Everything seemed to be in order. I kicked off my shoes and climbed up in the corner of the couch closest to Pop’s chair, tucking my legs under me. I’ve never been able to just sit on those couches. They’re enormous and squishy and if I sit correctly, my feet won’t touch the floor. They’re a bit like bouncy houses – you have to fight your way in and out of them.
We talked about holiday dinner plans and we talked about his health. We talked about football and we talked about the dogs. He told me he bought the kid a Barbie Jeep for Christmas, as well as one for my cousin’s little girl and bikes for the boys. And like so many Christmases before, I thought, “Honestly, who needs Santa Claus when you have a Papa?”
After twenty minutes of the usual conversation, it tapered off. I stared at the TV, not really watching, just relaxing. Tess sat at the dining room table behind us doing paperwork and the dogs finally settled down. That’s when he decided to spring it on me.
“Oh”, he said lazily turning his head toward me. “Tess and me are gettin’ married.”
The pause was only about two or three seconds, while my mouth hung slightly open and I glanced from one to the other. She looked back at me from the table; glasses slipping down her nose and pen poised over paper, clearly waiting for my reaction. He was less concerned, as always. Papa has always done exactly as he wished and people can either fall in line, or move out the way. He was already looking back at the TV, big spotted hands resting on his belly and large, bare feet lifted comically in the air.
“Wow! Congratulations!” I wasn’t happy or unhappy, just surprised. I didn’t think they’d ever get married, though she’s been around for about eight years now. A lot of drama surrounded their early relationship (drama that would take a very long to time to explain properly) and at times most of us wondered just what she was doing there. Was she employee, girlfriend, companion, or...something else? It seems we finally got a definitive answer.
“Thank you”, Papa said.
I glanced back at Tess and asked, “Are you excited?”
“Not really”, she replied in her choppy accent. “We together living already. No change.”
“Papa”, she called, “you excited?”
“Yeah, darlin’”, he said while winking at me, “I’m thrilled.”
She snickered and went back to her paperwork. He mentioned that it was going to be held there at his house in mid March and I sighed. I’d been planning a trip that I was very excited about...set for mid March. But missing Papa’s wedding would, in his eyes, be akin to spitting at them. Plans would have to be shifted.
Christmas morning started slowly with coffee cups, robes, and the distribution of presents. Then, as usual, it picked up speed – paper flew, unproductive skating around in socks and underwear ensued, and my godmother’s family came over to quickly exchange presents before we left en masse for The Grandmother’s.
Sheryl (that’s my godmom...but not my favorite one) walked in decked out in her red robe and Santa hat, coffee cup clutched in both hands, followed by her son Tony and daughter Sam.
We all met each other when Leigha and I started taking dance lessons – I was about nine and Lee was two. Sam and Lee were instant friends and quickly became inseparable, which in turn made our mothers inseparable. They became best friends and we’ve been so close to their family ever since, that the title of godmom was just given to Sheryl, to make explaining our closeness to outsiders a bit easier. (It’s also, I believe, a southern thing – calling people family when they really aren’t.) Two years ago, when she split up with her husband, Sheryl and Sam moved into the house next door. Ray was her roommate for a few months before he moved in with us, then she met her boyfriend Brad and he moved in with her.
Tony, at 27, is two years older than me and we’ve had...indiscretions...in the past that always make being around each other awkward. Or rather, I feel awkward because he clearly never got over me. And he feels a bit like unfinished business that I don’t particularly want to finish, yet somehow (only when he isn’t around and I temporarily forget how annoying he is) feel compelled to finish. He’s very smart, a bit nerdy, and cute...but he irritates the piss out of me. He’s one of those people that don’t listen when you speak; he just waits for his turn. And with an ego as large as mine, I need someone that’s more interested in what I have to say.
I was dashing past them, trying to get things together, when Sheryl stuck out her hand. I should have expected it, but I was as surprised by the ring on her finger as I was by Papa’s announcement a few days prior.
I hugged her and said the appropriate things, glancing over her shoulder as I did and catching sight of mom. She raised an eyebrow and I raised both of mine back, because I’ve never been able to just do the one without squinting comically. And though, due to my lack of facial dexterity, our expressions weren’t exactly alike, they certainly conveyed the same message. “Hmm...I wonder if he would have proposed so soon if Ray hadn’t just given mom a ring...”
Perhaps it was an uncharitable thought, but there’d been enough competition between Sheryl and mom in the past to warrant it. And of course we’d never say it aloud...in public.
She said they hadn’t set a date yet and that was the end of that conversation. We exchanged presents, oohed and aahhed over them, and they left. And in the rush to get our things together and make it to The Grandmother’s on time for lunch, I promptly forgot all about Sheryl’s diamond.
I returned to work yesterday feeling rather grateful. There are women out there that would love to quit their jobs and be stay at home moms, but I’m not one of them. Quit my job...yes. Twenty four seven parenting...no. After four days of opening presents, cleaning up, putting together puzzles, playing in the snow, coloring, and going to the movies – I was officially done. And I was proud of what I’d accomplished. I managed to be a fun, minimally irritated mom that didn’t once pick up a book and say, “Get outta here kid, ya bother me”.
I worked straight through the morning, quickly catching up with my inbox. By lunch time I had to slow down to make sure I had enough to last me through Thursday. So it was a little after that, when I was dicking around on Twitter and doing a lot of nothing, that my office phone rang, showing Papa’s office number.
“Hey”, he shouted in my ear, the unmistakable echo of speakerphone making him even louder.
“Hey Pop. What’s up?”
“Tess has something to ask you!”
I could hear the murmur of several voices in the background and a few stray giggles.
“You want be my bridesmaid?”
“You want...”, she began, before being interrupted by Pop. “Do you want to be a bridesmaid in the wedding”, he shouted.
I paused, the loud static of the speakerphone echoing in my ear. “Um...sure. Thanks.”
A whole room full of people immediately burst out laughing.
“Ok”, he yelled, “talk to you later!”
I placed the phone back in the cradle and stared at the computer screen, my eyes glazing over. Then I began laughing in a very disturbing manner as my brain kicked into attack mode. It all hit me at once...
Ok. So I’m a bridesmaid again. How many is that now? Four? Five? Wait...I’m supposed to be in mom’s wedding in October, and now Papa’s in March? Wow. Sheryl is engaged...please no. I was just in a wedding three months ago. People are just picking me as a joke now. This is getting embarrassing. I’m THAT girl. And I can’t even use the excuse that I don’t care about getting married because that’s not necessarily true anymore. Did I really just think that out loud? It’s only because I’m selfish and want presents and a trip....probably. Oh.My.God. I’m going to be an old maid with a closet full of pastel dresses! This is not happening. Not only in MOM’S wedding...but my GRANDFATHER’S. I am so fucking sad right now. Couldn’t say no to Papa...unheard of. I think there’s a Xanax in my purse...
PING. My phone lit up with a text message from my friend and neighbor, Claire.
“OMG! Tess just called and asked me to be a freaking bridesmaid in their wedding!!”
“Me too”, I sent back. Wow, I thought, she’s not only asking the veterans, but also the neighbors.
PING. My phone lit up again, but not with Claire’s reply. It was from Marie, my cousin’s wife.
“Did you get asked to be a bridesmaid too?”
Sigh. Now she’s asking out-of-state relatives. “Yes.”
“lol. Did you say yes?”
“What the fuck was I supposed to say?!”
“I know, me too.”
“I just might off myself”, I said.
“You can do the remake of 27 Dresses!”
“I know. I hate you.”
“I’m just picturing 80s puff and lots of taffeta.”
“I’m praying that whatever she chooses...it’s black.”
“Me tooooo”, Marie replied.
“Help”, I sent to a guy friend a little while later. “Read my Twitter feed and report back.” I’d posted all of my bridesmaid/marital woes.
“I’m not sure I get the full tweet feed on the phone app. What’s going on?”
I broke it down for him again, in layman’s terms.
“I’m gonna need you to propose now”, I said.
A minute ticked by, then PING.
It’s official. I am a loser.
My geriatric family members have no trouble finding people that want to marry them. Rather than making a mock proposal or reminding me that marriage is for dummies in order to make me feel marginally better, my friends give me “awwwws” and two page texts of laughter.
Actually, that’s fine! I don’t need a partner. Just because everyone else is pairing off doesn’t mean I should feel pressured to follow suit. And that’s where all these weird feelings and panicky bridesmaid thoughts are coming from – peer pressure. By putting me in their weddings, these people are pressuring me to want my own. They aren’t my feelings – they’re projections! Uh huh.
Whew. I’m glad I’ve got that sorted out.