The bride wore….

I come from a family who, individually and collectively, braid together staunch traditionalism with unapologetic iconoclasm as readily as our hearts beat while we also breathe.  Weddings for this bunch then are rare occasions the grandeur of which is as much in the stories they evoke as (in this case anyway) the profundity of wedding cake choices.  Just to set the tone, the bride wore the same gown she’d worn 13 years earlier to the high school ball she’d attended with the same young man she now took as her husband.  And yes, they’ve been a couple all this while, in spite of—as the judge noted—time spent together as well as time spent apart. And in spite of those years of preparation, or because of them, my brother, the bride’s father, brought along and used up a rather large box of Kleenex.


The rest of us got our chances to become misty eyed during the toasts, which were kept to a minimum, perhaps precisely to keep order in the room. There was the one from the bride’s older sister, which included a recapitulation of the bride and groom’s high school make-out sessions, news of which—arriving yesterday—jolted the bride’s mother.  It’s okay, Jan, they clearly didn’t jump into cementing the relationship prematurely, wouldn’t you agree?  A high school bud of the groom countered with the poignant recollection of the discussion he and the future husband had when they were 18 and my future nephew-by-marriage already knew he was destined to marry my niece.

So, just for the heck of it, here’s my own recollection of the bride, back when she was young and single:

I first met Al when she was a bump in her mother’s stomach, a prop beneath her year-old sister.  A few months later, I got word of Al’s birth as I was boarding a train from Boston to St Louis.  We met two years after that, when Al was already emphatically precise of opinion.  Two or three years later, my brother bought her a beautiful ring—my brother has more jewelry sense than any other human being I’ve ever met—to reward her for giving up sucking her thumb. A year after that, he gave her a scooter when her older sister got a bike, because he was terrified that she would speed off into the street, into the neighborhood, into the world if she had a fast set of wheels. Yes, he does jewelry, but he also does personality assessment.

Al and I bonded, as aunt and niece, some time after that initial visit when she was two (She didn’t think much of me then and said so, a bluntness I found both respectable and charming). By the time I moved to East Oakland, she was a regular visitor; I’d take the Greyhound bus up to Sacramento and retrieve her for the weekend and we’d go back to Fruitvale Avenue, play in its parks and eat pancakes.

Meanwhile, she bloomed intellectually and socially.  I moved around and she kept visiting (and I visited my brother and the whole family, too, but there she was one of a household of five, the middle of three kids, the bookends of whom have also inherited the strong personalities that run in the family like so many wooden legs).  Recently, Bob unearthed a snapshot taken at Fred’s first birthday party:  Al, at 11, sporting a t-shirt depicting a cow/flamingo morph, a blonde bob and newly achieved adult alacrity. It’s hard to carry these three descriptors off, but not if you’re Al.

(A day after writing this post, I happened across this play structure, still up in Ohlone Part, near Grant at Hearst, where Al, circa age 8 or almost 9, played on a visit after I moved to Berkeley:  IMG_1266

In middle school, Al discovered her devotion to acting. The summer she was 15, she landed a part in a professional Shakespeare-in-the-park company; the rest of her family took a long vacation to the east coast; and we gave Al a home on and off as the production moved around Northern California.  She’d dyed her hair red and was debating between a career in:  law, theatre, teaching, or—redolent of the cow/flamingo shirt—some combo thereof.  She was reading Heinlein. She took part in a theater piece I was doing at the library, acting the role of a murderous old lady bundled in a fur coat in the middle of a Berkeley summer day.  She had become the most essential aspect of extended family in Fred’s life.

The year Al and Cam attended the now famous high school ball, I received a formal portrait of them costumed for the event.  That dress, of course, became the wedding gown of yesterday.  In between, there was college and law school and jobs and, delightfully, more costumes:  the last time I’d seen Al in person before yesterday, she’d been dressed as a pirate (It was Halloween, two days before I moved to Nova Scotia).

Which pretty much describes my gal:  the one in a hundred million who can carry off a miniature, real gemstone ring, a pink scooter, a flamincow, Shakespearean duds, arsenic and old fur, pirate breeches, and a gown that doubles for a high school ball and the formal wedding that followed—13 years later.


2 Responses to “The bride wore….”

  1. carole leita Says:

    What a lovely portrait of your niece!

  2. jackie Says:

    How wonderful – traveling gown. will Al’s daughter wear it too? To her prom. Lovely piece

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