Saturday, July 7
I am trying to stay in the moment and drink in the presence of my loved ones and the flow of this time together in Boston, but still I am anxious about my toast and the rehearsal dinner. Dave is delivering welcome bags with maps, water bottles and oat bars for guests staying at hotels other than the Millenium. He has checked in with me a few times- teeth clenched, voice tense - to report that his GPS failed while in a tunnel and as a result, he has gone to Logan Airport twice by mistake. Twice! He is not happy.
According to the “Ladies’ Schedule,” the bride and her attendants are currently seated in padded vinyl chairs with their hands out, fingers splayed, feet soaking, awaiting manicures and pedicures. Casey’s boyfriend, P.J., arrived shortly after she departed for the salon, and has already made a hit with the Ingersolls. Tucker is at the apartment, packing for his two-night stay at the Millenium. Scott, Tucker’s dear friend and best man, is cutting and pasting Lisa’s vows on index cards, adding a sprinkle of red glitter to amuse the bride.
The “Gentlemen’s Schedule” allows the rest of the men freedom until the rehearsal.
When Casey was active in theater, dress rehearsals were often discouraging. She liked to think the false starts, forgotten lines, mis-cues, and bumbled blocking were good omens, a rite of passage that assured a successful opening night. For weddings, the rehearsal is a one-shot deal, so it’s bound to be confusing. In a church, the routes and positions are well-established: groom and best man to the right of the altar, bridesmaids promenade down the aisle and proceed left, bride makes her entrance on her father’s arm. None of these is assumed in the ballroom of the Millenium once we are gathered at 5:00.
Where should everyone stand? Should Tucker and Lisa be centered for optimal guest views, or should they angle left and center under the curving gray struts that span the ceiling? My nephew Trevor, from the Sylvestro side, leans forward to whisper, “Better for photos if they stand to the left.” He shows me a picture he has already taken with his phone during all the various trial runs onstage, um, I mean, at the front of the room. Trevor’s correct. The struts arch with cathedral-like grace above the couple if they stand to the left.
So Casey and Scott squeeze closer to the wall. Sheryl, the maid of honor, and Lisa’s sister, Laura, inch left as well. As if trying a dance-step, Tucker’s friend Jeff, the officiant, agreeably steps left and right and left again.
Behind Casey and Scott, black leather guitar cases lean against the wall. They are in the way, which sparks some… discussion. Toward the end of the ceremony tomorrow, Dave, his brother Steve, and Steve’s sons Trevor and Christopher, will play Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song,” a Sylvestro wedding tradition since the seventies.
Christopher, a professional musician, is playing with John Mayall tonight and so, can’t make this rehearsal. I am not allowing myself to think about whether he will arrive on time tomorrow. Worry has peeked like a naughty child under my mind-curtain and I have snatched it back in place. No. Not even going consider it. He will be here.
For the past fifteen minutes, I’ve kept an eye on the time during the “You stand here while we say this. No wait. This would be better. When should we do this?” I’d like to stay until all is resolved, but Dave and I have to go to Legal Seafood to prepare for the welcome dinner.
We zip to our room to collect cameras, centerpieces, easels and the two 2’ X 3’ collages swathed in cardboard and a black garbage bag. We look like refugee artists as we grapple with our ungainly supplies and wrestle them into the cab.
The heavy-lidded, swarthy driver does not look at us as we tell him our destination. He has ear-pods in his ears and is speaking a foreign language. He leans heavily on his elbow against the car door and I almost worry that he is drifting off, but for his continued stream of conversation. I am pretty sure he is not talking to the cab dispatcher, and since I am already nervous, I wonder if we are going to the right place.
We are not, as it turns out. Yes, he has brought us to a Legal Seafood Restaurant in Copley Square, but it is not the one in the mall. We had not specified the mall; I knew there was more than one Legal Seafood in Boston, but more than one in Copley Square? This, I did not know.
We have plenty of time, but now I worry how many guests might make an unwanted tour of the Legal Seafoods of Boston. I must let this go and have faith in the unfolding, although, as I’ve said, I am not good at this. Our cab pulls up at a curb beneath an elevated glass tunnel between two buildings. The cab driver exits the car and points at an entrance across the road and then at the tunnel. Whoa. Complicated. And here we are with our easels and collages.
Dave strides off and I scurry behind him in my wearing-high-heels tip-toe trot. “What if this is the wrong place?” I ask as we ride an escalator, cross the glass tunnel, navigate a busy mall, and scan for signs. Brookstone. Gap. American Eagle. And then, I see it! “There! Legal Seafood!” I point, relieved and triumphant. I imagine Dave’s mother and my own making this trek. Not easy. It would have been far too daunting for Dad.
A smiling hostess greets us at the restaurant and leads us past crowded tables of couples and families digging into shrimp cocktail, stuffed lobster, and mussels in garlic and wine sauce. They look relaxed and happy. I envy them their simple evening. I bet none of them has to make a toast tonight. My friend Gail has cautioned me not to judge my interiors by others’ exteriors, so I throw in some self-scolding, just for spice. “You are richly blessed this weekend, surrounded by loved ones with the joy of a wedding ahead! Who knows what these people may have to deal with. Honestly! Enough about the nerves!” I make myself crazy.
I have also been concerned about adequate seating. Tucker and Lisa want this to be a night of mingling, a chance for the soon-to-be joined families to get to know each other. I fully understand their intention, but I am a sitter myself. Don’t like standing. So I worry that guests will be uncomfortable. Seventy-two people responded to the invitation to say they were coming; we have seating for forty-four.
The hostess leads us to a quiet room, bright with natural light from a wall of high windows. A padded bench skirts one side. (I wonder if the bench was included in the seating estimate? I’m guessing it could hold twenty-five people. Good.) Tables cloaked in white linens with black napkins are arranged to leave space for movement. Three smiling women in black shirts and trousers step forward to meet us: our staff for the night – Brynn, Annalice, and Jackie. “Anything you need, let us know,” says Annalice.
“Would it be possible to add a few more tables and chairs?” I ask.
“Sure. Not a problem.” And off they go, returning with supplies to seat an additional ten people.
“Do you want a drink? Something to eat?” Jackie says. So kind! I rattle on about our cab ride, my anxiety over guests getting lost, seating, and my toast (endlessly fascinating topics) and she clucks sympathetically. So tolerant!
Brynn and I set out the centerpieces – ocean-blue bags stuffed with tissue and starry foil garlands – and Dave assembles the easels and collages.
Weeks ago, Lisa’s father, Doug, had scanned a collection of three decades of photos of Lisa and her family, and her mother, Jan, sent me the thumb-drive. Of course Lisa was not solely the thirty-year-old woman Dave and I met in 2009, and as I’d clicked through the pictures, my sense of this girl my son so loves expanded as each shot filled the computer screen: a chubby baby in her mother’s arms, a cocky five year old in a black leotard, a ballerina beneath a parasol, a graduate surrounded by proud grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and her sister, Laura. My feelings for her deepened in seeing her different stages and the loved ones who nurtured her as she grew into the woman Tucker has chosen.
I spent some sniffly, sentimental hours flipping through piles of our photo albums selecting pictures of Tucker: a skinny baby with spiky Sid Vicious hair, a round-faced toddler with kissable cheeks, a determined young man in a white uniform breaking three boards with his hand in Tae Kwon Do. Dave and I had a date-night at CVS to print out copies, and then I spent the next few days in happy absorption assembling the collages, photographic puzzles of the people and life’s pieces from which Tucker and Lisa have evolved.
Brynn and Jackie help us move tables and chairs to show the collages off to best advantage. Shrimp, lobsters, and clams on crushed ice, grilled vegetables and swordfish on skewers, beef sliders, a chowder station, and green salad have been set out on the buffet. Everything is ready - it is going to be fine.
And it is so much better than fine! Loving friends and family filter in, only a few having checked out the other Legal Seafoods in the area. With warm smiles, hugs, and wonderful words about my boy, Lisa’s aunt Joyce and Uncle Bob introduce themselves. Lisa is like a daughter to them, and Joyce will be arranging the flowers for the wedding tomorrow. Granpa Meckley and Millie, Lisa’s grandfather and step-grandmother, enter with a woman no one knows. Not surprisingly as they are in their eighties, Granpa and Millie had been disoriented in the mall and this kind person helped them find their way, made sure they were in the right place, then disappeared.
Tables fill, glasses fill, hearts fill. Tucker and Lisa, the night’s celebrities, enter to applause, whistles, and whoops. In keeping with the marine setting, Lisa wears a gauzy dress of swirling blue, green and white, “my mermaid princess dress!” she says with a grin.
Many are enjoying the food. My nephew Campbell, a boy who, but years ago, would eat only chicken tenders, is happily sampling the seafood. It looks delicious, but I can’t eat. Too nervous. Just do the toast, I mentally hiss. Okay! I snap back at my inner harpie. I tap my glass with a spoon (so loud!) and everyone turns expectantly.
While rummaging through Tucker’s baby book and my underwear drawer for a theme on which to build my toast (doesn’t everyone keep mementos in their underwear drawer?), I had found an essay Tucker wrote when he was eleven. Called “The Me Nobody Knows,” the piece charted young Tucker’s career plans from working part-time at a private airline, to owning one, to – obviously - working for NASA and building a HUGE starship cruiser.
I speak about my son’s dreams, my admiration for his and Lisa’s resilience through this stressful year of work, wedding plans, Lisa’s celiac diagnosis, and my father’s death. In closing, I read my 11-year-old’s observation, “most of this will happen in the future, so I can’t be sure of any of it…” and raise my glass to this dear couple’s having found someone to be sure of in each other: “someone who loves you dearly, who shares your creativity, ambitions, heart, and sense of adventure…and someone you know will be steadfast and resilient when you need them.”
My father would not have let this evening pass without a toast, and my sisters and I are his daughters indeed. Rita stands next with a memory of musing why the sky was blue, only to have Tucker provide the precise scientific explanation…when he was four years old. She observes that Lisa, a doctor in pharmaceutical sciences, might have known the answer when she was even younger. Francie, too, relates an anecdote recalling a wintry Vermont afternoon in 1982 when my father was left to babysit for Tucker while the women of the family went shopping. We returned just in time to grab two-year-old Tucker as he toddled toward the fireplace. Dad was unrepentant. “He would have figured it out when he got hot enough,” Dad said. We raise our glasses with Francie as she wishes Tucker and Lisa happiness and observes, “You and Lisa will be figuring out many things – together – in the years ahead.”
The party is effervescent as bubbles in a glass of champagne. Faces flushed red with heat and hilarity, Rita and Francie laugh with Lisa’s cousin Jayne. P.J. and Casey, neither of them short in stature, chat with Rita’s 6’7” son Jared, their heads tilted wayyyy back. Mom is engrossed in conversation with Scott and his wife, Abby (who later tell us they want to adopt her). Dave’s mother, Ma, is watching as her great-grandchild Ava snuggles with my sister-in-law, Debby. Lisa’s mother, Jan, and I find each other in front of the collages and with shining eyes point out pictures and reminisce.
Ultimately, the festivities wind down, and Dave and I, Jan, Doug, Tucker, and Lisa – the parents and tomorrow’s bride and groom – are the last to leave. The corridors of the mall outside Legal Seafood are bright, but empty and quiet. We are brimming with joy at the fun of the evening and the warmth between the two families.
Tucker and Lisa walk slightly ahead, holding hands. They slow until I am in step with them. Lisa says, “You know the picture on the collage where I’m wearing a tiara and holding a trophy? I’d just sung ‘Part of Their World'
from ‘The Little Mermaid’ in a contest, and I won!”
Naturally, I clamor for a glimpse of that performance. Like water in a tide pool, Lisa’s mermaid dress eddies and flows about her feet. Tucker beams at his beautiful girl. Softly and sweetly, in a clear soprano, Lisa sings as we walk past shops shuttered for the night.