Whirlwind weekends. Gotta love ’em...
This weekend, as some of you already know, I was in Toronto. One of my friends, Jay, was getting married to his girlfriend of six years, and I was fortunate enough to witness this happy day. (More on that in a moment.)
I left Friday afternoon, cutting out an hour early from work to catch the flight. It was the first time in I don’t know how long that I’d flown Air Canada, and I was a bit apprehensive. Air Canada has had a bad rap, from me at least, with their ability to process customers with any speed. They’ve changed recently, oddly enough since their merger with Canadian Airlines, and it’s been for the better. They now feature faster lines, even electronic check-in (more on that later), and people who actually smile at you. It’s a nice change.
The flight out left at 6:00pm. I was in 13F — second row back from first class, inside aisle seat, starboard side. Right next to an early 20s Korean woman with her six month old child. Yeah, those chills of listening to a baby crying for four hours were firing up my spine within seconds of sitting down. It seems that my good friend Murphy missed the flight, however, the baby merely whined a little on the way up and on the way down. Cute kid.
In fact, I started thinking about having kids again. It’s been a long time since I last thought about it, even so much as devoting a passing wonder. During the flight, I started to think about all the people I knew with babies, and how I’m not one of them. I’m not exactly getting any younger, nor are my parents or my grandmother. I would like my child to know its grandparents — both of them, and its great-grandmother. I never knew either of my grandfathers — both died long before I was born. I had a step-grandfather, but I saw him only a handful of times over 24 years before he died. My lasting memory of Papa was him teaching me to skip stones on the beach in Waskesiu.
So I got to thinking. What would it be like to have a child? Well, not give birth to one, but care for a child (or two), and raise it (or them) to adulthood. It’s one of those things we non-parents can only guess at, having never gone through the process. We can get hints from those who are parents, but we’ll never really know — until we’re parents.
My previous few flights on Canadian Airlines led me to believe that the Canadian airline industry was going slightly downhill. I was quite happy to find, however, that Air Canada was not affected the same way. Great service, good movies ("Keeping the Faith" on the way out, "U-571" on the way back) great food (yes, I said "great" — airline food can be good, y’know), and comfortable seats. Yeah, comfortable seats sounds dumb, but if you fly enough you come to appreciate nice seats.
We touched down at 11:30 EDT, arriving at the terminal some 20 minutes later. (I keep forgetting just how big Pearson International is). It was the first time in more years than I can remember that I used Terminal 2. For years, I’ve been flying out of either Terminal 1 or 3, depending on the flight. But because I avoided Air Canada, I never went into Terminal 2. It was so long that I didn’t recognize the interior at all. Well, except the baggage claim area, though I only sprinted through that — I had only carry-ons.
Cathy was there to pick me up, circling the outside looking for me. (She wasn’t able to park.) Soon we were back in Oakville. We didn’t stay up long — I had to be up early for the wedding (starting at 11:00am) and Cathy was tired. So we chatted a short while before both retreating to bed.
The next morning, I showered, shaved, dressed, and gathered myself for a long wedding day. (Not nearly as long as the bride and groom, but hey — I had jet lag to contend with.) This included a quick trip to my parents’ house (I was staying at Cathy and Craig’s; my parents are somewhere in either Colorado or Utah — we don’t know which) to iron my shirt and borrow a pair of my dad’s dress shoes.
The dress shoes were the worst part. I accidentally left my pair in Vancouver. I liked them — they were reasonably comfy. But I’m not about to go after them. That would be like reaching into a hive of African bees to get a dime. In lieu of buying a pair, my dad (who, along with my mother, were out here for a couple of weeks during their most recent excursion of the continent) suggested I borrow his.
Now, my dad and I do not share bodily proportions. I’m shorter than him, by about six inches or so, and I’ve got smaller feet. A lot smaller. About a size and a half. It took five tissues per shoe and an insole to keep my feet from swimming around. They were uncomfortable and too big, but at least I didn’t attend the wedding wearing my ubiquitous sandals.
Borrowing my mother’s van, I took the long route getting to the church. I wanted to be early, but I was a little too early. So I drove around to see what had changed since the last time I’d really paid attention to where I was going.
I arrived about 20 minutes before the service was to begin, and already there were a large number of cars. Jay was at the front door greeting people as they arrived. Jay always has a permanent smile — he’s always happy about something. Especially when he’s trashing talking someone. But his smile was even broader than normal. He looked nearly ecstatic. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning, staring at a gigantic pile of presents under a tree.
Just beyond Jay were his ushers, two of whom I knew: Stuart and Nabil. Stuart you all know, or at least have heard of. Nabil is ... well, unless you’ve met him, you’re never going to understand. I might write a lot, but I can’t script a character like Nabil. Needless to say, seeing him in a tux was worth the $560 airplane ticket.
I hung around the foyer a while until Matt and Alicia (I hope I got the spelling right) showed up after a few minutes. I knew them through Stuart and Jay (I met Jay through Stuart). The three of us took seats on the groom’s side four rows back from the front. It was a good thing we were there — the Corinne’s side of the church heavily outweighed Jay’s side, and most of them were family. Jay’s side seemed mostly friends, with a scattering of family for flavour.
The music changed, and Jay walked down the aisle with his brother, his Best Man. Then the groomsmen came up the groom’s side, followed by the bridesmaids on the bride’s side. If Jay looked happy before, he looked like he was going to die from joy now. If his smile had gotten any wider, it would have split his head open. I looked down the aisle to see where Corrine was — her expression wasn’t much different — she was happier than I’d ever seen her.
And that’s when it hit me.
As you all know, I was to be married. For me, it wasn’t a joy — it was a death sentence. It was utter torture to organize, especially considering that I really didn’t want to go through with it. That, added to my pre-existing view of weddings as being an overly-extravagant ceremony wrapped around a lot of paperwork, really didn’t seed the flower of joy in weddings.
Jay and Corinne changed that. Over the course of the day, I would come realize that while some people, like me, aren’t really huge fans of weddings, there are those for whom weddings are the happiest and most important day in their lives. It’s when they can say to everyone they’ve known and loved that they have found the person with whom they will spend their lives, feed, protect, covet, love, and share every moment. There is no fear, there is only happiness.
I’ve only seen this kind of thing in movies. So it was a strange feeling to be watching it myself. I even found myself succumbing to the beauty in it — I actually found my eyes becoming a tad blurry. Partially from happiness, knowing that such a wonderful thing can exist, and partially from sadness, an empty feeling I periodically get when I wonder if I’ll ever be that lucky. I’m envious of such joy.
I’ve known a lot of relationships in my time, and I’ve seen a lot fall apart. There are some, however, that will live (and love) a long time. Jay and Corinne are one such couple. Seeing them without smiles on their faces was (and will likely be) a rarity.
Corinne’s family is Italian. Jay’s family is Irish and Italian. Hence, the wedding was Italian. Hence, Catholic. Hence, a lot of standing, sitting, kneeling, and trying not to get lost in all the activity. Matt, Alicia, and I did our best to try and keep up with everything. Stuart had a much better system: Stand when told, otherwise sit.
After the wedding, we went through the receiving line, wishing the newlyweds all the best. Jay and Corinne still sported their massive smiles, which they would hold all day. I warned them that if they kept smiling like that, they’d never be able to stop.
I waited outside with Stuart, Nabil, Matt, Alicia, and some of the other groomsmen, waiting for the receiving line to die out a bit. Mostly, I was waiting for Brenda and Marek to appear. They were co-workers when I was at Arkipelago in Toronto. They were my friends, whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. I can safely say that I miss the both of them.
Soon, six of us (Brenda, Marek, Brant (another ex-Arkipelago employee, who started after me, whom I only knew by name), Matt, Alicia, and myself) broke for lunch. None of us had eaten breakfast, and the concept of going all day without food was not appealing.
On a suggestion from Marek, we all went to the Dundas Street Grill, on Dundas around Kipling. We ate too much. We were still hungry, but we ate too much. We knew that there was going to be a bombardment of food at the reception, and it dawned on me (and certainly the others) that we were going to look like we’d been to taxidermists after the reception that evening.
After lunch, we broke into two squads: Marek, Brenda, and Brant went off in search of fortune and glory, while Matt, Alicia, and I tried to navigate all the detours and closed exits to get to a lone two-bedroom apartment in High Park. There we hung out for the remainder of time until we had to go to the reception. Alicia and I watched "Leon" (aka "The Professional") while Matt napped — he and Nabil had been out drinking until 4:00am the previous night.
Two of Matt’s (and presumably, Jay’s) friends were going to catch a ride with us. So we waited around until they arrived. At 5:15. The reception was at 5:30. At Finch and the 427, about 30-40 kilometres away. We were there by 5:50.
The reception was at a place called Pantone’s (or something like that), what some people referred to as a "wedding factory". It’s basically a light industrial building converted into two massive reception halls, separated by (presumably) a massive kitchen. Each of the halls has a lobby where all 200+ guests were crammed in. We did another reception line, met all the wedding party as we worked our way around, got our seats, and signed our names.
Marek, Brenda, Brant, and I were assigned to Table #22 — the current and ex-co-workers table. The last table. But also one of the best tables — we were right next to the bar. Given, there was a pillar in my view that blocked a bit of the head table, but I spent most of my time talking to Brant, Brenda, and Marek, and listening to Marek’s stories. (Did I mention that miss working with Brenda and Marek?)
This was my first experience with an Italian wedding. Also my first with an Italian reception. Not quite a full-bore Italian reception (I’ve heard of much bigger, though Chris tells me Chinese receptions even outdo Italian receptions), but it was still bigger than all the others I’d been to.
Dinner came in five courses. First was buns. Okay, they’re not a course, but we all dug into the buns before anything else. Then came the appetizer: grilled vegetables with goat cheese, olives (no, I didn’t eat the olives), and a prociutto-wrapped raw fig. The fig was a little odd (never had one), but it was still good. Round Two was the pasta: tortellini and something that looked like the pasta equivalent of a Swiss roll. Dunno what it was called, but boy, was it good. Round Three was the chicken, breaded veal, and roasted vegetables. (Marek called the veal about five minutes before it was served.) By this point, the four of us were undoing buttons and breathing lightly, so’s not to have our chests burst. Then came Round Four: seafood and salad. I refrained from the seafood, not for a lack of wanting it (except maybe the lobster), but did accept the salad. We were all dreading what culinary wonder we would have to suffer through next when a small brown sphere appeared on our plates: Tartuffe. (I think Marek called that one too, though it might have been Brant.)
You don’t refuse Tartuffe — that’s just sacrilegious.
The First Dance had actually been before dinner, something that was new to me. The dancing resumed after dinner with the other traditional dances: Father with daughter, mother with son, groomsmen with bridesmaids. I sat and watched it all. (Aside from the fact that I’m not a big dancer, my dad’s shoes were shredding the tops of my feet, making even sitting a chore.) Then things started getting silly.
The MC (I don’t know if he was an employee of the establishment, or if Jay and Corinne hired him and the DJ) got people to do silly things. That seems to be a trend at weddings. On such silly thing was having Jay and Corinne each start "trains". Jay went around picking up all the women, while Corinne went around picking up all the men. (I think that if I ever get married, the only thing anyone will be picking up is something more to drink.) I did not join in, as my feet were now beginning to consider a rebellion and secede from the rest of my body.
The party went on until around 11:00, at which point a lot of people started to leave. Stuart and I (I was driving Stuart home) ducked out around 11:30 or so, after both of us came to the conclusion that we were too tired to go on. Jay and Corinne, however, were still going strong, and still had the massive smiles on their faces. Like I said, I’m envious of such happiness. (Although, it could have been that their faces had in fact been stuck in that position.)
I awoke late the next day to the smell of bacon. (I still say that it is genetically impossible for me to sleep through the smell of cooking bacon.) Cathy and Craig were already up and about, doing whatever it is that they do on weekends. We ate a leisurely brunch ... ah, heck, it was even past lunch by the time we actually ate, even if it was eggs, bacon, and hash browns. By the time I got myself up and running, it was nearly 2:00pm. Taking some time, I tried to call two friends of mine in Toronto: Kathryn and Ed. (They don’t live with each other, they don’t even know each other — but I had said I would try to get a hold of them while I was in. No, I wasn’t shunning anyone else, just that the topic that I would be in town came up in emails with them.)
Couldn’t find Ed. (Ed — check your 411 entry, eh?) Kathryn took a bit, but I managed to corner her at her place in Toronto. Being occupied, I had to restrict myself to a phone call instead of a proper visit. Afterwards I called Stuart to let him know that we wouldn’t be seeing Kathryn that day. Stuart invited me to join him on his mission to return the rented tux.
Square One was as busy as I remembered. It had been a very long time since the last time I’d been in Square One, but it didn’t look all that different. No further than 100 metres into the mall, we ran into Jay and Corinne. They looked a little more rested than the day before, but the smiles were still there. (I know envy’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but sometimes it’s just hard to ignore...)
The rest of the afternoon vanished quickly. Stuart and I went in search of a Slurpee or Froster, only to find the nearest one to where our parents live in Oakville is at a Mac’s (aka Mac’s Milk) next to the old Loblaws store downtown. During our search, we found ourselves noting what stores in downtown Oakville used to be something else. (A sure sign that you’re getting old.) We were almost shocked to realize that downtown Oakville, at least along Lakeshore, isn’t much different than Banff (Bamf!).
Terminal 2 has taken a few cues from Terminal 3, and Air Canada has gone long ways to try and streamline passenger check-in. One such is the introduction of Express terminals. You feed in your credit card or Aerocard, punch in your flight number, select your seat (I missed that), and bam — out comes your boarding pass. Very convenient, and really nice if all you have is carry-on. (Even if you have actual baggage, there’s an Express baggage check-in after you’ve got your boarding pass.)
No aisle. I was wedged between two people. Not entirely comfortable, but at least it would get me home. It was a quiet flight — most of the people around me slept. Especially the guy on the window seat. I had a sneaky suspicion he was returning from a trip to Europe (he had brochures, maps, and bits of literature from European attractions), and was dead tired. He slept nearly the entire trip.
This was not a cheap excursion for me, and I had for a while debated on not going. However, one night as I lay in bed, counting the number of streetlights reflecting on my ceiling, I made a decision. Last year, I missed the weddings of some dear friends: Ed (one of my roommates from university) and his wife Jen, and Marek and Brenda. I missed them because I was told I didn’t have enough money to afford it. (I need not mention who told that to me.) I sincerely wished I had gone. Those were days I wished I hadn’t missed. Hopefully, I won’t miss any more.