How's Bayou? Quick pickups
It's that time of year again: Spring weddings.
With all the current political talk about a war on women, there's a more devastating, internecine form of female warfare that's been going on for centuries: the subtle battle between mother and bride over whose wedding it really is.
"You told my daughter those swans would squirt water from their mouths into the sugar kettle," the mom of a 2011 bride shrieked. "And I want those birds to put out, you understand?"
Forget that the bride thought it made the swans look like they were throwing up -- the first and only time anyone has thought the gentle, lyrical trickle of water emerging from the stone beaks mirrored Rick Santorum's response to John F. Kennedy's formidable 1960 speech on the separation of church and state in this country. Nevertheless, we flicked the switch, mom got her way, and, as it happened, the bride never went anywhere near the spectacle of the regurgitating birds.
The generational warfare isn't often this brash; it usually rears its ugly head in a turn of phrase, a shrug of shoulders, or a gentle whimper, usually from the bride, who is contemplating the dismemberment of her cherished dream of what many describe as "the most important day of my life."
The father of the bride usually sits stonefaced in the initial planning meetings, chiming in only when the cost of hors d'oeuvres, lavishness of buffet, or generosity of bar selections is mentioned.
Mother and bride gently spar across the open space, as they seldom sit next to each other.
"We should have some items for my vegetarian friends," the bride suggests.
"What? They can't just leave the roast beef off the buns? There's gonna be mustard and mayonnaise, and they can put some spinach dip on the roll if they want filler," Mom responds. "We're already over budget on the food, you know."
Dad looks up, but keeps out of the fray. The groom excuses himself.
"Is there a bathroom I can use?" he asks quietly, as he exits the room and never returns.
"Will the sun be on the front of the house at 6 o'clock?" Mom inquires.
"But I want the altar under the trees, so I can walk out the front door and down the aisle," bride intrudes.
"Fine. So we'll just waste those beautiful columns," Mom whimpers before lobbing a silken grenade. "I always imagined my little girl taking her vows between them, from the day I brought you to Madewood to research your elementary-school history project.
"And there'll probably be those big, stinging caterpillars falling on you and your guests from the trees. Or the giant grasshoppers might be out by then."
Bride, clinically afraid of bugs, and now envisioning a spectacle that would delight Alfred Hitchcock, struggles to hold back tears.
"I W A N T I T U N D ER T H E T R E E S."
Millie remembers telling her mother that she preferred a small, quiet wedding at Madewood. Before she realized what was happening, the guest list had swollen to hundreds. Coworkers at The Times-Picayune organized a bus to take everyone up to the now cast-of-thousands event, and a Swiss photographer friend of ours flew in from London to record the day in black-and-white reportage style, occasionally channeling a Diane Arbus frankness in her images of our guests.
The only photograph she took of our wedding cake, crafted by Maurice Delechelle of La Marquise fame, with the ceramic figures from Millie's parents' wedding cake topping the pyramidal croque-en-bouche of profiteroles that topped the elegant pastry base, was of a friend carving the final slices.
Food is a big thing at these events. Millie specified rumaki, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, like those we'd always ordered at Hong Kong, a favorite waterside restaurant in New Orleans' West End. Caterer Emma Freeman, the hot provider at the time, followed MIllie around relentlessly with a plate of them, begging the bride to please sit down and eat a few.
At one memorable 21st-century reception, the bride, who'd slipped into her nightgown and bathrobe in the quiet of her Madewood bedroom toward the end of the evening, realized she'd forgotten to eat and headed downstairs for a bite, just moments before her mother backed up her pickup truck to the door nearest the dining room, swept the last morsels off the buffet table and drove off.
Back then in the '80s, when Millie and I married, folk hadn't yet realized the true utility of pickup trucks at a wedding.
Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Toyota -- they can forget about advertising torque or horsepower. To a bride's mom, whose foot-tapping includes the exertion of full pressure on an accelerator, truck-bed capacity is the determining factor.
Another mom swept food from the buffet and the kitchen into the back of her revved-up vehicle like a whirling dervish; it was only months later that we noticed our crock pot, which had cradled the groom's father's cherished, family-recipe Italian meatballs and gravy during the evening, was missing. I mentioned it to him one day when he showed up at Madewood.
"I bet I can tell you where it is," he replied right away. "Give me that empty box. I'm gonna see if the picture matches the crock pot I saw in that woman's kitchen last week."
Several weeks later, he returned with our crock pot, back home once again in its box.
"I sneaked it out when she wasn't looking. I knew it was her took that pot. So now you got it back. But how I'm gonna get my meatballs back, huh? I cooked those things by myself and never got to taste them. They all ended up in the back of her pickup truck instead of my stomach."
Shaking his head, he climbed back into his pickup truck, a fraction of the size I've seen bride's mothers back up to Madewood. He carries all his construction tools, including a table saw, in the bed, but it just wouldn't do for a mother-of-the-bride who's hell-bent on waking up the next morning to a refrigerator full of tasty leftovers.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.