Saturday, 21 December 2013

Impending Comedy

My fingers are doggy and dented, my palms are calloused from wood-chopping and digging. The day after Christmas, about halfway around the world, I will meet with a manicurist. She will do her best to smooth my rough spots and make fine my fingers. I will visit an American dentist, who will make my choppers gleam.
I will drive the long highway from Pittsburgh to Toledo, Ohio, with my sister and daughter and mother and nephew. In my luggage, should USAirways deign to deliver it, will be my loveliest dress, my new stockings, shoes, elaborate underwear, and black pillbox hat, all of it shopped and matched and fussed-over, all aimed at December 28.
It´s not every day I get to star in a Woody Allen movie.
On December 28, my son Philip is marrying his best girl. But this is no ordinary wedding.
The bride´s name is Raheela. She is a second-generation Pakistani-American, part of a huge family of high-achieving and good-looking immigrants.
The ceremony will be at her home in suburban Toledo. It is a small rite, presided-over by the same imam who guided Philip in his conversion to Islam several years ago. It´s the “nikkah,” the actual legal vows part of the traditional Pakistani wedding.
Afterward, we all will repair to an uncle´s house nearby for the dholki. Far as I can tell, a dholki is a reception with music and food. (We are bringing along a mix of traditional American cookies, as is done at weddings on our side of the family.) We will dance. I am not sure what kind of music is played at a dholki, but I have told my son enough times “I will dance at your wedding,” so I´d better deliver.
Philip is a rare bird, a blue-eyed, blonde-haired American-born Muslim. He converted because he wanted to, and he´s stuck with it for several years. He labored on a loading dock through a hot summer and kept the Ramadan fast. He withstood the suspicions and prejudices of native-born Muslims at mosques in Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, as well as the bemusement of his (somewhat)  Christian friends and relations. This is a faith that has been tried. It´s not just for the girl.
It was difficult for me at first, but I have come around. I am happy that Philip has a faith that works, even if it is not the same one I raised him on. He worships the same God I do, after all. And ultimately, it´s his soul. It´s his decision.
Aside from the faith, he gets great food and an enormous family of in-laws. The dholki will bring out at least fifty of Raheela´s closest relations who, we are warned, are very curious to meet and examine Philip´s family.
Some of Raheela´s family are very conservative, religious, and elderly. They might say something. 
There will be no liquor served at this wedding, and that´s a very good thing. Feelings could be hurt, sensibilities offended. Or even worse: comedy could break out. 
Some of Philip´s family are very liberal non-believers who are not used to self-censoring.
Philip´s dad Michael will be there with his partner, Rob. They are a couple. They are "out."
Philip´s grandad, the agnostic son of a Methodist minister, wields a razor wit. He will also attend, if the weather is kind. He might say something.
Philip´s sister Libby, a familiar face at marches and protests at the White House, is coming up from Washington D.C. for the event. If someone says something, she will answer back.
My sister Beth will be there, and my teen-age nephew Joey. They are prominent people in their town, volunteer firefighters, deer hunters, heavy-duty Steelers fans. It is safe to say there are no Pakistanis in Vandergrift, and probably no Muslims. Not even any Jews. I do not think they will say anything.
My mom will go, too, if she´s feeling well enough. My mother´s health is delicate, she´s had her innards hauled out and stitched together too many times in the past couple of years. Long trips away from home are a dicey proposition. And this trip passes through the Cleveland snow belt and ends up on Lake Erie. In late December.
But my mom and Philip are thick as thieves. She won´t miss this. Something might happen, and she hates it when she misses out. If someone says something, she´ll be right there to put out the fire.
Something might happen. It is a mix fraught with comic possibilities. La Cage Aux Folles without the drag queens, but with glorious formal ethnic garb. 
And I will be there. A jet-lagged dropout who left her husband at home and is wearing a dress without sleeves. A woman with callouses on her hands and a silly hat stuck somehow on her head. My smile will gleam. My eyes will be full of tears.
Someone might say something at Philip´s wedding, but it won´t be me. I will be too choked-up. The bittersweet emotions of seeing my youngest child marry? Maybe. The splendid curry? Probably. But I kinda am hoping for a little comedy, too, a bit of Life Imitates Art. 
This is an extraordinary event. I say let´s make it really memorable. Let´s let ourselves laugh. 


MermaidLilli said...

Rule tibbeacTruly a blessed event in many ways. Have fun, mama of the groom! And dance like no one's watching... especially the bride's family! ;)

MermaidLilli said...

That Rule tibbeac part? lol... it was Google's captcha.... I wondered where it went!

Christine Adams said...

Looking forward to the narrative of how it goes. Safe flight, and have fun.

Aled Davies said...

Wow! Reb - what a story told by a masterfull wordsmith - Pictures of that would add depth to our shallow Facebook headlined conversation. Best wishes for a long, fruitful and happy relationship for your son and prospective daughter in law

Anonymous said...

You do indeed live a big, adventurous life. Thanks for taking us along with you! Can hardly wait to hear about the wedding...blessings to the happy couple and their families.

Sheri G from MN

Sil said...

I am giggling!! If the relatives are curious and Google Rebekah Scott, they will find the author of "The Moorish Whore" !! Something to read on the plane!

EileenHamer said...

Sounds like A & E should option this.

Claire Bangasser said...

You are going to have a ball at your son's wedding. You will be both in the US and in South Asia…
A shower of blessings on you and on the event :-)

Timecheck said...

Since Google Reader is no more, I get my first glance at blogs I like thru Sometimes that is enough. I don't see the comments, though. Have to click thru to see the real thing. An here I am. Fascinated by your family dynamics, so familiar, in different ways to mine. Always nice to know that perhaps my family is somewhat normal. At least, if yours is. Now for the dreaded Please prove you're not a robot.

susanawee said...

Wonderful words and a wonderful read...hoping and praying that the day will be an extra specially good one....smiles.