..[Los Angeles without a car, work permit or superpowers]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Conversations With My Mother

It's the fortnightly transatlantic phone-call to Mother Dearest. I'm updated on the latest news from Little Village Primary School, England, where my mother has taught for the past twenty-two years. The updates are less compelling now that nearly all the teachers I remember from my time as a pupil there have either died, retired or inexplicably retrained as carpenters.

Mother Dearest is mainly concerned with Younger Sister's upcoming wedding. 'Upcoming' is relative; it's still seventeen months away.

A little bit of backdrop: the glorious nuptials of Dr Strangename and myself were not that traditional. We got married in our college chapel (variously built and rebuilt according to taste in the 1300s, 1500s and 1800s), but without bridesmaids, hymns, or sugared almonds. It was winter, and the bride wore a red Armani-knockoff dress; 'marry in red, you'll wish yourself dead', they say, although they probably don't look like a corpse bride in white.

I somehow always assumed Younger Sister would go the other way; veil copied from a magazine picture of Maria Shriver's wedding, that sort of thing.

But Younger Sister is going the other other way, making mine look like the average Republican-Senator's-Daughter-Crabcakes-Yachts-and-Lilies bash. She's having a non-legally-binding open-air Humanist ceremony at our family's farm, with a hog-roast and teepees and bunting. She's already started on the bunting. She plans to wear a floaty white dress and flipflops and carry sunflowers.

- What does the Mother-of-the-Bride wear to an open-air wedding ceremony?

wonders my mother, who wore a shift from Whistles and a large black hat to our day.

I'm greatly enjoying discussing the technicalities of wedding planning when a) it's not mine, b) I'm 6000 miles away and can't be asked to make bunting, and c) it's not mine.

Did I mention that the field chosen for the ceremony is also an ancient, pre-Druidic (possibly Neolithic) burial site? The barrows were opened in the 1700s, and the human remains moved to the British Museum. Wade and Wade (1929) describe it as:

a remarkably fine tumulus of masonry, said to have been one of the finest in Britain, in the chambers of which skeletons have been discovered. A few vestiges of it now only remain, the rest has been used as a lime-kiln.

Well, perhaps as my ancestors have been using it to make quicklime for several hundred years, a wedding in the vicinity won't be too disrespectful. Still. The date's set for July 2012, and anyone who's ever spent a summer in England knows that actual sun is a privilege, not a right. Younger Sister is hazy about what we'll do should it rain.

- Everyone can go into the teepees,

she says, sketching floral wreathes for her five bridesmaids. The teepees have no windows. Nearly 150 people have been invited. If I were pitching this wedding as a concept, I would say: Age of Aquarius meets Tess of the D'Urbervilles at the Battle of the Somme, with a touch of The Shining and just a hint of Dancing With Wolves.

I can't wait.

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