States, and if you have 5 minutes you should watch this.
My childhood neighborhood friend with the braids was married on a September 11, in the 80s, in a ceremony in the old Catholic cathedral in downtown St. Louis. I was one of many bridesmaids, all in mint green taffeta, and I remember being very hot while we were kneeling and standing and kneeling and standing. 
That same day, September 11, 1987, in St. Andrews, a suburb of Kingston, Jamaica, the reggae musician known as Peter Tosh was shot and killed in his home. He was 42. A lively retelling of this brutal murder can be read here.
 The morning of September 11, 2001, I was eating breakfast in our kitchen in Seattle with all three kids, getting ready to go to school. The phone rang. It was my mother, explaining that she knew I didn’t watch TV but I better turn it on because something was happening in New York.
We had a small TV in the kitchen, and we turned it on in time to see the footage of the first tower engulfed and collapsing as well as footage of the second tower being hit. My children were very young, and unaccustomed to TV news, and did not know what they were looking at was real. While I was trying to explain to them that it was something serious and bad, the phone rang. It was a friend who mis-dialed another, mutual friend, with a similar number. A native New Yorker, the caller was completely distraught; I wonder if she even remembers calling me that day.
Last year was the tenth anniversary of the attack, and though we were living in North Dreadful, it was observed with a ceremony at the public school with solemnity and formality. My youngest son missed this event completely, thanks to a stomach ache.
This year, we live within view of the new towers under construction. There is a memorial at the site of the now missing towers, but I still have not visited it yet. I was awestruck by the two towers of light shining there the two nights of the 10th and the 11th which I find a fitting memorial: abstract, quiet and ephemeral, requiring no tickets or online registration.
  

The Peony of Coincidence

Before my parents put a pool in the backyard of the house I grew up in, there was a peony in the yard. I think the flowers were dark red. It was memorable for being a plant that emerged from the dead dirt like a miracle, and most especially because of the large black ants that were to be found crawling all over the buds.  
I have read that if you want ant-free peonies, you can cut them when the buds are “marshmallow soft.” You brush off the ants outside and can let them bloom inside in a vase.  The ants are irrelevant and do not facilitate the blooming; they are simply tasting the sugar on the flowers.
Ants were part of my childhood. Our house had the small kind of black ant, the ones that would find a bit of food on the counter and march in a dense line to dismantle it and carry home the crumbs. I watched them often. Despite being afraid of many interesting things as a child (my grandparents, bees, throwing and catching, swimming, dogs, crows), I have no specific memory of being afraid of ants. My younger brother would lie on the pavement on his belly and squish them with his finger, saying, “Gee-um! Gee-um!” I can also recall a couple of experiments on ant hills involving water or hot wax, but I wielded no magnifying glass on them.  
As an adult, I take a keen interest in most of the things I was fearful of as a child (my grandparents, bees, dogs, crows), and I can recommend a book about ants that I read a number of years ago called, “The EarthDwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants,” by Erich Hoyt. Ants, like bees and termites, live in colonies which function as a single organism.
As for peonies, they are always blooming on my birthday in early June, and in the past I always asked for some. A few years back, Schwartzdeveloped a taste for the peony petals and heartily consumed a number of them. This produced in the cat some projectile vomiting of a surprisingly violent and comical nature. After I did some superficial research online, I was able to find peonies listed as “toxic to cats” on an ASPCA web site and “mildly toxic to cats” in most other forums. I also observed that there are other resources that consider red peony root to be a traditional herbal remedy for people for “clearing the blood.”
Today is my birthday, but it is also the anniversary of the massacre of Chinese citizens in Tiananmen Square.   The powers that be in China seem to believe that censoring the Internet by banning search terms will contain or erase or alter the memories of its people. The Shanghai Composite Index managed to provide its own random reminder by closing down by 64.89 points and so had to be added to the list of banned terms.  
Of course, peonies are said to have magical properties, containing nymphs inside their petals which escape when they bloom. Everyone knows that the peony nymphs are freed to call to the snapping turtles to tell them to come to shore and lay their eggs, but perhaps they also wish to promote democracy for the 1.2 billion people who live in China.

Sad

Today is April 13, 2011. My mother died seven years ago today, from a primary brain tumor. She died at home, where she had been cared for by my step-father. I am in Hawaii, on vacation with my husband and two of our boys.
Things related to my mother’s illness and death make me grumpy, so I spent a couple of hours alone today at a spa getting my nails done. My mother had beautiful nails and strong, useful hands. Once, a jeweler told her she had the “hands for large diamonds.” I don’t know if I have the hands for large diamonds, but I don’t think that I have the temperament for them anyway. It’s been a long time since I had my nails done, and I chose an intense purplish pink nail polish.
We brought my mother with us to Hawaii once, to Maui, about ten years ago. She took a lot of pictures, and spent what seemed like way too much time actually walking into the kind of shops I barely window-shop.
Lately I have been reading a lot of books about dogs, and while I was at the salon today I finished the excellent “Merle’s Door,” by Ted Kerasote. I have read four dog books in a row now, and like the other books I have read about dogs, this book is very sad at the end when the dog dies. Merle reminds me a lot of our dog Pluto, strong-willed, enthusiastic, and smart. Merle died at home, in the care of his owner.
Next, I plan to read “Homer’s Odyssey,” by Gwen Cooper. This book is about a cat that I know from Twitter, and he is still alive.