Sunday, September 02, 2012
Summer Travels: My Cousin's Wedding
My family has never been one of those big-wedding clans. When I would see movies and television shows depicting Father of the Bride type extravaganzas, complete with wedding planners, a full church, elaborate receptions and dance bands, I would always think "Do people actually do that?" Of course, I know people do-just not my bunch. Perhaps my parents set the tone when they eloped 76 years ago. My grandmother followed my mother across the yard to where my dad was waiting in his roadster--wagging her finger at her daughter and telling her not to ever come back if she left with that man. My wife and I wanted to elope as well, but her aunt insisted on a church wedding, primarily because she wanted to host the reception and show-off her new house in the process. And so we did--my wife's niece was her one attendant, her cousin my best man, her father the minister, and cake and punch at her aunt's afterwards. Of course, these days I have a different outlook on it all, but that is the subject for another post.
This summer, my extended family did in fact have one of those Father of the Bride weddings. My cousin is a school teacher of almost forty years, but her husband is a doctor of almost 25 years, which makes this sort of thing considerably easier to pull off. The bride-their daughter-is incredibly beautiful, with a personality to match. Both she and her brother and their cousins are just fine hanging out with their parents' old-fogey cousins. They were raised right. The groom looks like a good fit, as well. I think they will be just fine.
This was an "away" wedding, the venue being the Chapel of the Incarnate Word at the college of the same name in San Antonio--"chapel" being something of a misnomer as it is an immense, ornate sanctuary built in 1907 when Catholic architecture still meant something. The Chapel of the Incarnate Word is one of those unusual churches with the pews facing each side of the central aisle. Most of my cousins are Catholic and they had never seen this done either. The newlyweds will live in San Antonio where he will attend medical school.
My cousin from Arkansas drove down, and rode the rest of the way with my wife and I. My son took his own car. We stayed in the grand old St. Anthony Hotel downtown, built in 1909. You almost cannot have a bad time in San Antonio, and we certainly didn't. The wedding reception following was in the old Ursaline Academy, a historic 1850s convent right on the River Walk, now rented out for events like this. The bridal party went back to their hotel, boarded a barge and floated down the river to the Academy, where we were all waiting, hors d'ouerves and drinks in hand. Later at the meal, I felt a little odd having food and drink in what had clearly once been the convent's chapel. During the meal, one cousin had my wife's ear the entire meal--no mean feat that, as my beloved is herself a conversationalist of the first order--while I chatted with my 88-year old aunt by marriage-the grandmother of the bride-who thought it all a little too much. The mother of the bride was much occupied with the wedding planner, as there were, apparently, the requisite wedding crashers. At some point during the night, we five first cousins stood together for a photograph outside the convent.
I've always been closer to my paternal cousins than my own siblings--both much older than myself. My brother is deceased, but I have a sister who lives about six miles away. I called her in early February, to tell of a family member's death, and before that I had not talked with her for about two years prior. If I never call her again, I will never talk to her again. This has been the pattern for almost 30 years and I am long used to it. She has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but apart from my deceased brother's son, I am, in effect, an only child without nieces and nephews. And so, my cousins filled this void. There were 15 of us, all told. (I have the same number of maternal cousins, as well, most of whom live nearby. Unless I was handing out cash, however, I could not gather a quorum of them if my life depended upon it.) One uncle's children by his brief first marriage always lived in California, and consequently were never in the mix. One of their half-brothers met one of them, once. My brother and sister never cared to keep up the connections with the cousins. And so, that left eleven of us. The picture below is of the eleven of us around our granddad in 1962: Butchie, Dickie and Ronnie; Debbie, Billy and Ellen; Susan, Daniel, Janet and Robert; and myself. I always thought they were the neatest cousins anyone could have, and I still do. We're a bit scattered now--North Carolina to Missouri to Arkansas to several locations in Texas. But somehow, we manage to keep up with one another--sporadically to be sure, but still ongoing. Cousins are the best.