Monday, June 9, 2008

Road Trip

This weekend my little entourage traveled to Richmond, VA, for a family wedding. My brother David married a lovely young lady, Colleen, over a wonderful weekend. This was a big happening for us, kind of like a family adventure.

I suppose I should clarify that David is technically my ex-step brother. I say this not because I care about technicalities, but because this seems to be of great interest to my children. I understand that they need to have a mental picture of the family tree, but there is some sort of shame attached to defining your relationship in the term "ex- step bother," or even just "step brother." It diminishes the relationship somehow because these words are a way to distance people from one another. I have tried to explain to my children that relationships are better defined by the feelings you have for people than by the names that we give to our associations. It probably does not help that my relations are so out of the ordinary that even adults have a hard time grasping the ties that place me in family gatherings, but that is the state of my family. The most important thing is that they love me and my little nuclear family, and I really couldn't ask for any more acceptance than that. So, I spent some time Saturday with all three kids explaining the complex relationships that we share, answering their questions, and telling them that it is impolite to bring all of this up repeatedly with every person they meet. They got the hint and by the end of the weekend Calvin couldn't get over the fact that he had a new aunt. He was very excited about that, and the possibility of new cousins someday.

The Jefferson Hotel is a beautiful place. It is probably one of the best hotels and one of the finest restaurants in Richmond. The wedding party was invited to have dinner there Saturday night. I wasn't in the wedding party, but I guess because we came from out of town, my family circus was invited to attend. I was very excited to be there for a couple reasons. Most importantly, it really made me feel like I was a part of the family. Also, I lived in Richmond for most of my first 23 years and had only been in the Jefferson once as a laborer during the hotel's restoration in 1983. I knew this place was a bit too nice for the likes of me, so I adopted a disguise of refinement and tried on my best manners.

The best picture I took all weekend was of people I don't even know. Bigger picture here.

I coached the kids as we were going along on how to behave, what things to say, and how to eat like polite little people. I think I should say that our normal family dining out experiences includes some kind of Happy Meal toy that the kids break just before running off to play in the giant plastic tunnel and ball pit. The kids were really very good about the whole thing and behaved better than I could have hoped for. Calvin, my oldest son, completely cracked up our table at dinner. After about a hour he adopted a new fancy accent that was almost English. He was saying things very formally, such as, "Father, don't you think that this flower arrangement is lovely?" and "Mother, would it be possible for me to eat Samuel's remaining chicken?" He has been taking acting lessons and really got into his character so much that we had to use the secret "stop talking" hand signal.

Calvin and I into "Infinity, and beyond!"

The kids have had no previous experiences with a five course meal brought out over a period of 3 hours. We usually practice some form of speed eating, either by accident, or in a rush to get to the next thing on the schedule. Leisurely dinners are unheard of at our house. The table setting at the Jefferson was a mystery to the kids. All of the plates, silverware and glasses spread out in front of them were like some kind of art project that they were almost afraid to mess up. Sammy, my four year old, was as good as gold. He didn't toss any silverware on the ground, like he normally does, or get up and run around the table. It was like aliens had taken over my children's bodies!

One of the most interesting things to happen was that Savannah wore two dresses in two days! My little 6 year old tomboy never wears dresses. She did pick them out especially for this occasion, but to see her in a dress that you didn't have to fight to get her into, was very nice. Both of her dresses were sleeveless, I think she planned it that way to show off her Pirates of the Caribbean temporary tattoo. Actually, the whole family did have to go and get new clothes for this event. It seemed wrong to wear our same old clothes. Besides it is nice to dress up every once in a while in new clothes and feel important.

The wedding was held at Celebrations on the Waterfront. The ceremony was held outside in front of the Swift Creek Reservoir. It was very beautiful, but a tad on the warm side. The food was outstanding.

An "Air Concert."

I thought it was amazing that my brother and his wife met on an online dating service. It also surprised me to know that they are both into online gaming and the World of Warcraft. I have known this for a while but it really hit home when at the end of the ceremony the priest introduced the newly married couple. As part of the introduction, he gave their "WoW" user names and commented that they can often be found online working to accomplish numerous tasks together in their virtual world. The world has changed dramatically over the last 18 years in how people meet and interact, but the feelings that people develop for one another haven't changed at all. I do not think that these virtual connections cheapen relationships, or that they are just a passing fad. I think there is a depth in these connections, and that they enrich our relationships in many surprising ways.

I wish David and Colleen a long and happy life together.

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