September 17, 2005
My mother was born on November 21st, 1950. Two years later, she moved with her older sister and their parents to a house in Glencoe, Illinois. Nana still lives in that house, and apart from the kitchen, the furniture and design of the house all remain from when my mom was a kid. Walking through those rooms is like walking through childhood photos that your parents keep in a shoebox.
Next door to my grandparents lived the Arvey family with their two children, the youngest a girl named Sandy. My mom and Sandy met when they were 2 and 3, respectively, and have been best friends ever since. Today, Sandy and Ed Lorgeree’s youngest child, Doug—who is five months older than me—is getting married. Because the Lorgerees lived in Buffalo Grove and we lived in Evanston and then Wilmette, Doug and I were not great friends. But that is only due to geographical constraints; Doug is a wonderfully nice guy with a terrific wit and humor, a great lover of video games and sports.
His only drawbacks: due to a childhood infatuation with Joe Montana, he likes the 49ers even more than the Bears…and he is a White Sox fan.
As it turned out, Doug went to Indiana a year before I did, and when I arrived in the fall of 2000, Doug made sure I always had a ride to the grocery store or anywhere else I needed to go. He showed me around campus and around Bloomington, and when Mom asked if I wanted to attend the wedding, I brushed aside my flicker of drive-related hesitation and got my butt in town.
I am glad that I did.
I arrived yesterday at six o’clock, and just driving through Evanston and Wilmette put a smile on my face. Weaving down Sheridan past Northwestern, the school routine settling in, the early signs of fall. In Indy we’ve been hit by a lot of rain, but at home the colors are cool and green and brown, with a mood of summer mixed with the scent and look of autumn.
In Chicago, seasonal transitions are long and awkward. Summer comes in parts, getting a few days of 65 degree weather in late March, and then more cold, and then a few days of 75 degree weather in mid April, and then more cold, and then a week of pure beauty in early May, and then some rain and more cold, and with each teasing glimpse we say that finally, this will be the week in which we leave our winter clothes in the closet “forever”…
…and then of course that is the week that features an 85 degree morning and a 45 degree afternoon with light showers and a harsh 27 degree wind coming in off the lake. But eventually summer arrives, and when it does we embrace it fully, because we know that in Chicago, you have to hug tight any desirable weather that’s offered. The summer to fall transition is a bit different. Not nearly as teasing, this transition is more of a fusing, with strong aspects of both meshing evenly until the one knocks the other out.
And that’s what we’re in right now. As I passed Long Field, the field where I played my first game of Thanksgiving football, the Northwestern marching band was outside practicing. Leaves were changing colors and dropping in some places, and one nearly bare tree looked like something out of an Ansel Adams photo, but right nearby, as if from entirely different climates, another tree stood tall and full and green. I took Central past Dyche Stadium, empty this week as Northwestern travels to Tempe for a game against Arizona State, and then got an urge to drive back towards the lake just to see the Bahai Temple, and then up through Wilmette and home. We share a lawn with our lake-side neighbors, and for some reason we’ve never coordinated our lawn-mowing. As such, when autumn comes, half the lawn is covered in leaves while the other half is short, tight, and green.
Today began as Saturdays do, with lunch at C.J.’s. When Sondra saw us in her section she immediately went to the fountain and brought me an RC.
“Actually, I’ll just have a water.”
The table dropped. The three of them stared at me.
“No RC?” she asked.
“I’m trying to get off of it.”
“Do you still want your cheeseburger?” she joked.
My burger was delicious, and the fries were great, and Mom, Dad, and I had a fun time catching up, as we always do. Meanwhile, the TV over the bar was showing the Cubs-Cardinals game, with the Cubs losing 2-0 early. At home after lunch, Dad and I plopped down on the couch to watch both the Cubs and Sox lose. We relaxed in our Saturday afternoon best: t-shirts and shorts, with socks Dad and none for me. Meanwhile, Mom hustled frantically about the house, dressing and cleaning and planning like a woman possessed, bouncing past Dad and me as we calmly watched baseball. God love her. Like me, she is entering a new phase in life: the girl who she grew up with is about to become a mother-in-law, which puts her on the cusp of grandmotherdom, which puts Mom on the cusp of grandmother friendships. She was leaving earlier than us to pick up Nana. The wedding was at a hotel in Schaumberg, which is about 40 minutes west, though traffic can knock the drive up to an hour.
“The wedding starts at six.”
“Be there by 5:30.”
“Be sure you leave by 4:15,” she told us repeatedly, but we weren’t listening, instead focusing on every mis-timed swing and errant throw the Sox could muster. Mom left the house in a haze, leaving us with three or four different instructions about routes, cars, and how long she thought it would take us to get dressed. And then, just before she left, she stuck her head back in the door. “Be there by 5:30.”
We took my car and drove swiftly and efficient, but not fast, and I gave my dad my college football schpiel as he sat patiently and took it all in. We cruised the whole way there, and when we pulled into the parking lot, I looked at the clock.
But arriving early was nice, because it gave me a chance to watch Doug pose for pictures with his family and the bride’s family. I hadn’t seen Doug in nearly a year, and he looks…well, the same, but different. Same smile, same grin, same quiet goofball appeal. Though now with a full beard, fullest I’ve ever seen it on him, and for some reason it reminds me of De Niro’s beard in The Deer Hunter.
He looks older. Or anyhow, that’s my perception of him since he is getting married. Or anyhow that’s what I need to perceive him as because he’s getting married. I’m running all of this through my head, trying to determine which one is right, and I realize that the confusion is really stemming from the fact that someone my age who I’ve known for most of my life is getting married, which seems weird, and yet it’s not weird anymore since I am beginning to consider it for myself, and the fact that it’s no longer weird makes it weird. After a drink and more baseball at the bar, Dad and I are summoned, and we head into the room where the ceremony will be held.
The room is overwhelmingly white. Each chair for each guest is draped in some kind of white silky cloth—though not silk, I think—and Doug is walking around with his best man, the two of them greeting guests and looking important, feeling, I’d imagine, a bit like Henry Hill, though with less money. They dart into the crowd from some back room, and then away in the back hallway, and then a return to the crowd, and then a return to the back room.
The ceremony begins. Doug, the best man, and the groomsmen stand up front, and then each bride’s maid enters and stands opposite her fellow groomsman. Doug is sporting a delightful smile, and as I’m watching him he looks over at me. We hadn’t gotten a chance to greet each other earlier, so we do a big hello-nod, and I make a face like “Holy shit! You’re getting married! (And you’re my age!)” He returns the face, allowing himself (for cameraderie purposes) to briefly return to that mindset in which marriage is weird, a mindset from which he has clearly taken leave. The three-year-old flower girl comes out for the obligatory emotional manipulation, and the “she’s so cutes” are so thick you’d think some people are on the payroll.
But I can’t be cynical for long, because soon after Sandy steps out, and there is such a joy in her face you want to jump up and touch her in hopes that some of it will stick to you. The family sits in the front row, and then the bride, Lori, comes in, a girl who looks like she could be one of my friends…and she could, since she’s my age, which is what I keep reminding myself as I’m watching this. These people are my age.
The bride’s father gives her away, and then Doug and Lori stand in front of the priest as he speaks. Doug is a great guy, but not one of my great friends, and so again I’m able to watch this ceremony from a bit of a detached perspective, my head flipping around every which way to see the expressions on the faces in front of those white silky chairs, and then always back to Mom, who has a smile in her eyes of such love and warmth you’d think God put it there himself. Sandy turns around, and the old friends look at each other and smile, each saying exactly what she wants to say—and no more—without ever opening their mouths.
Then came the rest of it, bang-bang-bang, with the vows and the rings and the kiss, and just like that, they were married. They turned and walked back down the aisle, as husband and wife, and then they returned to personally let each row out, a nice alternative to the normal handshake and hug line. We are in the fourth row, so we watch as Doug and Lori hug everyone, with Lori giving big hugs and kisses to Sandy and Ed, and Doug embracing Lori’s father and stepmother.
Then it’s over to us. I quickly introduce myself to Lori—“I’m Doug’s mom’s best friend’s son”—and I watch her eyes as she runs that lineage through her head until it connects, and then she smiles and gives me a hug. “Congrats,” I say. And then as my parents congratulate Lori, I see Doug.
“Mazel tov,” I say, shaking his hand and giving him a hug.
“Thanks. Thanks for coming.”
“Yeah. Glad to be here. Dude,” I lean in, “Sox lost.”
But rather than the expected reaction, Doug shrugs and smiles and moves past me, saying hello to my parents. It seems there are more important things than baseball, if only for today.