My beautiful nephew Lynnie and his equally gorgeous bride Ashlee tied the knot in Denver, Colorado this weekend. Or so I’m told.
I traveled to Denver in style—my magnanimous brother-in-law Randy procured a large, spacious vehicle for my sister Becky, my nephew Adrian–Lynnie’s brother and the best man, Adrian’s darling wife, and the two best little girls on the planet, aged two and four months. Kids that age require a lot of stuff, in case you didn’t know, and that stuff takes up a lot of room.
I had the seat in the chair strapped to the roof á la Aunt Edna in National Lampoon’s Vacation. At least I wasn’t wrapped in a sheet and thrown in the back like Grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine.
Road trips often inspire writers to use movie metaphors.
The fifteen hours to Denver was punctuated with lots of laughter and just a little bit of fussing from a two year old who isn’t quite used to such confinement. Our entre into Denver and the subsequent influx of more family and friends heralded the beginning of the wedding weekend which, for me, would not begin until Jamie and Rena would arrive.
The reader must understand first the delightful and captivating character that resides within my sister-in-law Rena. Her first accomplishment as my brother’s wife was transforming my formerly staid and uptight sib into a fun-lovin’ party animal; secondly, no function is complete without her presence. Why? It’s hard to explain, but she’s the kind of person who makes any situation—good or bad—a memorable one.
Take for instance Sunday afternoon—the day of the wedding. Jamie and Rena picked me up at my hotel and after the requisite cocktail at the bar, we headed downtown at two o’clock, our respective GPSs programmed to find the Denver Community Church. It only took us ten minutes to get downtown—plenty of time for a three o’clock wedding. We were feeling good.
The invitation had included a directive that asked that we not park at Whole Foods or we’d get our un-pot smoked-in car towed. Fair enough. The GPS took us to Washington Street—the address of the church– which was a stone’s throw from Whole Foods. So far, so good.
There was only one problem: we couldn’t seem to find the church.
Okay, we thought. Some churches don’t look like your average brick-clad-steeple-stained-glass-window-cross affair. The neighborhood was made up of quaint, shabbily classic older homes, its residents comprised of twenty and thirty somethings enjoying the beauty of the day; however, none of them knew where the Denver Community Church was located. Heathens, we figured.
On foot (and me barefoot–I simply cannot abide high heels, especially when trekking the streets at what was beginning to develop into a panicked pace), we schlepped up one block and down another. We asked no fewer than twenty-five fellow pedestrians and their canine companions where this church was located, if they had ever heard of it, or if they had any friends who had heard of it. Nope. Sinners all.
We got back in the car, this time with my brother uttering a litany of colorful references to the city of Denver and its Godless residents. The very last person we asked was an older gentleman—eighty-ish—who we figured must have a better notion of where to find the Denver Community Church. Jamie stopped in the middle of the street, and Rena did the asking.
“Sir. We’re late for a wedding. It’s at the Denver Community Church. Can you possibly tell us where it is?”
“Is it a gay wedding? Because I’m heading to a gay church for a gay wedding.” I almost think he wanted us to come with him as his gay guests.
Were we going to a gay wedding? For a split second, I hesitated; but no, Lynn and Ashlee were having a traditional wedding, or so I was told.
Hell, at that point, we should have just gone with him. At least we could have said we were at a wedding.
We went back to the Whole Foods where my brother went inside and shook down a cashier for directions. He learned that there is another Washington Street next to another Whole Foods, but it was another whole five or six miles away.
Ergo, no wedding for us.
Jamie, uttering more epithets for the city of Denver that would melt my keyboard if I were to write them here, managed to get us to the Denver Community Church just as the newly married couple and their families (minus two aunts and an uncle) were having pictures taken outside of the church next to the other Whole Foods where we parked the car—just out of spite. The three people most upset at our absence were Jamie, Rena, and me. Everyone else thought it was hilarious. That’s my family.
We had no problem getting to the reception, quite possibly because the prospect of a stiff drink compelled my brother to develop an inner compass that guided him through the mean streets of downtown Denver right to the restaurant where the reception was being held. That’s when the fun began, because Lynnie’s Aunt Rena was the life of the party.
“Aunt Rena? Oh, you mean the hottie with the bubbly laugh and the million dollar smile? Or Aunt Kelly, that sweaty lady with the dirty feet who smelled like a guinea pig?”
My own children and my nieces and nephews will all agree that no party, no gathering, no meeting, or association is complete without Aunt Rena. Expressive as I claim to be, as a writer, I’ve no words that can adequately describe how Rena’s attendance at any function turns it into an occasion to remember. She lights up the room upon her arrival, and by the end of the night, she’s everyone’s best friend. However, be forewarned: You had better rest up, because she has more energy than anyone I know.
And she transformed what could have been an altogether disappointing and devastating afternoon into one that I’ll long remember because I think I laughed harder than I ever thought was possible over the complete failure to show up at a wedding I had traveled over 1,000 miles and halfway across the continent to attend.
That’s why I love my family.