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Monday, 19 November 2007

Wishing Someone Better

By Lia of the Yum Yum Café blog

My cousin, Natalie, married the first man who asked her. Dennis is medium height, overweight, loudmouthed, uncouth and, like Pooh, “a bear of little brain”. Everyone excuses his behaviour; “He means well”, which translates into “He can’t help it if he’s an idiot”.

Not only is Natalie marrying a bear of little brain, she is also inheriting a large tea-toddling Episcopalian family. At the head of this extended family reigns Dennis’s large-bosomed, domineering, if not plain terrifying, mother, Rachel.

Basically, Natalie doesn’t stand a chance.

She is already sparrow-like: of small stature, tiny bones, skinny, nervous eyes, giggly. Yes, she was always delicate, but the nervous and giggly arrived with Dennis. Natalie is my only cousin and I wish her better. I don’t wish her well, but better. And this is why I am sitting at the back of the wedding reception hall at the Holiday Inn, at the table reserved with the sign, “Black Sheep of the Bride’s Family and Delinquent Teenagers of the Groom’s Family”.

The bride and groom’s table seats twenty persons. My poor uncle is squished in at the far end behind a column, so I can’t make eye contact with him. The rest of the table is filled with Nancy’s new tea toddling relatives.

Who, I kid you not, insist on toasting the newly weds with pink champagne (i.e., a 7-up and pink grapefruit drink mix). The bridegroom’s father’s toast runs along the lines of wishing his son all the best at keeping his wife barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, har-har-har, which shouldn’t be difficult since the kitchen is his son’s favourite place to be (reaching over and patting his son’s wide girth), har-har-har…

Sitting next to me at the table is my deceased aunt’s best friend, Anne. When Anne first arrives at the table and sees her name card sandwiched between two delinquent nephews of the groom, she exchanges her name card for the deaf uncle who is meant to sit beside me. Something I wouldn’t have had the courage to do, but I am delighted that she does.

Anne is very tall, carries herself regally, and has a startling head of white hair - she’s a Katherine Hepburn without the annoying voice and her Spencer Tracy lover. In her time, Anne was called an old maid. She never married. She never even seemed to be interested in men.

Instead, she spent a good part of her adult life nursing her aging parents until they died, and since then she’s continued living in the house on her own. She is an artist and bird watcher, like my aunt was. The two of them went on many outings, either to draw or watch the nature around them.

Anne is what people call “a real character”. Depending upon whom you talk to, Anne either “is not afraid to speak her mind” or “has a sharp tongue”. In general, in the Montreal suburbia where we live, both of these things are not seen as positive personality traits.

It makes having small talk with Anne impossible. She either abandons the conversation if it is too trivial, or she fearlessly plunges into the meat of the matter if she finds you interesting. There is really no in between with her.

I’ve always been in awe of Anne, since the time she told me that she didn’t give a damm what people think of her, nor what they say about her. Since her parents died, she says what she wants, when she wants, and to whomever she wants. That sounds like paradise to me.

Over the years, during the few times I seen Anne at family gatherings, she’s taught me in her no nonsense way that life is a serious matter, but also about how intrinsically bizarre and funny people are. She does not abide by any social norms, but chooses to hold reverent any form of life, whether animal or plant.

I sometimes I wish I could muster up the nerve and tell her how much I adore her, but I fear she would scoff this declaration away as being benignly sentimental. And if there is something Anne dislikes more than anything else, it is sentimentality.

As we sit and listen to a long series of wedding toasts, one worse than another, Anne looks at me and says, “I don’t usually hold to drinking alcohol during the day, but why don’t you and I go out and look for a bar. I could sure use a drop of dry sherry.”

She asks whether I would prefer it if she pretends to swoon and I could escort her out to get some fresh air, or we just quietly leave the room without a fuss. I choose the former scenario, since I want to see Anne the Swooner.

My best memory of Natalie’s wedding is our dramatic exit during the wedding reception. The rest was a sad affair. I wish Natalie better.

NOTE: This true story took place in the 1980s. Four years after this wedding took place, Natalie went off with the best man. I often wonder whether this was Natalie’s way of divorcing Dennis, his large extended family, and society as a whole in one fell sweep. Natalie told me that she received a congratulatory Hallmark card from Anne, with a handwritten comment, “Welcome to the real world”, and her wishes that Natalie and her new beau would be happy.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I wish I could be like Anne. She is truly a free spirit and has the courage of her convictions.

I loved this story. Keep on writing, Lia. Someday you will write the Great American Novel. Your talent is apparent.

Anne is my kind of woman! I'd like to think I could be like her.

Darlene and kenju, a friend of mine wrote recently in my blog that she was raised to value tact and diplomacy, rather than truth and controversy. Anne was obviously someone who valued the later qualities.

It is one of the good things about being an elder, you can choose what side of the dance hall you belong. On the dance floor, where it is sweaty, wild, and wonderful. Or, at the back near the (spiked) punch, where wit and popularity counts.

What a story. I was glad to read the happy ending! Thank goodness Natalie left that guy and made a better life for herself.

Sounds like anything would be better then being married to Dennis and putting up with his family.

Mildred, I learned the meaning of sanctimonious by studying Dennis' family. Even though, through this marriage they became our relatives, they never became family.

Loved your character descriptions -- could picture them in my mind. Family members can be pretty colorful and don't we wonder how they depict us. Look forward to more stories from you.

Wow, Lia, loved this story. I'm heading right over to the Yum Yum Cafe to read more!

~Sharry

Sharry, please do come over to my blog and meander around as long as you like. I hope you like it enough to stay around.

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