Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lessons from Canada Part II

Crying, wailing, gnashing of teeth over. Nothing like a little house cleaning to get you to stop crying. Maybe that's why mom cleaned so much when she was upset?

Anyway...on with the show!

After completing the decoration of the hall, we take off for lunch at Cindy's, some rest, a lot more chatting. All is good. Time slides by in the way it does, as we are working on Hatchet Maiden-Name time. We're not a timely family. I'm the one that is mostly on time and I have a 5-15 minute range. Compare and contrast this with my mother, who is known to have a 1 hour lag.

One hour, my chickadees!

One of my aunts (that's pronounced Awnt, not Ant) began lying to my mom for years and quoting her times an hour earlier, just to get mom there on time. And it worked! Mostly. Never underestimate my mom's ability to be late for anything, no matter how important. Heck, she even made me late for my own wedding! There was a cake involved there, too....

Sorry, I distract easily.

We go whipping back to the hall, running late and put the final touches on the decorating.

Mom and dad, Dawn and Ian are not yet there. Of course. The guests are beginning to file in. The invite did say 6:30 pm, so they are on time. No one is surprised that my folks aren't there yet. Cindy calls the house only to find out that mom got involved in...cutting up the Jamaican fruitcake that she wants to give away in small white boxes. Why then? Why her? Why not ask the caterers to cut it up?

Because this is my mom. Being late due to cakes is normal. Since they live an hour away (Everything we wanted to do in the area we were in was an hour away - nothing is close - not even the boonies where my folks and my sister live, they are an hour away from each other in their own disparate boonies. Sheesh!), they were guaranteed to be an hour late, if not longer. As it stands, I have no idea how late they were since I was involved in re-meeting all of my mom's friends.

I've gotta tell you, I've met these folks repeatedly over the years, but it's usually only for about an hour every other year. Why am I expected to remember them, on sight, when I haven't seen them for 1 to 2 years? They get to see my picture on the wall at my folks house, so of course they know who I am on sight! To me they are one of the crowd of people around my folks at the assorted parties my mom throws. I know their names by now, but not their faces. No insult intended, but I don't have the brain space left to keep them all apart! Sorry parent friends! I'm lucky I can keep all my relatives straight, but at least I've had decades to get used to who they all are and I've spent way more time around them establishing a relationship.

Mom and dad (and Dawn and Ian) finally arrive and there's a little speechifying before we eat. I think it was the MC at Cindy's wedding. Drafted at the last minute to get the ball rolling and keep us moving through the assorted party courses (speech, food, speech, speech, dancing, speech, cake, photos, random milling with food). He did a great job. It was at this point that Cindy reminded me that someone out of us kids would need to speak.


We each looked to the next. Everyone seemed to be looking back at me - the no longer shy one. The one they made walk down the aisle first at Cindy's wedding because I was the brave one. Yeah, well, OK I guess I'll make a speech! Ad-libbed. Last minute. No problem. Dawn also agreed to give one, after I did. Good thing, too.

My cousin Nancy was at my parent's wedding 40 years ago and was mom's maid-of-honor. She was 16. She was naturally drafted to give a speech, but she had had time to plan and actually wrote one! It was great. I don't remember the details of what she'd said, but it was good, funny, made us all cry when she mentioned my Aunt Thelma (who died from Parkinson's 4 years ago) and made my parent's marriage seem like a fairy tale. My cousins, children of the aunt who was 12 years older than my dad, are all roughly 15 years older than us kids. As adults it's all a wash, but we missed out on having same age cousins to play with, which was a little sad. I imagine it was a little funny to hang out with us in NY while we were growing up and have people ask them if we were there kids. Heh!

One of the interesting parts about Nancy's speech was the way she described her memories of my dad, her uncle. He was the life of the party, in their experience. He'd show up for a visit and light up the house. He'd bake doughnuts and pineapple upside-down cake for them. He'd make them laugh until they cried. He sounded like a helluva guy, to me. I wish I'd known him like that as our dad. He did some of that stuff with us, when we were kids, but it seemed to stop once Dawn and I became teenagers. Somewhere in his 50s, I think the erratic behavior began. Angry for what seemed to me to be little reason. So we missed out on the fun uncle stage during the last couple of decades and that makes me sad but I'm glad that he made them happy.

Suddenly, with tears standing in my eyes and a lump in my throat it was my turn to go and make with the speeching. I looked at Dawn in a panic and she laughed at me. Noted that she wasn't crying! Yet somehow I was up. Ugh!

I pulled myself together and assumed my extrovert incarnation. The part of me that learned public speaking from my years as a project manager and professional trainer for Big Companies. Whee!

I warned the crowd that I was all emotional over Nancy's speech and that I was very likely to get so again during my own, but to hang in there. I don't remember what all I said. There was laughing, there was definitely crying, there was potentially rambling and a very specific point about Community and how mom and dad had made those people their community and how they in turn had taken mom and dad in. How each held the other and how that was important. This, apparently, was a big success. Yay me! Commenting on how I hoped Eric and I can make it to 40 years (10 was pretty good!) and that it wasn't always easy growing up in our house but that I loved them still. Both of them.

Weeping, I handed the damned microphone off to my sister and hugged both my folks.

By the way, learning to speak while crying is a very important skill. While you may feel your throat closing up around that big ole lump, sometimes you've just gotta get your point across. While this is not something I Learned In Canada, it's a skill I put to great use there.

Dawn took over at that point and immediately turned the whole thing around and was funny! We both mentioned mom's cooking in our speeches. At every party, mom is always in the kitchen cooking something up. She's never out and about, mingling. There's always something that needs to be cooked, or finished cooking, or iced (those cakes again!) and so mom is never truly available as she was at this party. A momentous occasion indeed! Dawn riffed on this and that and brought the crowd back up from Maudlinville and all was well.

Then it was time for mom and dad to speak. Mom had plenty to say, but I can't remember it except for the part about how dad's memories all involve mom and so he now thinks that she was everywhere, all his life. That's ridiculously flattering, I think. To love someone so much and for so long that quite literally, you can't remember ever being without them. Except for that little matter of them growing up worlds apart (Canada and Jamaica, remember?) and 12 years apart in age. It was a very sweet sentiment and dad looked a bit sheepish as she said it, I think.

Now dad, being so stoic, is not the kind to pick up a microphone and speechify. He kept his part short and sweet. What I remember from that is his final line:

"And then I lived happily ever after."

And that, I think, is the perfect way to end your 40th anniversary speech.

Now, before I get weepy again, here are some pictures!

Sleeping Caitlin:
This is the morning of the party. She was exhausted after those three flights!

Caitlin towers above her 16 month old cousin, Daniel.
Daniel on a "leash", surrounded by Frank and Ruth Lahey, a childhood friend of Dad's and Daniel's father, Jason.
The celebrated and late couple! Note that Dad has a cake box in his hands. See? Late on account of cake! Seems to be a theme...
This is my cousin Jamie (technically my dad's cousin). He's a fantastic nature photographer out of St. John, New Brunswick. He was utterly relieved when he saw me break out my camera, since he doesn't do event shooting.

Here's Dawn being fabulous.

Little white boxes filled with cake. Jamaican wedding fruitcake. Soaked in Jamaican rum. Damned good! What you know as fruitcake ain't got nuttin' on this! This is beyond edible.

What's that, you say? You want to know what's written on top of the box? Here you go!
Why yes those are the boxes that were for my wedding 10 years ago!

Turns out that mom had ordered these boxes to give away...Jamaican wedding fruitcake in them, but decided the boxes were too big, so she never used them. I had no idea that they even existed, so imagine my surprise to see a table full of little white boxes with our names and date engraved on them!

Reduce, reuse, recycle, baby!

Here's the top layer of the cake. Made by both mom and Cindy. It's a real work of art! I had to photograph it in pieces so you could see what it said.

"Love...a price beyond rubies." Rubies, you see, are the jewel of the 40th anniversary.

In between each layer of the cake were photos! They are old and many are aged yellow.

There's my folks getting married.

The middle shot is of Dawn, to the right, me to the left and Ian as an infant. Cindy was born 5 years later.
The whole thing.
On the second layer, it had the name of all of us kids. On the bottom layer, that I couldn't get close to, it said something like Kindness, Love and stuff like that. I really can't remember.

Daniel and his dad, Jason. My brother-in-law.
Nancy's speech. She made mom cry.
Dawn's speech. Clearly she's having a good time!

Mom's speech. Mom is cracking dad up here.
She's totally into it! Such a ham! Now you know where I get it from!
Mom hands the mic off to dad.
"And I lived happily ever after!"
More tomorrow!


Cindy said...

Great job Sis.... but those aren't Daniel's Great Grand parents. They are Frank and Ruth Lahey, a childhood friend of Dad's and his wife! I love the pic of Dawn, you should send that over so we can blow it up for X-Mas!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Whoops! I'll fix that!

Dawn said...


In Jamaican Standard time you are not late if you show up half an hour to an hour after the scheduled start time of anything.

Translations for time measurements include:
a few minutes = no less than half an hour;
5 minutes = an hour minimum;
an hour = all afternoon/evening, definitely not less than about 4-5 hours.

Living in the States or Canada will not affect your reckoning of time, and it is hereditary (your children will also be on Jamaican Standard time). It is possible with a great effort and much lying about the actual time or time an event is to start for a person on Jamaican standard time to emulate on time behavior, but this is only likely to occur with job or money related matters, and Church if they are an active member of their church, synagogue or place of worship.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Hah! I like it!

I suspect that Val must have a little Jamaican in her as well, then!

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