Short Stories - non fiction

Road Trip to a Family Wedding

I can’t think of anything more fun than a road trip, especially when you are venturing off to a major celebration such as a family wedding. In the summer of 2009, my nephew was getting married in the Montreal area. I come from a very large family, and we were all very excited, it was to be a Greek wedding, and by the way we are not Greek.

The first thing we had to do was determine where to stay. I fancied myself a bit of a hotel finding expert, and I had recently discovered “”. So I searched and searched, and low and behold, to my delight, I found a hotel where if you stayed on Friday night, you got a free stay on Saturday night! Our whole family booked rooms, it was going to be great.

Now one thing that we had to figure out was how to get there. My parents were in their mid-eighties at the time, and so it was up to me to drive them, and my teenage son was coming, so that makes four. My brother also needed a drive. My vehicle at the time was a small compact car, and could not handle five full grown adults, not to mention all of their luggage. So I decided to try to rent a van. After hours of searching, no luck. Turns out the vans were popular rentals in the summer time. I decided to see if a friend would mind swapping vehicles for a weekend, and voila, free van! Things were really coming together! 

The thing about being a middle-aged mom with two elderly parents is that a lot falls on your shoulders. For example, I had to spend countless hours, and many weekends, shopping with my mom, getting her outfitted for the wedding, actually we had two weddings that summer. Plus we had two bridal showers, two rehearsal parties, two after wedding brunches, and on and on it went. So we had to find a wardrobe suitable for all of the aforementioned events. This proved to be difficult for three reasons. First, my mom wants to look like she did when she was twenty….don’t we all? Secondly, my mom is super picky…. Third of all, which was by far the biggest issue, she needed a knee replacement. Standing, walking and trying on clothes was nearly impossible for her at the time. As a result, I found myself using my shopping psychology skills, I’d see something and have her try it on….then she would say “oh, I don’t know….” and she would put it back….so I’d grab it and try it on and I’d say “if you don’t want it, I am buying it…” well with that she would suddenly get attached to the clothing article, and would want it back. It took a lot of time and effort, but eventually we managed to buy her a great wardrobe. In fact, she had never been better outfitted.

So we’ve got the rooms booked, we’ve got the van borrowed, and we’ve got the clothes bought. Well at least for Mom anyway. Now for my son, we had to get him all decked out, and being a teenage boy, nothing he owned still fit him as he had grown so much. So we had to start from scratch and get him all sorted out. My son and I actually had three weddings that year, so more clothing options needed. After all, you can’t be seen in every photo wearing the same clothes! 

Buying shoes has always been a challenge for my son, and buying dress shoes was particularly difficult because he wanted them to feel like sports shoes. By the way, this was the year the Michael Jackson passed away, I remember this because my son was obsessed with the moon walk, and he spent at least an hour picking out shoes because with each try he had to attempt the moon walk. Now I will agree that this was crazy, but it was rather entertaining, and I am sure that the people who worked in the store had never seen anything quite like it.

My brother decided to buy a new suit. He found a “wrinkle proof” suit at Sears, which was on sale for $70. Anyway, the new $70 suit travelled well, he packed it in his suit case, and when he took it out, no wrinkles. It looked great on him!

The other thing that we needed to do was have Mom’s hair fixed. Yes, fixed. She had gone to her regular hairdresser and got herself a “perm”. It was bad. So I had to get her an emergency hair appointment (with my hairdresser) to get the perm fixed to the extent possible. My hairdresser did a fine job, and Mom’s hair looked nice.

Seriously, the clothes, the suits, the dancing shoes, the van and the bad hair all took place in the same week. Have you noticed that nothing I’ve said even remotely has anything to do with me? Although I was off that week, I was exhausted sorting out my family! But Friday came, and we were all excited, and I took the van and picked everyone up, and away we went. 

The drive up was a bit painful. The 2 hour drive felt much longer, but we eventually got to the hotel, (which was great by the way) and start to unload the car, and that would have been fine except Mom and Dad’s bags never actually made it into the van! That’s right, we left them in front of their building. I am not even joking.

Thank goodness for my husband, who had decided to opt out of this trip. He was looking forward to a weekend without us, but because of our mishap, he had to take time off work to make arrangements to meet the building superintendent at my parent’s condo. My Dad had called the building super earlier and arranged for the bags to be picked up from the front of the building. They were sitting outside. Thankfully no thieves were around. So hubby picked up the bags and sent them via bus to downtown Montreal, they were to arrive the next day. 

Saturday comes along, and my other brother from Toronto offered to drive us downtown to the bus station to pick up the bags and bring them back in time for my folks to get dressed for the wedding. Incidentally, this exact thing has happened to my folks previously; that was on a road-trip to a wedding in Sudbury, where they went without their luggage back in the 70’s. Oddly enough, my older brother did the same thing when he went to my nephew’s wedding 10 years ago, he totally forgot the dress clothes, his entire family had to go emergency shopping for the wedding….it must be genetic….but back to the story.

The drive downtown to the bus station that Saturday morning is one that I am never going to forget. The traffic was heavy, the drivers were crazy, and the road signs were bad. The GPS was massacring the street names beyond recognition. It is probably not surprising that my brother wasn’t too “relaxed” during this drive. I was relieved when the mission was accomplished. But by the way, did I mention that I was exhausted?

We somehow managed to get dressed, ready and out the door on time for the wedding. Oddly, when we arrived at the church, there was another wedding underway. We all ended up standing outside for what felt like an eternity, in the hot blazing sun, waiting for the one wedding to be over so we could go into the church. My mother decided that she wasn’t going to wait, so she barged in and sat through a complete strangers wedding. In retrospect, she was the smart one.

My nephew’s wedding was beautiful. The bride looked amazing, and my nephew looked very dapper, I was so proud of him! The church had lined the carpet in white, and there were rose peddles along the way. We figured out quickly that we weren’t supposed to walk on it, but some of the guests did anyway (probably our non-Greek side of the family). My nephew is a wonderful young man, and he found a lovely young woman to be his wife. What more could you ask for? When I looked around and saw everyone at the church who had made the effort to be there for them that day, it hit home that this was indeed a very special day. I did my best not to cry.

The reception was a blast. The food was fantastic, and there was one course after another. My son was happy because he sat beside his cousin who is a very picky eater, and was therefore able to enjoy two servings of almost everything. Those attending from the bride’s side of the family did some traditional Greek dances, which was interesting and lively to watch. 

My mom looked better than ever thanks to the emergency hairdresser and the lovely clothes specially shipped by bus, several people commented on how great she looked, and how she was so well put together. She even managed to dance the night way (after taking Tylenol 3 and a shot of scotch for her knee pain). 

I looked around and had to smile when I saw my brother looking like an executive in his wrinkle free $70 suit. He is a good man, and I was happy for him that he could enjoy the night.

The best part was my son actually did dance with his new shoes! That was both a surprise, and somehow rewarding. The effort to buy the perfect “danceable” shoes was worth it after-all. 

As for me, I had a great time, and when I think back, although it was a huge effort to get us all to the wedding, if I had to do it all over again, I would not hesitate. Some things are not easy and may at times seem impossible, but as Christopher Columbus once said “by prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”


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