Saturday, December 10, 2011

anger. pride. fear. relief. gratitude. guilt.

They say that when you're about to die, your life flashes before your eyes. They also say that when you're involved in very serious situation, you may find yourself thinking of something random instead of something important.

I don't know much about the first one, but during the car accident Friday night while I was hanging upside-down by my seatbelt and calling for my brother, I kept thinking to myself, "Wow, those people who made the movie Crash got that one scene pretty damn true to life!"

***
Let me start at the beginning. 

I had Friday off because I was working Saturday. Jon always has Fridays off because he works long shifts Monday through Thursday. He was doing his thing and I was doing my thing, and suddenly we were snippety at each other, over something so trivial I can't remember what it is. I was getting all worked up on the inside about how he has yet to help with the thank-you cards and if he had just admitted to me that he didn't really want to, I'd be annoyed but they'd have all been done months ago and I wouldn't still feel guilty and is he going to pull this with changing diapers and giving time outs and homework--omg am I going to be the bad cop for life!?! On top of that, I thought he was taking too long getting ready. He said maybe I should go without him and I stormed out the door without so much as a look backward.

I had never done that before. I tell the guy I love him at the end of every phone call even if it's a 2.5-second conversation to say that he's arrived to pick me up. I ALWAYS kiss him goodbye like I saw my parents do all those years. We've even stuck to the whole "don't go to bed angry" thing. But I had let the simmer turn into a boil and was so angry. It was inane. And I knew it even before the door was closed behind me, but was too proud to turn around.

***

I went over to my parents' house--I had wanted to set up the Christmas tree before my mom got home because she always complains that no one helps her anymore. I've put this thing together like six times; a 10-year-old could do it. She got home, shook her head and pointed out that the middle part was never going to fit in the stand no matter what I tried. I then assembled the entire thing in 45 seconds. I had been struggling with it by myself a whole hour--checking the phone every five minutes to see if Jon had messaged me.

I was upset about being angry and I just wanted to hear Jon's voice. My mom called me out on it as soon as she walked in the door, and later my dad said I didn't seem myself. He warned me that it was a full moon that night and to be careful (he says that a lot). I left to go pick up my brother from the airport. Apparently they assumed I went to get Jon first and wasn't going alone.

***

It was 20 degrees out. There had been a dusting of snow in the morning, more like a layer of fake cobweb that people put out during Halloween all over the grass and the trees. The streets seemed fine. I knew I was off because of the argument, plus dad's moon thing, so I was driving extra carefully at the speed limit. Plus this horrible thought kept creeping into my head, "Just watch, self, you acted like a fool and didn't say goodbye to him, what if you got into an accident? He'd have to live with that." I know that sounds like something people say after something happens, and I admit that I have these morbid thoughts ALL the time and nothing happens, but it really was going through my head the whole day. Stupid spotted tongue.

***

My brother drives a fancy car that beeps at him if he doesn't have his seatbelt on. Oh, how I loathe that sound, and I had to hear it every time he'd call me on speaker when he was driving in Alabama. HATE. I always lectured and yelled, but he would never put it on--something about how it chafes. Seriously, it's a really annoying sound, I don't know how he could stand it. I got out of my car when I got to the airport, hugged him hello and slipped my phone into my coat pocket as he was putting his bags in the trunk. On the drive home, we were discussing dinner, the new-but-really-from-Madelyn's-wrecked-car stereo Jon had put into my car last week and other random stuff. I remember noticing that my brother put his seatbelt on as we were pulling away from the terminal and being thankful I didn't have to nag him. 

Everything was normal. I was still driving at the speed limit. I was in the left lane, there was a semi tractor-trailer next to my right and the shoulder to my left. The truck seemed like it was coming closer, my car drifted toward the shoulder--was there ice there?--I pulled it back to center. I heard my brother yell my name as it swerved back and forth a couple of times before I wasn't able to regain control. We swung around and hit the solid concrete median head-on, and my little black Altima flipped over onto its roof and slid, parallel to the median. The scraping of top of the car was such a distinct and disgusting sound. It all happened in less than five seconds.

Everything was foggy. There was this rancid, chalky smoke in the air. I had glass in my mouth. The airbag had knocked my glasses into my eyeballs so hard the lenses were smeared from the inside and they were hanging down at a weird angle. I kept asking if my brother was ok over and over, until he yelled at me to snap out of it. He was surprisingly calm, asking if I was hurt handing me my purse. I couldn't get the seatbelt off, but he was able and fell into the crushed glass on the inside of the roof. Something like eight people stopped to help us, one of whom yanked the door open, and--I'll never forget this--said, "It's pretty smoky, we didn't want you to choke. Plus this car could catch on fire any second. You guys better get out NOW."

I couldn't get my seatbelt off. People kept yelling for me to turn off the engine, but I couldn't get the key to move. The steering wheel and dashboard seemed a million miles away, as if I were fully reclining in my seat with my hair sticking straight up. I had no concept of the space where my legs were. I pushed against the roof to hold myself up so someone could unbuckle me, I don't know who. I was staggering around and couldn't stop checking to see if my brother was ok. He crawled back into the car to root around for his phone while I was panicking that the car would catch on fire with him inside. A very nice man named Pete who was on his way home to Indiana from his job in Wisconsin let us sit in his car until the police came.
***

As I was sitting there, all I could think of was what kind of horrible person could let this happen with someone else in the car, especially someone I love more than my own life? My God, the things this boy has had to face, how hard he's had to fight for his life, and it could have all been gone in a second? My brother had a pretty bad laceration to the temple, his left eyelid was purple and swollen to ten times its size, there was a burst vessel in his eye that made him look like it was bleeding, his shoulder, neck and leg were hurting. My face was bruised from the airbag, I was sore here and there, and I had glass in my mouth. Neither of us wanted to go to the hospital, but I knew that I couldn't force him to go if I didn't too.

I called Jon. He's not stubborn in a fight like me, he answered. He didn't have a chance to say hello before I apologized. The poor guy didn't have a car, or I'm sure he'd be on the road before I got past the word accident. I asked him to call and tell my parents gently and ask them to get him and come to the hospital.

I don't dare imagine the agony my mom was in, trapped at home, knowing both her babies were headed to the hospital in an ambulance.

The firefighter who looked like a caucasian version of my dad when he still had a mustache was so kind. He got me some water to rinse and spit out the glass, he took me where my brother wouldn't see so I could cry a little, then he reminded me that we both walked away from what looked like terrible, horrible wreckage. 

I refused to go in a separate ambulance, so my brother was strapped to the stretcher and I was strapped to a board on the bench. My brother knows his very complicated medical history, but so do I--they were asking me all the same questions but I kept waving my guy off and interjecting in my brother's interrogation: "Don't use tape on him, only paper tape, he's allergic! And advil! He has a pacemaker! Be careful with that leg, he had surgery there!" I was incredibly annoying. My brother gave me a look and I focused on my own questions, which were done pretty fast. Then the tears started rolling. 

"If I see one more tear, I swear to God I'm going to punch you and give you a real reason to go to the Emergency Room," he said, and then asked if they could please get his suitcase and laptop out of the trunk--that's his work stuff.

Before we took off, the kind caucasian dad firefighter said Jon and my actual dad had arrived. But we'd have to see them at the hospital. I sniffled the whole way over there.

***

Again, as we were rolling into the emergency room of this foreign hospital, it seemed like a scene from a movie--for as much as they get wrong, they manage to get this stuff eerily correct. I didn't know where my brother was, and I was as antsy as you can be when you're immobilized on a hard plastic board with a C-collar around your neck. And then Jon came in the door. Later, my dad.

I was fine, essentially just knocked around and shaken up pretty badly. My brother has a few pretty big bumps--they did lab work and X-Rays because of his medical history, and we were there a long long time before they'd clear him to leave. It's always hard to explain what his deal is to new doctors, but I was so impressed by the how in command he is about everything. As much time as I spent worrying, he spent joking with the staff.

Essentially, we are both OK. It very well could have gone VERY differently.

***

Here is what I know:

  • I am alive, typing this instead of lying in a hospital bed or a surgical table or the slab of a morgue.
  • My brother is alive, and insisted on going to Wrigley Field today to upgrade his season-ticket seats, but his friend kept an eye on him. 
  • It was one car vs. a median wall; no other cars were hit or hit us.
  • The exact same accident happened down the way about 30 minutes before our crash.
  • A lot of people in my life care about me--50+ Facebook comments.
  • The car is completely totaled, but it protected me to the very bitter end.

My brother posted this on the FB:

"Wear your seat belts!! They save lives including mine. Last night."


I don't think I would have been able to go on living if the seatbelt hadn't saved my brother last night.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

the dress

I had wanted to wear my mom's wedding sari, but she was adamant that it was too old and homemade-looking (she had put it together herself with a border and some lace appliques). She wasn't budging.

The selection of white saris are either totally plain--in fact, white is generally worn to funerals--or SUPER ornately decorated. My aunt and cousin were going to try and find a sari for me in Mumbai, but they were feeling a lot of pressure to find one I'd love. At the same time, we made so many trips to Devon looking for one, too. I wanted something understated with a little embellishment and everything we were seeing was highly blinged out. I was ready to give up in frustration and started bugging my mother to just let me wear her wedding sari.

Of course, that's exactly when I saw something peeking out from under a huge pile of saris someone else had been looking at. The corner had the same color maroon-brown border of my mother's sari and the delicate gold-wire flower work was just perfect for me. I knew it was the one before I'd even tried it on.

The work on the bridesmaids' saris also has a golden floral design.
It was exactly what I'd wanted. My mom would have never chosen that pink color for herself, but she has this sweater in the same color that looks great on her; I told her that's what I'd like her to wear. We were preparing to search for it for weeks, but found her sari within 15 minutes of being in the first store. 

So many people who wanted to be at our wedding weren't able make it. My bracelets don't really match because I'm wearing one from each of my aunts (as well as my godmother and one cousin). Something Borrowed. I even got one from my dad's grandmother, but it's so fragile and tiny, I didn't want to try to get it over the bones in my hand. I was carrying it in a small crocheted bag that my nani made decades ago. Something Old.

My mother wore this ballerina brooch on her wedding day. Something Blue. My father's father had the necklace and earrings set made for me "to wear on my wedding day" a few years before he passed away.
My cousin and aunt bought this maangtika (it was supposed to be hanging lower down on my forehead but the weight of my pallu pulled it back quite a bit).

The back. You can't really see them, but I had peacock-blue shoes on.

Mfm made gorgeous bouquets for me and the bridesmaids (she got the hydrangeas fresh from her neighbor's yard, with permission of course). My Vinu Moushi (mom's younger sister) sent a few yards of handmade lace my nani had made for a slip long ago, and mfm used it to wrap the handle of my bouquet. My mom had carried the "Thinking Of You" handkerchief on her wedding day, too. I was so glad to have it with me; it was soaking wet by the end.

I didn't see it until I was getting dressed that day, but my mom had cut one of the lace appliques from her wedding dress and sewed it to the inside of my pallu--right at the spot at the top of my head. Even though the sari was Something New, I sort of got to wear a family heirloom after all.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

malas

Despite the unfortunate meaning en Espanol, malas are the lei-like garlands used in India for all kinds of important occasions to celebrate winners and overall happiness. My mom's people have a tradition of using them at weddings--family members from each side welcome their new family with a beautiful garland of flowers.

Jon and I decided we didn't want to do a unity candle or sand or spices or any of that stuff, but our mothers brought the malas up at the end of the ceremony for us to put on each other before the kiss, essentially welcoming each other to our respective families. Officially.

I had planned on making them myself (shocker) on the day before the wedding by going to the florist, grabbing whatever was available and stringing it up. So the day before at the mehndi, when my godmother's 89-year-old mother said she had something for us, I was beyond touched. She and a bunch of her grandchildren had made these malas for us by hand. It's something they do in their tradition: Take strips of cotton and carefully remove some of the woven threads, making a very very soft fringe. It must have taken a very long time. I was teary.

 These are so much better than what I would have slapped together. And they'll last a long time, too.

Jon loves orchids. We definitely would have used our own orchids (we have a couple very impressive plants) if we could, but of course this is the year they're both dormant.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

another one bites the dust

Another year of NaBloPoMo hits the archives. Big ups to Jon, Madelyn, Syar and velocibadgergirl, who made it through like champs.

I know that my wedding-themed-posting wasn't for everyone (and weddings can be a snoozefest right quickly, too). But it all seemed like a blur so it's nice to have it documented somewhere while the memories are somewhat fresh. Plus, I can't tell you the amount of arguments my blog has resolved (my brother was trying to convince us all at Thanksgiving that we sat out in the cold on Black Friday in 2005. Nope, as I said, it was 2007).

There is one person who repeatedly mentioned how much she has enjoyed the wedding coverage. So, for her, I will continue beyond the requisite 30 days until I can't come up with anything else (don't worry; that's going to happen pretty soon).

The rest of you are off the hook. That said, as always, your comments are coveted.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the mehndi II

My godmother found the fastest mehndi artist in the west to do my designs. She didn't take any breaks longer than 30 seconds, either, and we both were sitting there for a little more than four and a half hours. I had henna on the front and backs of my arms, from elbow to tips of the fingers, as well as around 75 percent of my legs and the tops of my feet. She didn't even skip the backs of my heels.

See all those tiny dots? Each one done by hand. She was really good. 

My mom has always said my most beautiful feature is my feet. I get them from my dad, who got them from his dad. I always meant to take a picture of all our feet together because they're all so creepily the same. My hands are my mom's and my nani's in the same way. I can't get that picture anymore, either.


Tradition calls for the name of the groom to be hidden somewhere in the mehndi of his bride's hand. Then the guy has to try to find his name. My mehndi artist was very clever and Jon wasn't able to find his name for more than seven minutes until I had to drop some pretty big hints. But then again, she had thrown in an extra H to make it "Johnathan" instead of Jonathan.

It's in the curve between the fingers and thumb of my right hand, and way easier to spot before she did the top of my hand.

Arms done. Shiny. They put this sugary stuff on to keep the dried mehndi from fallling off, so it would stay in contact with the skin and give a nice deep color. 

I liked the feet the best.

It was great to be able to get up and walk around after nearly five hours, trust me. But I still couldn't move too much. EB fed me a bunch of watermelon and another heaping helping of fried rice at the end of the night. People had been coming and going all day, and at the end of the night Jon left to have pre-Bachelor Party dinner with his family. My family trickled back home bit by bit until it was just my mom and I, EB and a couple of their other family members and my godmother's house, sitting around and resting after a wonderful day. There's that bit of time at the end of your party where you sit back and take in just how great it went. To me that's even better than the actual party, which I usually spend worrying about how everything is going. I was so overwhelmed by everything people were doing for me, I couldn't do anything but just absorb it. Sort of like the henna dye on my skin.

It's hard for me to believe I didn't take any pictures of the mehndi right after I washed it off, but there were still about 50 bajillion things left to do, so it's easy to think it slipped my mind. They say that the darker your mehndi comes out is an indication of how much your man loves you.


I already know how lucky I am to have Jon, but it's nice to get a little confirmation. This photo was taken the day AFTER the wedding--a full three days after the mehndi party.  And it stayed nice and dark until about a month after the wedding.

Jon had set up a tripod with his camera to take a photo every minute. My friend A.A. also took a bunch of supplemental photos with his other camera (a lot of which were in these last posts). Thanks, A.A.!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the mehndi

Two days before the wedding, after I was showered and fragrant from my Ros, we headed over to my godmother's house for the mehndi*. My mom had bought a very lovely outfit from Devon for me to wear to the event, but it was obvious this was the first mehndi in our family, because it was floorlength and would have been a huge hassle to keep up over my knees with both my hands and legs unable to move. Good thing my godmother's daughter-in-law had the perfect short and pretty kameez at the ready for me to wear with leggings. Problem solved.

My godmother and her family rounded up a ton of saris in varying shades of green and blue, big paper decorations, and they even put up a tent on their front patio by the water fountain. It was so beautiful, I was sad that the weather was chilly so we couldn't set up our stations outside. And she had a ton of food--including this fried rice my godfather makes that I can't seem to get enough of. I knew that I wouldn't be able to use my hands or even move that much, so I was inhaling as much of everything as I could before I had to take up the spot I'd be in for the next four hours.

I love plants almost as much as my godmother does. I don't know how she knew that I love gladiola (gladiolas? gladioli?). So pretty. I really wish I had taken more pictures of the decor. It must have taken a lot of work and the whole place looked wonderful.

For years when I'd go to their house, I saw loveseat-like bench that has an indoor arbor over it and thought, "Self, this would be an awesome seat for a bride and groom." Guess where Jon and I were sitting? My godmother's 89-year-old mother said a prayer for us and then we all got down to business. Personally, it means a lot to me to have her blessings, and of older people in general, mostly because aside for that one year I had with my nani when I was seven, mine have always been so very far away. And now they're all in Heaven, where I'm sure they're sending their blessings. But it's always nice to hug a grandma in real life.

My godmother hired two mehndi artists--one dedicated to do mine--to do the mehndi for most all the women. A lot of my family, friends and parents' friends came at different times throughout the day and evening. You want to let the dark green paste dry to black and let it flake off to get the best dye on your skin, and the palms have more keratin (thanks, s, for that tidbit) so the color comes out better there. But it's a huge inconvenience not to be able to use your hands for so many hours, so many of them only got a design on the back of one hand. You know, so they could drive home.

Here are some highlights of their mehndi:








Tomorrow: Jon made a time-lapse video of mine.



From wikipedia: "Mehndi is a ceremonial art form which originated in ancient India. Intricate patterns of mehndi are typically applied to brides before wedding ceremonies."

Monday, November 28, 2011

the ros II

After all the praying and the crying, we got down to the business of anointing. In the back yard.

Each person dipped their hand in the ros and put some on me with their blessings. It started out very subtly.

 
Then they busted out the raw eggs. To be fair they really weren't sure about this, but I remember how wonderful my hair was after my cousin's ros and I demanded the eggs in the hair. I had just forgotten how weird and slimy it felt. 

My cousin took the whole "preparing the bride for her husband" thing very seriously and wanted to make sure my skin was soft "all over," ha ha. If you can't tell, this took me by surprise. Mostly because the stuff had come right out of the fridge.

I think my brother-in-law (in India, your cousins are considered your sisters and brothers) had a lot of fun with this, too. He dumped what was left of the ros on my head.

Jon was busy taking photos, but he didn't totally get out of it. I must say they went really easy on the guy; this was the worst of it, by my dad.

After I showered, my hair and skin felt AMAZING throughout my wedding festivities and for about a week into my honeymoon. And it smelled good, too. My brother couldn't get off work and fly in until that evening--otherwise these photos would look a lot more like Nickelodeon.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

the ros I

Not a lot of Americans know that--beyond that stupid "red dot or feather" differentiation Jay-Z made famous in "Girls, Girls, Girls"--there are a LOT of different types of Indians. As you cross the border into different states, you may as well be in another country because each has its own language, food, clothing and customs. And that's not even taking into consideration Indians who have settled in different parts of the world. You know, like the Midwestern part of the United States. 

My mom and dad are from different places in the Motherland, so each brings their own wedding customs to the table. Where my mother is from, they prepare a bride and groom for their wedding with a haldi ceremony by having family members give their blessings then put turmeric paste on their skin (supposed to condition it and make you "fairer"). Where my dad is from, they do a Ros, which is the word for the coconut milk/paste they use to do essentially do the same, but with a lot of signs of the cross. Also, coconut makes your skin soft and smooth and your hair lustrous. And it smells great, too.

From wikipedia: "The Ros anointing ceremony, conducted one or two days before a wedding, celebrates the last day of virginity of the bride and bridegroom and involves the parents' blessing of the bride and groom, who are anointed with ros, a mixture of coconut milk and coconut oil, while a cross is inscribed on the bride's forehead."

I was so thankful to have my dad's sister and her family (husband, daughter, daughter's husband and their two kids) here for the wedding. We've never had a wedding over here, let alone a Ros. Without them, we would have been totally lost. They flew in from Mumbai and Dubai, respectively, and did a lot of shopping* for the wedding. Originally, they were going to buy my wedding sari, but while I'm sure I would have loved whatever they had chosen, I found one I liked here so I let them off the hook. My cousin found complementary jewelry for the set I was to wear, she had dresses made for the three flower girls (including her own 4-year-old), and also brought a bunch of other stuff for everyone. 


My aunt brought the sado I would be wearing to the Ros, a hot-pink sari that my cousin wore to hers in 2003 (I was there, too), and my paternal grandmother wore to hers, way back in 1942. It was pretty fragile. I was honored to wear it.


It's worn a different style than what I'm used to, so I needed a lot of help. Later, they added a garland of jasmine and some other flowers to my hair. You can't see it well, but I'm also wearing a long gold necklace that my grandmother had given to my mother. It's the one thing of hers that I have. 


If you've ever seen a Bollywood movie, there's pretty much always a wedding (seems to be the main plot point--and usually the climax--because after the wedding, there really is nothing else to life, if you believe the film industry). And in almost every wedding, there is a scene where the girl's family is beside themselves with sobby sadness because traditionally the girl goes to live with her in-laws so the family is literally giving her away. This is called the bidaai, and sometimes includes sad singing. We didn't have that at the wedding, because we were very busy breaking it down. Besides, Jon and I live about six minutes away from my parents and I'm still at their house all the time. They're going to have to do much more than bless our marriage to get rid of me that easily.


But that didn't mean there was no crying. 


My parents had to give us their official blessings. I have only seen my dad in tears twice before this. It's so unnerving, I freeze, not knowing what to do. On the day of my Ros, I was pretty much paralyzed. Both of them were a soggy mess, shakily making the sign of cross in front of me and praying for long lives of happiness for both me and Jon. And when I saw them crying, I lost it too. It was a sobfest. Poor Jon, he didn't know what to do either, so he took pictures. Thank goodness for my relatives, who made a few jokes and offered them a little solidarity; they went through this too with their daughter. If they hadn't been there, I don't know what we would have done. 


I'm glad we had this opportunity to get the major sobbing out of the way before the wedding. I gave both my parents strict instructions not to cry on my wedding day. And they did amazingly well. Most of the tears that day were streaming down my face.

*One of the times my aunt and cousin were shopping for my wedding stuff in Dadar, just ONE day before the 2011 Mumbai bomb blasts. SCARY. Thank God they weren't there one day later.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

our song

Thank God for email. I have such a faulty memory, which is probably why I like to document everything. Apparently, Jon and I decided "our song" was Paul Simon's "Something So Right," over one of our daily marathon emails--we would essentially be having a triple-thread instant-message-like correspondence via gmail. Those missives are hard to make sense of later, by anyone else. Within that same message (which was on April 6, 2006), we were also discussing the latest episodes of The Amazing Race and LOST, and how unhappy we were with Libby, Lori and Dave. And some fratboys, apparently. The only downside to living together is that we still have these awesome conversations, but no way of preserving them or looking back to resolve disagreements later.

So what we would dance to during our first dance as husband and wife was a no-brainer:


The lyrics are so true of both of us. Which makes it even more amazing that we were able to find love from another person so different and so far away.

There was so much to pack into the reception. I wanted as much dancing as humanly possible, but I knew that neither Jon nor his mom cared for dancing. I would have loved to have dance to "Teri Pyari Pyari Surat" and then BROKEN IT DOWN halfway through, Mando-style with my dad, to "Galyan Sankli Sonya Chi" with the moves of his people. But that would take more time, and Jon's mom hadn't yet chosen what she wanted. In the end, we decided to combine the parent/child dance to one song that nearly everybody likes--we all danced out there at the same time. It's by a band that Jon's mom, my dad, and the two of us all love:



Of course it's the Beatles. I wish there were more bands out there that appease multiple generations at once. Our kids will definitely be listening to them, too.

For kicks, there's "Teri Pyari Pyari Surat." My dad loves that song, it's my nani's all-time favorite song, from her favorite movie, Sasural, and it plays every time my father calls my cell phone. I love it because it makes me think of him.


It loosely translates to "let your lovely lovely face never attract someone's evil eye," which sounds sort of silly, but some people believe that jealousy toward a successful/beautiful person/baby will end up causing some kind of harm to that person. The lyrics are both a compliment and a protective statement. Hindi just doesn't translate sometimes.

And bonus, here's a Bollywood-ized version of the Konkani classic "Galyan Saankli."


This is totally a Bolly-sampling of the original folk song trying to mimic the oldschool village-style dancing and outfits. The main phrase, "Galyan sankli sonya chi, ee poori kona chi" roughly--and I could be wrong, my dad is sleeping--means, "that girl with the gold chain around her neck, whose daughter/girl is she?" It's a CLASSIC.

It was the right decision: Jon and Mrs. M didn't have too much on the dancefloor, while my dad and I still danced our socks off the entire night anyway. Everybody wins!

Friday, November 25, 2011

blessings

Above all else, Jon and I wanted this wedding to be a reflection of us. We were holding it in my hometown, and nearly all of his guests would have to travel to attend. Plus I was trying my best to get in as much Indian stuff as possible. So we were thrilled when the pastor at the church Jon grew up attending (where his parents still are very active) agreed to fly all the way out here from California to officiate.

Pastor Dave has known Jon well for a long time--his son is one of Jon's childhood best friends and former roommate. He and his wife were the ones who started asking Jon when his "bride" was coming back to town after that first Christmas party back in 2005. While my family knows several great pastors, the close ties Pastor Dave has to Jon made him a natural choice.

With the craziness of planning, we really weren't able to spend that much time discussing our ceremony with the pastor. He sent us a packet with sample services and we hemmed and hawed about it right up until the week of the wedding, which is when we chose our readings as well:

First reading (read by my dad's sister's daughter, who came out from Dubai)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three brands is not quickly broken.
--Ecclesiastes 4:9-12*
Second reading (read by one of Jon's very good friends from college, whose husband--also a very good friend--was in our bridal party).
Calvin: What's it like to fall in love?
Hobbes: Well... say the object of your affection walks by...
Calvin: Yeah?
Hobbes: First, your heart falls into your stomach and splashes your innards. All the moisture makes you sweat profusely. This condensation shorts the circuits to your brain and you get all woozy. When your brain burns out altogether, your mouth disengages and you babble like a cretin until she leaves.
Calvin: THAT'S LOVE?!?
Hobbes: Medically speaking.
Calvin: Heck, that happened to me once, but I figured it was cooties!
--Bill Waterson
Pastor Dave is a consummate professional. He didn't know which readings we'd chosen until we rehearsed the night before the wedding. Instead of judging us for my commitment to practicality or Jon's unbridled love for Calvin and Hobbes, he smiled and even worked it into his sermon at the actual ceremony. He made us all feel at ease with the big-ness of the day. But he won my heart forever when he calmed my mom's nerves before the wedding, saying prayer with her before it began. He's a great guy, and very good at what he does.

Later, we realized that Pastor Dave came out for our wedding even though it was the weekend of his only grandchild's first birthday. And even though they were flying out the next morning at 6 a.m., I think I even saw him out on the dancefloor.


*The Bible from which my cousin read was one that Jon found on his doorstep many years ago--it's monogrammed with his name. He's pretty sure who sent it, and he hopes that person realized it was a part of our wedding.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

no words for this thank you

You know how there are certain people in your life whom you don't see very often, but when you run into them at the grocery store or see them at a party, you can feel there's a deep and important connection? I have that with my godmother. Whenever I see her and the way she smiles at me when she sees me, it just seems very comforting, like that feeling you get when you show up at your childhood home after it's been awhile.

***
In August 1977 my father got on a plane to the United States from Kuwait, where he had been working. My mom had already been here a few months, and the two were getting married shortly after he arrived. Not much of that--the visas, the travel, the wedding--would have even been possible without my godmother, who (with her family) was their ally and their support through some of the toughest leaps of faith two twentysomethings can make: Leaving everything they knew and loved to make a life for themselves on the other side of the world.

***

Several years before that, my mom had come to the Dairy Capital of India to study nursing. She'd had to learn Gujarati and did so fairly easily, the superstar she is. Her feisty roommate kept things interesting, but there wasn't much to do outside of training. A bookstore nearby would rent books for a week, a per-book-fee-library of sorts. After awhile, my mom realized a girl who lived down the hall from her in the dorm was taking out the same books. They started splitting the cost and sharing the rentals. Soon they began hanging out, and it didn't take long for before they were great friends. A few years later, my future godmother went to America. And she invited my mom to come and join her.

***

On my mother's wedding day, not a single member of her rather large family was present. And, except for his bride and my godmother, my dad had only met everyone two days before. It was a foreign place where everyone spoke their second language, so far from the comforts of home. I can't imagine how scary that must have been. My mom said she cried the entire day. 

My godmother and her family arranged everything. It was a simple ceremony at the Bretheren Church in town (the first Indian wedding there, I believe). People brought food. My mom made her own wedding sari from white fabric, a bronze-brown/red/green border she attached and lacy appliques she sewed on by hand. And my godmother and her sisters were at her side the whole day. They helped her get ready, did her makeup and hair and pleated and pinned her sari, surrounding her like a warm, comforting circle, stepping into the spots her sisters would have had on such an important day. I have no doubt they wiped away her tears. 

I know this because they were there on my wedding day, too. They showed up early, armed with no-nonsense expertise and vivid memories. None of my mom's sisters were able to make it for my wedding, either (not for lack of trying, stupid Visas). Even though cc and pp arranged for coffee, breakfast snacks and bottled water for everyone, Mom mentioned to my godmother's sister, who was in the car and almost there, that she had a headache from not sleeping the night before and that auntie turned around, made breakfast and a thermos full of tea. She showed up with all that stuff, wearing the same sari she'd worn to my parents' wedding 34 years ago and a solid gold necklace with a flat, wide charm that spelled her name--decades before it became a trend in the '90s. My dad had them made in Kuwait all those years ago, and brought one for each of them two days before his wedding.

When the bridal party and I were beautified and ready to leave for pictures, I went back up to the suite to grab my lipstick. I opened the door and saw them all, half laughing and half crying, standing around my mom. Same warm circle, fussing with pleats and pins, cracking jokes. I could just see how it was 34 years ago.

***

After I was born, my godmother was always there to help. From what I've heard, she came over every day to help with the laundry, cooking and taking care of us while my dad was at work because my mom had surgery to remove the grapefruit-sized cyst they had thought was my twin (before ultrasound was so common). She even washed my cloth diapers (I was allergic to disposable). Later, apparently I would only eat if my godmother was feeding me. 

She is vivid in my memories. I can still feel the warmth of her hug, and remember sitting in her lap pulling on her long long fingernails. I remember her old house, on the street that has the same name as her oldest son; hunting around in the backyard for fallen walnuts and peeking through the posts of the banister; only liking drumsticks the way she made them.

***
I have only one regret about my wedding day. After an awesome performance by my godmother's sons, nieces and nephews as well as the speeches, I grabbed the microphone to say a few words. I started by thanking everyone for coming, some from as far as Hawaii and Dubai, not to mention my dad's sister and her husband from Mumbai. And then I turned to look at my parents. I attempted to thank them for all the sacrifices they made so my brother and I could have the amazing lives we have today, but I could hardly get any words out. And as soon as the tears came, my brain went blank. My voice started crackling and sort of faded out. Just like my mother, I cried throughout my wedding day, but my tears were from being overwhelmed by feelings. 

For months I had envisioned what I'd say at that moment; I'd allotted time to tell my godmother how much I appreciated everything she's done for me and my family, in front of everyone so they would all know just how amazing she is. I mean, there's a chance I wouldn't even exist without her--my parents could have lived out their lives on different continents. On top of that, her extended family was so generous with their time, their talents, their love. They gave me a gift that day that I have always dreamed of: A boisterous, big-family celebration. We're not even technically family, but no one could tell. I cannot express how much that means to me. When I had the opportunity, microphone in hand, I blew it. 

Later, in the disco-light darkness and bumping music, I found where my godparents were sitting and said the thank-you that everyone really should have heard in my speech. She said she didn't need for me to have said it in front of everybody. She knows how I felt, because I'm her daughter, too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the singing

My mom grew up as one of seven kids. As it goes with every family, each person is known for their special qualities. There's the artist, the actress, the one who loved to play with dolls, the mischievous one, the stick in the mud, the momma's girl, the baby, etc. But they each have special talents, too. And while they're all excellent singers, my mom's is known for her gorgeous voice. 

In India, most of the movies are musicals. They put out three a day, and when one is released the soundtrack is EVERYWHERE. I can pinpoint my trips to the Motherland more easily by what movies were out at that time (Mohobbatein was popular during that winter after college). Back in the day, my mom's family didn't have a tv. They didn't even have a radio until later. But they had my mom. Nani loved the movies, so they'd always see the new release right away, and then my mom would memorize the best songs and perform for the family. She started winning singing competitions. The principal would even pull her out of class just to hear a little something in the office. 

When she was a teenager, my oldest aunt snuck away to Bollywood and was actually featured in a couple of movies before my nani made her come back home. Someone heard my mom singing and was begging nani to let her train to be a playback singer (almost none of the Hindi film actors do their own singing, just lip synching to a few very talented playback singers' soundtracks. It's weird, but it works). She said no, my mom was still a kid and had to finish school. 

Even in nursing school, my mom would distract people from studying just by puttering around her room and singing with the window open. Everyone knew her for her voice, and there may have been talk of a proposal from one of her many fans on campus.
  
***
When she moved across the world to the United States, there weren't many opportunities to enjoy Indian things, but my mom was always singing. Her beautiful voice has been in my ears since before my ears were even formed. She sang when she cooked, she sang when she cleaned. And I can't even describe how unbelievably warm, safe and blissful it feels to lay my head on her lap and fall asleep to one of her lullabies. Maybe that's why I never want to go to sleep.

She sang at Indian church, often up at the front but almost always in a group. It was always easy to pick out her voice; she could hit those impossibly high Hindi notes so sweetly, like a violin. I've never admitted this to anyone, but not once have I sang along to the benediction at the end of the service in all my life--I love to bask in the the way she does it. And I may not be the only one--sometimes it felt like she was the only one singing. So many invitations to perform, but she never took it to the next level.

Unfortunately, my mom doesn't sing so much anymore. She's fallen out of practice the last several years. Of course she's still good, but obviously not the same as when we were both much younger. For decades now, I've been begging her to record her voice somewhere so I can hold onto it forever. I'm obsessed with these kind of things, like photographs. But she never has. And that breaks my heart.

That didn't stop me, however, from making one more request. That she sing at my wedding. She didn't say yes right away, but she gave in.

 

Walking down the aisle with me and my dad, she was stoic, her jaw set so she wouldn't cry. She seems almost angry in those photos. And she wouldn't look at me the entire time she was singing. It was a church song that I had never heard, but one she grew up singing back home, "Aashishon ki baarish (showers of blessings)." She did, however, turn toward my brother right before she started. He smirked and got her to smile.

She began softly, her voice wavering, and it was a little shaky the entire time. But she made it through the whole song without a single tear. I wish I could have said the same for myself.

I was so proud of her. I am so proud of her.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

dresses

Early on, we decided that a trip to India to shop for the wedding was just not going to happen. We figured cost of trip/time off work would easily trump the markup--ridiculous as it is--on what we'd buy here. Plus it's been established that when I have more than several things to choose from, I become paralyzed (I stand by my statement that I would gladly plan anyone ELSE's wedding so I could do all the fun creative stuff but not have to make any decisions--or pay for it).

So we made several trips to Devon Avenue, or "Little India" or the "Desi Corridor."

All I knew was that I wanted everyone to wear Indian clothes. Hey, my family is Christian, so I wasn't going to be tied to Jon and get to walk around a fire or other Hindu* stuff everyone assumes you'd have if you're marrying an Indian. So I had to get the Indian in wherever I could get away with it. Which was apparently in the clothing, but only for the girls. Ah, compromise.

My mom and I had been to Devon several times looking for my own outfit, and we quickly realized that getting six of the same sari--the most universally flattering of all outfits, in my opinion--was going to be really difficult. I had been combing the online shops, and every real-life shop kept saying they'd order for us, but I didn't feel comfortable ordering something I hadn't gotten to see in person. You just never know what you're going to get when you find something on the Internet, right?

We decided to get *complementary* saris in the same color family. I'd seen it done and it was awesome. But finding six individual pieces that went together without looking disjointed was a near-impossible task. We started with one that had thick gold stripes of flowers, but the next one wasn't nearly as blingy. So then who would get which one? I could smell the disaster coming a mile away.

One place we kept going (and making the shop guys dig out everything in any sort of blue-green color time and time again, two of which we ended up buying for the backdrop), finally had enough with us. They knew my mom and I as soon as we walked in after a few months. On our third trip, when I was in the dressing room trying stuff on, cc and pp started talking to the girl our age behind the counter. She pulled out some bright pink saris with peach borders that had been special-ordered and just arrived from India. We were sold in about five minutes.

Granted, it was pretty hastily wrapped (there was hardly anything hanging off the back), but you get the idea. The detailing goes really well with my wedding dress, to boot.

A sari has three parts: the blouse, the petticoat (skirt you wear underneath and tuck it into) and the actual sari, which can be six or nine yards. People wear them all sorts of ways, too. The blouse and petticoat are handy in case of a wardrobe malfunction, which is always a possibility (and quite possibly may have occurred,) when there is alcohol at an event. We were going for the pinned-over-the-left shoulder look with the end hanging down the back.

We decided that because there were going to be girls and boys on both my side and Jon's, it might be nice to differentiate by color. So I went with a royal blue that I thought would go well with the lighter hair and bring out the blue eyes in Jon's sisters, and a "peacock" not-green/not-teal that went really well with the girls on my team. Because I was feeling so productive, and we were getting a deal, I also picked up all the petticoats and the jewelry for the girls, which included necklace, earrings, bracelets and a maangtika (a jewel that hangs from your hair onto your forehead). I made some really sophisticated drawings to share with the girls who couldn't make it out to Devon.

I know, I have mad drawing skills.

Each sari came with a little extra on the end, from which the tailor** makes the perfectly matching blouse. All of the girls got to choose their own blouse styles, of which there are OH SO MANY. This drawing doesn't even come close to the books the tailor had to choose from.



I also sent them a video on how to wear a sari so they knew what they were up against. Then I followed that up with a promise that a whole team of Aunties would be present to help them.

I know you just scrolled through to look at the pictures [insert TLDR here], which is fine. Here's what you really wanted to see anyway. Photos are cropped to protect the innocent, but it really is a shame, because we had the most beautiful bridesmaids I've ever seen. Keep in mind that I'm only going off the few photos so generously shared with us, so I don't have all the angles.

 Team Cadiz, minus the captain.

 Team Jon, including the captain. 

 Team Jon from the back.  

Trust me, these people looked AMAZING. I know I'm biased, but everyone keeps telling me. And five out of five doctors agreed; that's better odds than toothpaste.

*Hindu is the religion, and Hindi is the language. You can speak the latter without being the former. Or vice versa.
** By the way, our tailor, Dilip Uncle (not my real uncle), was great--for no extra, he found this great georgette fabric for the long-sleeved blouse that not only matched perfectly, it was light enough that she wasn't going to be hot. At least I hope she wasn't hot. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

chandelier

To say I like Internet browsing is a serious understatement. I'm the type of person who will find a blog I like, and then go back to the BEGINNING and read every single post. Granted, because I have no time, this happens rarely, but I wish I could do it more often. So it's not an exaggeration that I spent a LONG time looking around the Interwebs for wedding inspiration.

Months before the wedding, I stumbled upon a photo of a beautiful flower chandelier. Granted, it was all fresh flowers and crystals, but I thought I could put my own spin on it, and not have to break the bank--or hire a professional florist. Of course I was going to make it out of paper.

Remember those paper and pipe-cleaner flowers we used to make in girl scouts back in the day? You know, the ones where you take tissue paper, fold it up accordion style and then pull apart the layers?

Yep, just your everyday gift-bag stuffing, all dressed up.

Jon and I were conceptualizing this chandelier for quite some time. He made a wonderful schematic, got the supplies (chicken wire, pvc pipe) from the hardware store and put it all together. He even made a wooden stand of sorts so make it easy to take the pipes apart and get them in/out of a car--there's one thing you learn after living in the Midwest for awhile: It can rain at any time, and at any severity.

Unfortunately, while he and my dad were assembling the pieces out in the backyard, a pvc/chickenwire piece got entangled in the drill, spun around sharp-edge out and nearly took off one of Jon's fingers--the fourth finger on his left hand. It was a deep and gory cut, but I thank God it wasn't worse. It healed before the wedding, and now his wedding ring covers the scar.

Looks innocent, but chickenwire can be deceptively deadly.

As you may remember, in August we were in the throes of paper-rose sweatshoppery. I was beginning to realize that even if I pulled 15 allnighters in a row (like that's even physically possible), I couldn't get everything done without some serious assistance. Lucky for me, I have fabulous friends who kept offering to help. I took them up on it, and threw myself a Sweatshop Birthday party.

Cc, pp, angel07, ri, mfm and a few others who I don't have cool blog-code names for (feel free to request one in the comments) Madelyn, my parents and my godmother came to my parents' house on my birthday and made 200-some paper flowers of all sizes in varying shades of blue and green, with a few hints of orange here and there. And if their manual labor wasn't enough, they brought me presents! Pp even brought her laptop and was sharing potential songs for the wedding playlist. She had to come later, but eb attached nearly all of them to the wire frame. We never would have been able to pull off such a feat in a week, let alone a day!

The venue for the wedding said we could only use magnets to secure our chandelier. Good thing my man is very handy and creative. The chandelier only weighed about 25 pounds and he ordered high-powered magnets--four did just the trick. 

 We positioned it around a *real* chandelier right above the center of the dancefloor.

I was very happy with the way it turned out. Sadly, the day after the wedding (as well as the day before) it was pouring outside, so we didn't even bother bringing it home.


This would be a much better picture if I didn't have to crop out so many beautiful faces (you know, to protect the innocent). We were going for a The Cosby Show season 5 "island" opening vibe.


Samosas, presents and ice cream cake (my mom always gets me an ice cream cake)? Check.
Being surrounded by awesome friends and family? Check.
Making something out of a random concept that Jon and I dreamed up based on something we saw on the Internet? Check.
Getting a big project done in one Sunday afternoon? Check.

The greatest birthday gift was being able to cross that chandelier off the list. It was so much better than I had hoped.

Best birthday ever.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

the club can't even handle me right now

The best thing I have in my life is the love from family and friends. Because I really do think I have the best anyone could ask for. I've always felt lucky to have them, but throughout the chaos of this wedding, I was overwhelmed by how generous and thoughtful these people are. There's a very good chance I don't deserve them. But there's no way in hell I'm ever going to give them back.

Just one of a hundred examples? The Bachelorette Party

My team, captained by my brother as the maid of honor (whose ideal idea of Vegas is surely spending the weekend with his sister and a bunch of her girlfriends), put together an amazing weekend in Las Vegas. While I cannot divulge details of what happened (keep your minds clean, people), I will give you some of the highlights:
  • adjoining suites at The Venetian
  • fabulous pools
  • phenomenal food at Mesa Grill
  • chilling at Tao pool (apparently the same spot they took Kim Kardashian for her bachelorette the weekend before)
The deejay at TAO pool started playing "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO and when it got to the chorus, they launched all these beachballs (probably about 50) off the roof of the cabanas onto all of us in the pool. It was a very nice touch.
  • walking around the strip
  • the spa at Encore--omg 
  • Cirque du Soleil's Ka
  • a very interesting scavenger hunt at the clubs (let's just say I had my picture taken with a guy wearing a pinkie ring and managed to find an off-duty police officer) of which I got 95% of the items checked off the list
  • Tabu*
  • making international friends from places as exotic as Canada
  • grilled cheese at 6 a.m.--next to a table of passed-out asian boys who wouldn't even sit up for their eggs
  • Bloody Marys at Mon Ami Gabi (at Paris), with the second-best server I've ever met
  • Doritos mac n cheese and Philly cheesesteak dumplings with a view of Treasure Island fireworks
  • JABBAWOCKEEZ (awesome surprise, and even better than I thought they'd be)
  • scandalous peoplewatching at brand-new Brand (let's just say that VIP is a section I'll be passing on in the future, thankyouverymuch)
  • more hanging at the pool
  • Deep-fried oreos on the biggest ice-cream sundae I've ever seen
  • Dim Sum, with congee (everyone except my bro was a good sport about trying new stuff


AMAZING. I cannot convey just how spoiled and loved I still feel just thinking about it.

    People flew in from all over just to celebrate with me, and some who weren't able to make it set up another trip a few weeks later, to New York. It was considerably different, what with Hurricane Irene and all, but also a wonderful time. And while I was freaking out about missing a weekend of wedding prep, I think the mandatory break saved me from a breakdown of other sorts.

    Spoiled. And very very grateful.





    *In Las Vegas we discovered a delicious drink that didn't *taste* that strong, called L.A. Water. It may or may not have played a part in the festivities. Let's get a look at the ingredients, shall we? 
    1 1/2 oz Absolut® vodka
    1 1/2 oz gin
    1 1/2 oz white tequila
    1 1/2 oz white rum
    1 1/2 oz triple sec
    1 splash sweet and sour mix
    1 1/2 oz Midori® melon liqueur
    1 1/2 oz Chambord® raspberry liqueur
    It was a great time.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    elephants

    Jon's older sister, M, in all her crafty genius, made the decorations for our gift table. All I had said back last year sometime was that I'd love to have some elephants somewhere around the place. She said she'd take care of the gift box.

    They're a lot bigger than they look here.

    Originally, I believe, they were supposed to be glued to the box, but I think they are way better as a background--that way you can see them both at the same time. The details are really where the awesome is. And everyone knows how much I love details.

     
    Sheer dupatta-like fabric, detailing. little stars.

    The gold ribbon helped distinguish them--I love the way it twists and folds over itself.

      Those little elephant-toe mirrors are so Indian.

    On A's recommendation, M glued this golden rocky stuff all around the edges. The elephants are now standing sentinel in our room, but I can't manage to keep the stuff from falling off. Unfortunately in the transport back home they got a little bumped around, but they're still beautiful, and obviously made with a lot of love. Thanks, A and M.





    Friday, November 18, 2011

    If there's any doubt, give instructuons

    For the end of the ceremony, we didn't want to use rice or bubbles--Jon's cousin did sparklers but we were getting married in the afternoon and they're somehow suddenly illegal in Illinois.

    EB had an idea of using dried jasmine instead. I would already be wearing jasmine in my hair (a very Indian thing), so we thought it'd be a nice touch of continuity. So I bought a couple big bags of the dried stuff, some tulle in different shades of blue and asked my dad to make little bundles tied with ribbon for guests to throw as we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. He got tired of it pretty quickly so my mom helped him get the job done.

    On the day of the wedding, I assumed people would be told what to do if they didn't know already, but we were so busy, everyone sort of forgot. People held them in their laps, reverently. Not a single dried jasmine bud flew in the air that day.

    After we got back from the honeymoon, one of my friends from work asked me on Facebook what those little bundles were about--if they had some sort of cultural or religious significance. I told her nope, people were just supposed to throw the stuff at us but it was an epic fail in our part for not having a sign or some kind of instructions.



    They don't smell very strong, but if you sniff up close, there's a very nice fragrance.

    I'm keeping one of these pinned up to my bulletin board at work as a reminder of how people are not mind readers and I have to make sure and communicate what I want or risk disappointment. Another reminder is the basket of 200 tulle bags of jasmine flowers sitting in the basement.

    But not all of them went to waste. Pp's boyfriend has been keeping them in his shoes.

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