Wedding Day Conversations

“A lot of people get married here in Savannah,” our trolley tour driver explained. “This square here,” he said, gesturing to a lush lawn dotted with live oak trees and benches, “is a popular place for weddings. But it used to be a cemetery. I imagine the ministers don’t tell that to the bride and groom.” All of us on the trolley laughed, but I was laughing for another reason: it reminded me of something my dad said to me on my wedding day, just a few days earlier.

As Dad and I stood awaiting our cue to walk down the aisle, he asked me, “Did you hear about the body?”

“The body? Uh . . . no.”

My maid-of-honor was given her signal and dutifully proceeded. Dad and I moved forward. “I’ll have to tell you later,” he whispered.

My niece Bella, the flower girl, was given her cue and pranced away in her white ruffled dress, basket of rose petals in hand.

I wondered what on earth Dad was talking about, but then we were summoned forward. “Walk really slowly,” my father reminded me, speaking from experience. This was not his first time escorting a daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I turned the corner to see a crowd of my closest family and friends standing at their seats, bodies turned to watch us, big smiles on their faces. I smiled back — a look that wouldn’t leave my face the rest of the night.

As intrigued as I was about “the body,” I forgot all about it as Dad and I walked towards Michael. I didn’t think of it at all as the ceremony proceeded, as we said our vows, as we exchanged rings. When it was all over, Michael and I walked out together, followed by our bridal party, and then my parents.

“Congratulations,” Dad said, shaking Michael’s hand. “She’s all yours now.” We mingled with the rest of the bridal party as we waited at the big double doors for our grand entrance. Then, Dad found us again and said, “So Jessica and I found a body on our way here.” Apparently, he hadn’t forgotten where we’d left off.

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah. We were driving here, and Jessica’s looking out the window and says, ‘Dad — did you see that? There was a body on the side of the road!’ So we pulled over, and I thought the guy was dead. Really. He was just lying there, not moving. A young kid. Twenties. He had a pulse, but wasn’t breathing too well.”

Jessica called 911, but was having trouble explaining where they were as neither she nor my father live in North Carolina (where my wedding was being held). Dad started flagging down other cars. He directed one guy that stopped to call 911 back and give a more precise location. Then another car stopped. “This woman got out and said she was a nurse, and her husband was a doctor. So I said, ‘Good. My daughter’s getting married in an hour. I gotta go.’ And we took off.”

And he arrived in time to walk me down the aisle.

A few days later, while on our “mini-moon” in Savannah, I had to laugh at the differences between traditional southern decorum and what happened on my wedding day: In Savannah, they might not tell couples they’re about to marry on a former cemetery. But in my family? We don’t have that kind of restraint.

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Saying “Yes” to the Dress

Three months into my wedding planning, I heard that some brides now buy two dresses: one to wear for the ceremony, and a different one for the reception. I thought this whole idea ridiculous for a variety of reasons:

  1. One dress is expensive enough — why buy two?
  2. A ceremony lasts, at most, an hour. Spend all that money to wear a dress for an hour?
  3. I hate shopping. It’s bad enough I have to find one wedding dress.

So I quickly concluded that no, I will not be buying two wedding dresses.

Well, if I ever write a book about my life, I should call it Never Say Never. 

A month before our wedding I was getting a little stressed. Every make up person I was calling was already booked. And I had gone to my first “trial” for my hair, and we had to schedule a second trial because we had yet to find the right style. I was lamenting (okay — crying) over these silly things, and Michael was dutifully listening, when I added, “And I don’t even know if I like my dress!”

“What do you mean you don’t like your dress?” he asked.

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I just said I’m not sure I like it.” Michael wrinkled his brow, then added, “Well, if you’d let me see it, I could give you my opinion.”

Since I had bought the dress (months ago), Michael wanted to see it. “It’s supposed to be a surprise,” I’d say.

“Why?”

“Because that’s the tradition.”

“But we’re not doing a lot of the other traditional wedding things,” he said.

“Well, we’re doing this one.”

But at the moment of this crying fit, I decided this was another tradition we could let go. Except that the dress was no longer in my possession.

“Okay,” I said to Michael, “I’ll show it to you. But I can only show you a picture of me in it, because I don’t have it right now.”

“What do you mean you don’t have it? Where is it?”

“In New York. We didn’t like how the bustle turned out, so Mom took it to her seamstress in New York to see if she could do something better.”

“What’s a bustle?” Michael asked.

After explaining how trains and bustles work, I showed Michael the picture on my cell phone.

Like a good fiancé, he said, “Well, first of all, know that whatever you wear you’ll look good.” I rolled my eyes and mumbled, “thank you.”

“But if you want my opinion . . .” he paused.

“Yes, I do,” I confirmed.

“Well, I’d rather see you in something more fitted.”

The lacy A-line dress he saw me in was fitted to just above my waist, then dropped straight down. I knew exactly what he meant. I started crying again.

“Listen,” he said. “If you want, we can go try on some dresses right now.”

“No, we can’t,” I cried. “You have to make an appointment. And the place is closed right now. And I have so much to do at school tomorrow.”

“I’ll call tomorrow,” he said. “Just text me the number.”

And so it was that on a Friday afternoon, Michael picked me up from school and accompanied me to the place from which I’d purchased the dress. I walked in and explained, “I’m just not sure about my dress.” The woman didn’t blink an eye, just smiled and said, “I certainly understand. Let’s have you try on a few more.”

“And I know it’s weird that I have my fiancé with me,” I said.

“Not at all. Brides do all sorts of things these days,” she said, walking Michael and I over to the racks of dresses. Michael picked a rack and started looking. “No, hon, those are way too big. Only look at these ones,” I said, showing him the racks that held my size.

We picked out dresses, then Michael sat down while I tried the first one on. Michael’s eyes bulged when he saw it. I think he was holding back tears. “Oh my God. Is this really happening?” he asked. I smiled. “She didn’t even zip it up yet, hon.” I stepped up on the pedestal in front of the three way mirror. Michael’s mouth dropped open. “Let’s put a veil on,” said the saleswoman. As she did, Michael nearly jumped out of his seat. “Hon, this is only the first dress. I don’t even like this one,” I told him.

“What do you mean you don’t like it? What don’t you like?”

“I’m not sure. I just don’t like it.”

“How are we going to find the right one if you can’t tell me what you don’t like about it?” Thankfully, the saleswoman jumped in. “When she knows, she’ll know.”

After trying on six dresses, we put one on hold and left the store. “I don’t want to buy another dress tonight. I just want to see some other options,” I told him.

“Well, where else can we go?” We called bridal shop #2, and they had an opening, so off we went. This time our saleswoman did what we had hoped someone would do: she gave us her opinion. After trying on six dresses, none of which I liked, for reasons I couldn’t explain, the saleswoman said, “Show me the dress you have.” I showed her the cell phone picture. “That’s a great dress for you,” she said. I started thinking, Well, then I guess it’s the one, but then she added, “I’ve got two more ideas.” I liked how I looked in both of those ideas. But was I sure I wanted to wear one of these instead of the dress I already had? I wasn’t. But the clock was ticking, so I said yes, and we bought a second dress.

But now I felt like I was in a worse position. Instead of having one dress and just saying, “Eh — go with it,” I now had two dresses and still wasn’t sure which one I wanted to wear. My only consolation was that the first dress cost only $300. Which was still more than I’d ever spent on a dress, but in the world of wedding dresses was pretty cheap. And the second dress didn’t cost much more than the first one.

My maid-of-honor took the pictures I’d sent of both dresses and put them into one side-by-side picture. And after shamefully admitting my dilemma to friends and showing them the picture, I still wasn’t sure.

Dress #2 (L), Dress #1 (R)
Before Tailoring

Three days before the wedding, I confessed to my mother. She reacted just as I’d predicted: a slight look of surprise splashed quickly across her face, and then she said, “Well, try them both on and see which one you like better.” So we did. And I chose the second one. But brought both to the wedding venue. Just in case.

Me and my personal shopper 🙂

“Yeah, We’ve Got That.”

Eight years ago, my parents bought a house in Schroon Lake, New York. It was a former boarding house — ideal when you have five children who like to visit with their friends, significant others, kids. It’s just a block from the lake. A block from the supermarket. A block from the tiny downtown (a coffeeshop, a couple restaurants, a wine bar). All in a quiet town of 1600 souls. The only downside to their purchase? The house was sold to them completely filled with someone else’s stuff. 

To those of you not wanting to clean out your house in order to downsize and move to Florida, take this lesson from a woman in Schroon Lake: Sell your house. With everything in it.

I don’t just mean the house was “furnished.” Oh, no, that would be too easy. Every cabinet, drawer, and closet had stuff in it. The basement? Full of stuff. The plastic storage box on the side of house? Full. With plastic animals you can decorate the lawn with.

But wait! There’s more! Every wall was covered with framed prints. Every surface covered with tchotchkes. We’re not talking about coming across some priceless antiques. We weren’t so lucky. They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Well, in this case, one woman’s junk is . . . one woman’s junk.

“She moved to Florida,” my mother said. “None of this stuff is really the style you would have in Florida.” Ah, my dear, empathetic mother.

And for my father? It was like a treasure hunt. Every time they went up there, I’d get calls about what else they came across. Boxes of Christmas decorations. A closet full of games.

Lucky for my parents, Schroon Lake has a town-wide garage sale every Labor Day weekend. People lug their stuff to the park on the lake, display their wares on tables, and hope someone else wants what they no longer do.

But for my parents, lugging all this stuff to the park — even though it was only a block away — was hardly going to make a dent. They didn’t have just a table or two worth of stuff. So what is a Gallo to do? Well, in the case of Lou Gallo, you head to your barn in Poughkeepsie, pull out your 20′ x 30′ red and white striped tent, throw it in your Honda Odyssey, drive up to Schroon Lake, put the tent up and your front lawn, and voila. Since their house is on the way to the town park, a few carefully placed signs (and a large red and white tent) made it easy to attract those out that day in search of treasures they didn’t know they needed.

Long story short: It took four years of Schroon Lake garage sales for them to clear the house of all the stuff they no longer wanted. I remember one year when more than one person showed up on our front lawn in Schroon Lake and said, “I always look forward to seeing what you guys have each year.” Yes, my parents were now “known” for their garage sales.

I wasn’t often able to help Mom and Dad clear out the house, but I was able to be present for a couple of those garage sales. Five tables displayed kitchen wares. Mom hung a string from the front porch post to the tree and draped bedspreads on it, hung curtains from it. Dad leaned some tires up against a tree. “Did you find those in the basement?” I asked him. “No. We brought those from home.” As in their main home in Poughkeepsie. Yes, for these garage sales, my parents imported stuff. 

I recently heard that most Honda Odyssey’s are now sold to people over 60. Yeah — the one’s who no longer have kids  to tote around. They say it’s because the seats are so comfortable for driving. In the case of my parents, it doesn’t hurt that they can also hold a lot of stuff. Like the aforementioned tent. And tires.

Which brings me to this morning. When my parents texted a picture of the back of their Honda Odyssey.

For those of you needing a translation:

  • That’s my sister Liz giving the thumbs up.
  • That’s my sister Jessica (nicknamed “Eagle Eye” at a young age) asking for further detail.
  • That’s Dad. The man whose every car usually has duct tape in it somewhere, wondering how on earth this one doesn’t.
  • That’s me. Feeling like I just earned 10 points in the favorite child competition because I have duct tape on hand.

And that whole “wedding or bust” thing that Dad wrote? That’s my wedding. You know, the one happening in four days. You see, Michael and I are having a BBQ at our house the day after the wedding. Michael was worried about the weather — specifically people roasting under the sun in our backyard. “We’ll have to rent a tent,” he said.

“We don’t have to rent one. My dad can just bring one down,” I said casually.

“Your dad has a tent?”

“Yeah. We had lots of parties at our house growing up. He used it all the time.”

“What does this tent look like?”

“Red and white stripes. Here. I’ll show you a picture,” I said, opening up my laptop, thinking Michael might not want the circus look.

“And sun doesn’t come through that?” he asked.

“Seriously? That’s the point of a tent, hon.”

And so it is that I called Dad and added the tent to the long list of supplies he’s bringing down for the BBQ. “I’ve got two, ” he said. “I’ll bring both — just in case.” In addition to the chafing dishes, sternos, coolers, and drink dispensers. Lucky for us, despite four years of garages sales, Dad’s still got those.

 

 

A Broken Record (My Very Own!)

After college, I worked for two months as a physical therapist, then resigned. Crying after work every day wasn’t something I thought good for my mental health.

I didn’t leave without a plan, however. I had been visiting a former place of employment, reminiscing about my time there, when I was told they had an opening: a temporary position, but one that would pay me enough to leave my current one. And so it was that I returned to being a seasonal park ranger at Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.

After that position ended, I took a three week solo trip to Europe (solo because all my recently-graduated friends only had two week vacations, so couldn’t join me). Then, after a six month temporary position with the US Census Bureau and a one year position with Americorps, I took my first-ever job that didn’t have a definitive end date. And I hated it. So you’re telling me that after a lifetime of having summers off, two weeks off at Christmas, and a week-long Spring Break, I’m expected to spend the rest of my life with two weeks vacation? Maybe four after I’ve worked there a few years? I wasn’t liking this one bit.

A therapist told me I had “situational depression.” The “situation” being the job. She also told me I was having a quarter-life crisis. Two twenty-somethings had recently written a book about it, which she told me to read. I did. Then I resigned from my job. And learned that situational depression is cured by changing your situation.

I had held that job for a mere eighteen months. That was in 2002, and for the last sixteen years that job has held the record for the longest full-time job I’ve ever had.

This wasn’t intentional. But I like traveling. And the only way I could figure on being able to travel as much as I wanted to was to save up some money, then resign and take off. Because no job was going to give me a month off to travel. Plus time to go home for Christmas. Plus a few other days off for my sanity.

Now part-time jobs? Those I could hold for a while. I’ve been tutoring math since I was in high school. And what’s funny is that just about when I’d get sick of tutoring a kid, we’d hit Christmas Break. And I’d get my drive back. Until just before Spring Break, at which point I welcomed the week off. And then there was the mad dash to get my students to finish the year on a high note before the blessing that is summer. After which I had the energy to start it all over again.

All of this prompted many people to say I should become a teacher. “Oh, no,” I’d explain. “I like working with kids one-on-one. I don’t want to have to deal with a whole class of them.” Well, never say never.

This past March marked my nineteenth month as an employee of Carolina Day School. The record has officially been broken. Though part of me wonders: can I really count this as a full-time job? I have nine weeks off every summer. Two weeks (sometimes more) at Christmas. A full week for Thanksgiving. A full week for Spring Break. And all those Monday holidays. Some teachers say, “Yes, but we work so much during the school year, that the hours add up to a full-time job.” Well, maybe for them. I don’t go in early. I leave on time almost every day. And I work a max of three hours on a weekend. I think about my job a lot, though. And talk about it tons. Because I love it. I love the variety. I love the challenge. I love my colleagues and administrators. I love my kids. I could go on, but suffice to say: Yesterday marked twenty years since I graduated from college. It took me twenty years, but I’ve finally found work I love.