Amber and I spend Friday trying to arrest and preemptively solve any issues with the rehearsal dinner tonight. Months ago, she nixed for reasons of impracticality and cost my idea of carting the lot of our families to a local restaurant. Amber instead wished to make four chickens to serve however many people survived the trip down the rocky driveway. This did not seem markedly more practical given the humbleness of our rented oven, but my lot in this was not to argue feasibility. I am her soldier. I will do all I can to make certain this occurs with minimal bloodshed.
Our day is relaxed and fortuitous. The men from the rental company apologize that they have run out of the size of tent we paid for, so they assemble one slightly larger at no added charge and within the space of forty minutes. Daniel and Rebecca leapt at the opportunity to make the weekend easier and smoother. Amber arranged her picked flowers into dozens of pasta sauce jars she had collected since my proposal. Everything moved at a gentle pace with far less worrying than media suggests a couple will experience.
Before Laurel and Darrell arrive (since they were unable to get to us last night), Amber sends Daniel and me to Pine Bush to get some groceries for tonight. Daniel also needs pajama pants of some sort if he is to have company in his room.
I keep testing the metaphorical coldness of my feet, using Daniel as a brief sounding board. To most anyone else, any inquiry as to my state of being is "I'm on a rollercoaster that only goes up." This satisfies the curious and seems close enough to the truth. I do feel a pressure building, but I gather the pressure has more to do with the expectations for how I should be feeling rather than emotions that derive from within my body. I love Amber and, more than that, I continue to find myself compatible with her.
For wont of this, we wander Pine Bush in search of competent coffee. This town had been the setting of Artificial Gods and I've twice been a guest of their annual Pine Bush UFO Fair and Parade so I have a good idea of where to search. I lead him to a cafe hidden from the street, one I remember primarily as having green alien cookies, though none are apparent outside the presence of the fair.
The woman behind the counter chats/flirts with Daniel, suggesting places where he might be able to find pajama pants, until I have the crassness to ask if she has ever seen the UFOs for which the town is now famous or if she knows anyone who has. I ask this conversationally, in a tone of "we are all getting along so well, isn't it a laugh that your township is supposed to be a landing site for paranormal beings?"
The temperature in the café seems to drop ten degrees as she assures me that she has not and that she barely even knows what I am talking about. I think of the tiny Grays that sat on cupcakes she sold only a few months ago. She thrusts the coffee at Daniel and we leave briskly.
Outside, he pops open the lid. Grounds pepper the surface of the coffee. He slips. "This is a weak coffee."
"Yeah, that wasn't at all a suspicious reaction," I say, but this interaction ends up being comforting. Even though I am on the cusp of matrimony, they world is still strange enough to contain secretive baristas obviously covering for their hybrid children. My life will get no less interesting from here.
We talk instead of Daniel's romantic life, such as it is, and how it pains me that the woman I think he should be dating has halted their status at "very good friends." He says he is okay with this, because he is respectful of boundaries and he knows there would be an element of rescue in their relationship if it blossomed further, helping her out of some of the more inhibiting aspects of her life. I wonder if he means this all or if he says this because arguing it won't get him anything but her discomfort and distance.
Mulling this situation over, I am grateful I am getting married tomorrow, but perhaps this is my own justification. I will never again have to learn the steps for this awkward dance of dating.
We end up in a drug store, where Daniel finds a pair of yoga pants with neon pink zebra stripes and rules these sufficient by dint of their fabulousness.
We return to the house just before Laurel and Darrell arrive, carrying with them chocolate and caramel Tardises and weighted companion cube cookies, which suggests that Amber chose her maid of honor well. Immediately after getting them settled in, we begin our preparation for the rehearsal dinner.
This is the first time that my family will be meeting Amber's father. This does not worry me. For the most part, my family cares about the existence of other people only inasmuch as it is likely to affect their life going forward. In high school, when I dated a young woman who had a tendency to run away and sleep over at my house, they adopted an adversarial relationship with her parents after the initial threat of pressing charges against me. However, they know Amber's mother from having bumped into her at readings and art openings. They are neutrally positive to her existence. Amber's father is a far smaller part of Amber's life, given that he lives in Illinois when not attending a family reunion or wedding for his daughter. They are courteous in encountering him, but there isn't much beneath it.
As we make certain the various chickens are roasting nicely, Amber's mother clues me that the secret is not to cling to expectations for what should happen this weekend. She says that this wedding will be a success if Amber and I end up married at the end of it and are still talking. My future mother-in-law says she is a fan of marriage, that she liked being married for sixteen years. Unfortunately, she was married for seventeen.
My mother and sister-in-law Becky dine out on the porch, away from the rest of us. Everyone else crowds around the kitchen table. There end up being too much chicken, but this is a sight better than too little. Everyone seems to get along well enough, but I am too pleased to be eating beside my future wife to have noticed if they didn't.
After dinner, we run through the rehearsal in a matter of an hour, showing our families the site of the ceremony tomorrow and choreographing who will walk down the aisle when. We wrangle the children away from the pond and cuddled with my youngest niece, Adalynn, still preverbal and wobbly. The ceremony is not too trying given that the only family participation is my nephews walking down the aisle with the rings, my niece Alyssah playing flower girl, and our mothers answering "I consent and gladly give" at the right moment. Amber's sister is in her bridal party, my brothers are in mine, but their only duty during the ceremony is to stand there without distracting the audience with their beauty/clumsiness.
As we walk back, I jokingly break free of the crowd and run toward the oblivion of the hay fields. This had been a joke between Daniel and me since yesterday, that his main job was in making certain I did not escape the wedding and my marital obligations to Amber. To my surprise, he nearly tackles me in a matter of seconds, taking his duties seriously and having remarkable speed for one who presents himself as so staid.
"I don't know why I am trying so hard," he states. "If you leave, I think Amber goes to me by law. I don't have much motivation to stop you from running."
I shrug. "To be fair, I don't have much reason to run."
Daniel nods firmly. "See that you don't."
When we return, I sense Amber's father doesn't seem to know what to make of me. Owing to the events leading to his divorce, there remains lingering animosity toward him, particularly from Amber's uncle Bruce. Her father wouldn't miss her wedding for the world, but he also didn't wish to have it turn into a wrestling match. His plan tomorrow is to grill instead of engaging the crowd as the father of the bride might otherwise. Anyone who approaches him would be welcome, but it will be on their terms.
Until I understood his position, I assumed he was cold to me, though his wife Ruthie was so gregarious that I compared her to a motivational cat poster. When Amber clues me into how her father is feeling, I make it my responsibility to make him feel included. As he begins to leave the rehearsal dinner, he goes for a handshake. I pulled him into a hug, saying, "No, no, we're family here. We're going to hug." I understand that he has made mistakes against other people present. I understand how hard it must be for him as well in the situation. I do not want him feeling like a wedding crasher. This weekend is about love. Let the awkwardness be minimal.
Once the parents leave, the women paint their finger- and toenails in preparation for tomorrow. Without prompting, Daniel also paints his nails a complementary shade of purple. A month before the wedding, Amber had created a paper chain of remaining wedding invitations, but it had come completely unraveled and unlinked in the bag. Darrell and Laurel spend hours recreating the chain from supplies we found in the house. We spend the remainder of the night chatting, watching Sealab 2021, and relaxing. Tomorrow is purported to be one of the most important in my entire life, but tonight feels like little more than a slumber party.
Soon in Xenology: More wedding! Honeymoon!