Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Which She Rambles—Again

The  wedding was ten days ago and I still have beds to strip and towels to wash, dishes and glasses to put away, floors to sweep and vacuum, coats to put back in closets, thank you letters to write, people to call  . . . Well, you can imagine. Not entirely unforgivable, because I have had a rib-shaking, debilitating  cough, which Ernie seems to have inherited.

 I think we got off lightly. A number of my grandchildren —and therefore their parents—have a nasty virus and there have been a few incidents which make me so glad we chose the weekend of the 19th to celebrate this:

What did I do? I did peek in the laundry chute to discover the table cloth I had intended to use on the brunch table. That was, in fact, plan B after the Venetian linen cut-work number which hasn't seen the light of day since the last wedding seventeen years ago and which I realized, too late, probably needed ironing: I looked in embarrassment at the nasty stubs of soap which should have been replaced by the Yardley's Lavender, which is  . . . well, I don't know where I put it. My vision of reading and eating hot soup as the snow came down was somewhat dampened by the realization that I would have to MAKE the soup, and worse still, go shopping for ingredients. I did start on cleaning out my e-mail. I have tried in the past to keep my "in-tray" to less than 50, but I had almost 500 e-mails with addresses and names and phone numbers, attachments of invoices and, even worse, because of another situation the family is dealing with, legal briefs.

Mostly, I sat by the fire and read. I decided that the ease with which I found The Casual Vacancy at the library was a portent. But I am not sure of what. I hate it when I read a book which I think I am supposed to like—and I don't. I keep getting the title mixed up with The Accidental Tourist. It is the kind of cause and effect book which Ruth Rendell could have pulled off with more depth of character and nuanced writing in half the number of pages.

But there was one vignette which I read avidly because it took me back to an event in my own life: one which I have tried to forget but which Ernie pushes back into my memory. J.K. Rowling introduces us to a character, Samantha Mollison, who, as her husband runs for office, makes every attempt to be a middle class housewife. She invites Gavin and Kay to dinner and then, when the newly-widowed Mary turns up, she includes her in the invitation. The conversation is stilted, the casserole is burnt with flecks of black floating in he sauce.

In my graduate student life at The University of Southern California, after I had moved from residence living to my own apartment, I decided to invite the Classics Department Faculty to dinner. Heaven only knows why. Heaven only knows why most of them came. The menu was to be beef casserole and scotch. No Chopped back then to inform me that not all ovens bake evenly, no internet to help me translate Centigrade to Fahrenheit, no realization that at some point I should slide the casserole out of the oven to see how it was doing. Kingsley Amis and Lucky Jim had nothing on me!

But I had plenty of scotch and received full marks for my bravado.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Time for a Laugh

Why did everyone burst out laughing in the middle of Lucy's wedding? The vows had been exchanged with due solemnity. The rings had been blessed with due solemnity. Peter had accepted the ring from the priest and solemnly put it on Lucy's finger, and when Lucy turned to take the ring to put on Peter's finger—she was handed a twist tie, which she put on his finger and soon replaced with his ring.

Lucy has her own unique sense of style. Most of us know better than to give her anything which we consider cute, tasteful or even stunning. So when Peter proposed to Lucy, he knew better than to give her a ring of his own choosing. A twist tie filled the bill until she could work with a jeweler to design her own special ring. She picked it up two days before the wedding and came over to show us and to embark on attaching the place cards to their gifts for the guests.

The ring is a pear shaped diamond mounted sideways. The favors were jars of honey from the hives Peter had kept in his back yard and which they will take to their new house. Peter had struggled with the labels at our house the night before and it was Lucy's job to stick them on the jars and replace the jars with cards attached (in alphabetical order) into the boxes.

If you have never given a wedding, let me warn you. It is the "little jobs" which have to be done the week before which break your back . . . and the bank.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We did it!

Lucy and Peter are married. The photographer sent this photo taken on the veranda of the Detroit Yacht Club with the Detroit skyline in the distance. We are waiting for the rest and I am so anxious to see them. In spite of the fact that I schlepped my camera to the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, the reception and the Sunday brunch at our house—I didn't take any photos to remind me of these momentous days. When I think back, there are large gaps in my memory. I do know we had dear friends from out of town, and relatives we treasure taking part. Most of all, I know I couldn't have pulled this off without the help of my family who stepped in just when I needed them. That includes Peter who made his new role official by coming over and cooking breakfast the day the last guests left. 

We were totally blessed with the weather, which allowed the boys and their families to drive home unscathed to Washington, though it caused a fender bender and a couple of hold-ups on I94  for my sister-in-law driving back to Chicago, before turning into an Arctic storm.

We had chosen the weekend because of the extra day of vacation to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, but Barack Obama didn't pay attention to the wedding when he selected the date of his inaugural. One of our guests stayed in DC to attend an Inaugural Ball and one of the bridesmaids missed the brunch to return to Washington so she could line up on the steps of the Capitol by 3:30 a.m. next day.

We pulled this whole thing off in two or three months and there are some stories to tell. Lucy designed the dress and had it made—and picked it up the day before the wedding. She bought her shoes two days before the wedding. And don't worry, Lucy, the funny story which is the hallmark of this wedding will not appear on this blog!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Tale of Two Suits

Grosse Pointe is not a great place to shop. The word "boutique" tends to dominate descriptions of what the area has to offer. Not to mention "up-scale." Not a great source for the everyday articles we all need. There was a great store here once—it was a tad up-scale in some departments, but I bought kid's underwear, shoes and some of my clothes there. It closed: there was a clamor to bring in all kinds of useful stores, but the stores did not want to come. Maybe it was the high rents, maybe the understanding that "old money" didn't shop much and that Buffy and Muffy had inherited Grandmama's jewelry and furs—maybe even her underwear—and the indisputable fact of demographics that a circle radiating from here didn't contain as many potential shoppers as the CFOs need, because half the circle is lake.

The Internet has done away with some of the problems, but on Saturday, needing a gift at short notice,  I crossed town to a somewhat swanky mall. The area where I parked entices a person to enter the mall via Nieman Marcus—probably hoping that passing the David Yurman sparklies will encourage impulse buying. As I entered the mall proper, I passed a window containing this garment.

I found it appalling. Click on it and look at the details. Wrinkles top and bottom of sleeves, weirdly situated lapels, unpressed looking hem. Normally I would not have paid much attention, but before I left the house I was reading an article on the importance bankers attach to their clothes and how everything they wear can make an impression. 100% handmade bespoke suits in one of the 150 shades of grey they have to choose from, custom shoes, shirts costing over $400—well you get the picture. Bankers probably buy underwear to, none of this inheriting from Grandpapa.

And the name of the store selling that poor excuse for a jacket? Giorgio Armani.

Friday, January 04, 2013


It has been seventeen years since our last wedding, but what a change in attitude. Last time I sent out x invitations and received x replies. Simple. The reply said "yes" or "no". This time I enclosed the little  reply envelope, printed with our names and with a stamp decorated with ribbons spelling out the traditional "Love", so that all the recipient had to do was fill in his intentions and throw it in a mail box. Today was the last day to R.S.V.P. and I have no idea how many people plan to come. Etiquette allows me to get on the phone, but I don't want to. Nor do I want to run out of food for people who come and don't tell me, or—worse yet—pay for people who don't intend to turn up. On the one hand I am nervous that some of those silly little envelopes have gone astray, especially during the Christmas season, and on the other hand the pop sociologist in me says there is a link between not bothering to reply—and I have had several people e-mail me or my daughter or my future son-in-law—and the decrease in letter writing.

I'll let you know how it goes.