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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And For Her Next Stunt . . .

The book was called First Time Around the World. As if there might be a second or third time I embarked on such a journey. I could barely fathom planning a year of travels, let alone actually making it happen, so once would definitely be enough for me.

Having lived with myself for thirty-six years now, I don’t think my love of “big” trips is a fad. “Maybe one day you’ll travel for a week at a time, like most people,” my mother said after I returned from my most recent travels. “Mmmm,” I responded, wondering if one week in a place would ever be enough.

It surely doesn’t help that I have a proclivity toward travel-based memoirs. And people don’t tend to write about their week-long sojourns. My heart speeds up when I head into the travel writing section of the bookstore. Tales of a Female Nomad, Vagabonding, One Year Off. On this balmy Saturday I spent more than an hour on a beach towel with my nose tucked into An Embarrassment of Mangoesa couple’s tale of their two year hiatus sailing the Caribbean. I read with great interest the money part–how they figured out what it would cost. But then I realized they took this trip nearly twenty years ago.

Speaking of outdated numbers, my copy of First Time Around the World is seven years old. Yes, me, the girl who loves getting rid of stuff, has actually held onto a book for seven years. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, though, I can now find more accurate figures for this supposed trip. And just today it hit me: the money my father has saved for my wedding could fund an entire year of traveling. One day versus an entire year. Need I say more? Yes. I probably need to say, “Oh Daddy dearest . . . about that wedding money . . . ”

I called him just now. “That would be a little drastic,” he told me.

But here’s the thing: I’ve got three years. I’m thinking a year around the world will be my fortieth birthday gift to myself–not from Dad, but from me. So my plan is to save that chunk of money.

Or I can look at it this way: I’ve got three years to convince my father that visiting places he’s probably never heard of is going to make his first-born a lot happier than spending all that money on a one day event that, most brides say, goes by so fast they don’t remember much of it at all.

How many do you need?

I’m helping my parents get ready for their garage sale this weekend.  This is a momentous occasion as they have lived in this house for over 25 years and in that time have had only one other garage sale I can recall.  On the other hand, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen stuff being moved into their house.  They take a Honda Odyssey when they drive from NY to NC to visit my sister.  When I was younger, that van was filled with kids.  Now-a-days, they return with it full of antiques they found on their way back.  Mom has enough furniture to furnish a whole other house.  Which, I must admit, comes in handy as I don’t own much in the way of furniture.  People ask where my end tables came from and I say “the Gallo Family Collection,” as if it’s its own brand.  And my parents actually are thinking of building another house (though that was not on the horizon when most of the furniture was bought).  But I’m not entirely sure they’re building a new house because the property would make a great place for future grandkids to visit or simply to house their extra furniture.

Having helped mom work her way through some of the basement last week, she offered to help me work my way through belongings I still had in the barn.  I have just about everything I need where I live now, so didn’t have much trouble parting with the remnants in the barn.

Then mom and I started looking around the rest of the barn.  And here’s my question:  How many coolers does one man need?  We counted 11 on the second floor of the barn (yes, it has not one but two floors of stuff).  And these were just the coolers in the barn.  Mom and I both knew Dad had a few more in the garage.  And who knows how many elsewhere.

When I mentioned the plethora of coolers to my father, he said, “Yes – but these are really good coolers.”  As if their quality has anything to do with the number of them a person needs!  “That’s fine,” I said, “but how many do you really need?”  With a huff he started looking at them and pulled four off the towering pile.  “But you know – your brother might need one of these,” he told me.  “Ok – so that’s one.  You’re telling me you need the other six?”  His patience with me was waning, so I let it go, happy of my success at getting him to move four out of there.  “These are good coolers,” he said again as we brought them down the stairs.  “How much to you think these are worth?” he asked.  “No idea,” I said.  The only cooler I have is one dad let me borrow – a small one that fits on the shelf under my microwave.  And he’s never missed it.  “I’ll have to go to Kmart tomorrow and find out what these things cost, because they’re worth something.”  Apparently they are – worth so much that the man thought he should “invest” in 11 of them.

When I told a friend I was helping my parents prepare for their garage sale, she said, “Oh – good to do that now.  Otherwise you’ll be stuck doing it later.”  She meant when they passed on.  Which made me realize – they could easily live another 25 years.  Twenty-five more years worth of stuff?  I pushed that thought out of my mind remembering the best line I learned in Philosophy class:   Epictetus said, “Don’t worry over things you can’t control.”  It’s a good policy.