Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Lovin', Had Me a Blast . . . by Mary Welk

Mary Welk writes the "Rhodes to Murder" mystery series featuring ER nurse Caroline Rhodes and history professor Carl Atwater. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies; three shorts--A Family Affair, Murder Most Politic, and Hickory, Dickory, Doc--are available as Kindle downloads at Mary is a native of Chicago and lives with her husband in the city's Edison Park neighborhood. She is an avid gardener and a college football fanatic. 

Summer Lovin’, Had Me a Blast…
by Mary Welk

Ah, yes. Summer lovin’ often leads to summer weddings, which can be a blast—if they go according to plans. Later this summer I’ll be attending my youngest son Matt’s wedding at Cumberland Falls State Park, Kentucky. I have no doubt it will be a blast, mainly because my future daughter-in-law is a corporate travel planner who knows how to get things done right the first time around. As mother of the groom, there’s little I’ll have to do but enjoy the day. 

It was a different matter altogether back in 1997 when my two oldest daughters and my niece all married in the same year. Three weddings, three showers, and all three brides, plus my youngest daughter, served as bridesmaids for each other.  All this occurred between April and October. Let me tell you, the pocketbook really got hit that year.

My daughters’ weddings were as different as different could be. Sarah inherited the sensible genes of her frugal German ancestors, meaning she never bought something for twenty dollars when she could find it elsewhere for ten. Her fiancĂ© Tim was cut from the same cloth. Both considered lavish weddings a waste of money, so they opted for simplicity with an outdoor ceremony and indoor catered reception at The Grove Redfield Estate, a 1929 Tudor-style home surrounded by 123-acres of lawn and woodlands. 

Jennifer, two years younger than Sarah, inherited her genes from the crazy Bavarian side of the family. I swear, she was born smiling at the obstetrician. If newborns could talk, she would have said, “Wow! That was a trip and a half!” Her intended shared a similar outlook on life. A diabetic since childhood, Jay’s motto was “Life is short. Enjoy it while you can.” Jenni and Jay decided a big wedding would be fun for everyone, so they opted for a banquet hall package that provided all the extras.

Using her skill as an artist, Sarah designed their wedding invitations, created the table and room decorations, and gathered all the flowers ‘PTA style’ for the basket arrangements pictured here. (And if you don’t know what ‘PTA style’ means, it’s probably best you don’t ask!) It took her three months to get everything done.

Using her skill with the telephone, Jenni ordered the invitations, booked the hall, and selected the food, the flowers, and the band. It took her three days to get everything done.

As for wedding gowns, I accompanied both girls to a local bridal shop where, in response to the owner’s queries, Sarah said, “I want the simplest gown you have.” Jenni’s reply went along the lines of “lots of satin and lace and a really long train.” Five minutes later the woman entered the dressing room with two gorgeous dresses. My daughters were thrilled with her choices; much to my shock, we were out of the shop in less than an hour, having bought the first and only dresses they ever tried on.

Sarah wanted her three bridesmaids dressed in gowns they could use again in the future. As a result, they wore floor-length V-necked black sheaths with matching long-sleeved jackets, bought off the rack at a Chicago department store and perfect for the black-and-white theme of the wedding and the cool April weather. 

Outside of the fact that I missed the rehearsal dinner—I was stuck out in the garage with buckets of flowers that still needed arranging in baskets—Sarah’s wedding went off without a hitch. 

The same could not be said for Jenni’s big day. Her eight bridesmaids were fitted for their maroon satin and velvet floor-length dresses at the bridal salon where we’d bought her gown. And this is where the best laid plans of mice and men went horribly awry. 

With the wedding scheduled for October 4th, ordering the bridesmaid’s dresses in January seemed reasonable. Unbeknownst to us, the company supplying the dresses wanted to shut down their plant in Pennsylvania and shift all business to the South where labor was cheaper. The proposed moved caused a battle with the garment workers’ union, which led to a slowdown in the factory where the dresses were being made.

Six dresses finally arrived two weeks before the wedding, and all six needed substantial alterations. Despite daily phone calls to Pat, the salon’s owner, and her calls to the garment company, the last two dresses still weren’t in the shop on the Wednesday before the wedding. Jennifer was nearing hysterics by then, so I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands.

Having obtained the phone number from Pat, I called the vice-president of the company in his Boca Raton, Florida office. I got no further than his secretary, who said the dresses might be delivered on Friday, but she couldn’t guarantee it. Being a native Chicagoan with plenty of friends from sunny Italy, I knew exactly how to reply.

“You tell your boss that the family is very upset over this matter. Very upset.”

The woman must have caught how I stressed the word 'family', because she hastily assured me her boss would return my call. And he did. At 4 p.m. About an hour before closing time at the factory. 

“Listen,” I said in my best imitation of a Mafia moll, “my son-in-law-to-be thinks we should sue you. But I told him no, that’s not how the family works. The family takes care of its own problems. Now, if Jennifer walks down that aisle on Saturday with only six bridesmaids instead of eight, her grandfather is going to be very upset. And when her grandfather gets upset, the whole family gets upset. Capisce?”

There was a moment of silence before the vice-president said, “What do you mean by ‘the family’?”

“Must I remind you I’m calling from Chicago,” I asked. “What do you think it means?”

Another short silence, then the man said, “Is that a threat?”

“No,” I replied. “It’s reality. I’m telling you what will happen if those dresses don’t arrive tomorrow in time to be altered for Saturday.” And I hung up the phone.

Jenni was appalled by my ruse. “Nobody’s dumb enough to believe that line about ‘the family’!” she insisted. 

"We'll see," I said, hoping she was wrong. And she was. A jubilant Pat called me Thursday morning. The gowns had been shipped overnight express and were in her shop awaiting the girls. By evening the first fittings were done. The girls were able to pick up their dresses late Friday after the wedding rehearsal. The next day eight beautiful bridesmaids walked down the aisle at church with Jennifer. The wedding ceremony was lovely, and the reception that followed was truly a blast.

Needless to say, Jenni’s grandfather, looking down from his home in heaven, had nothing at all to be upset about.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Mary:
Your story about the bridesmaids' dresses and "the family" had me falling off my chair laughing. You should turn it into a short story, if you haven't already.
Pat Browning

Anonymous said...

Oh, Mary, only you could think up such diabolacalness! (I made that word up just for you.) (And probably misspelled it.) Loved your blog and your daughters were both beautiful on the day of their weddings. See you again soon, I hope, one place or another!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Mary - Welcome!!!

What a great piece. I have roared imagining you making that phone call.

And oh my - your daughters are beautiful.


and a hug to Pat & Beth too - thanks for dropping by!

Mary Welk said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed the story, Pat, Beth, and Kaye. And I swear, every word of it is true. I had a friend whose uncle was in the Chicago mob, so I more or less learned how to talk the talk by listening to her stories of family life. BTW, those two cuties pictured with Jenni are my twin granddaughters, aged three (almost) at the time. I sewed the dresses they're wearing in the picture. Getting them to walk down the aisle tossing flower petals is another story all by itself. :)