The night before we set off for the UK and the big day, I received this e-mail from my daughter:
THE WEDDING IS CANCELLED !
My heart dropped into my stomach, which contracted to a painful knot, and my heart started pounding. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I 'phoned England. "How are you?" I asked Eva, when she picked up the telephone. "OK, I suppose, under the circumstances." she replied, "And you?"
"How do you think I am! I've just read your e-mail!"
"About the wedding being cancelled!!!"
"Oh, Eric! Must be his idea of a joke! Sorry, Mom!"
Zak, granddaughter Ella and myself left Johannesburg International Airport on the Thursday, 9 days before the big day. They passed in a blur. There there was plenty of shopping, cooking, washing and ironing to do, as well as rushing about tending to last-minute details. Not that I tended to any of them - I just lent moral support.
The couple had planned their wedding to the finest detail, and it ran like a military operation. Tablecloths in the perfect green couriered from Liverpool, wedding rehearsal, flowers to be fetched and delivered, sunbed, beauty treatments for bride and groom.
My special job was making the guest book. Eva photocopied and enlarged a lot of pictures of herself and Eric at various ages, and together over the past five years. She bought a beautiful white album made of handmade paper, and lots of little wedding doo-dads (little stick-on doves and stars and stuff) and there was fabric left over from making the "wedding favours" in the wedding colours: yellow, orange and green.
I cut up the photocopies, and used all the stuff to make collages on the pages where guests then signed and wrote comments, good wishes and greetings. A nice memento.
Zak, Hanli, Ella and I had relocated to Barbara's house, as the bridesmaids spent the night with Eva. I had all our wedding clothes to iron, and Ella's hair to curl. The morning flew past. We were bathed, dressed and ready just in the nick of time. The first car picked up Hanli and Ella. The second car was for Zak and me, with Eva. It was a big silver or white car with an open top. (my memory for the colour of cars is faulty). When the bride stepped out of it to greet her parents, I could not believe my eyes. Who was this vision of loveliness? Not my daughter - the slovenly teen who wore jerseys down to her knees summer and winter? But it was - and she was radiant. There is no other word.
When we turned off the main road onto the little windy one that led to the church in the fields, we got a cellphone call - halt. Slight hitch. Organist not arrived. Almost panic - but it was decided to go ahead without him. The lady reverend's husband would do the best he could on his guitar. And then, just before Zak led his little girl down the aisle, the organist did arrive, after all. He had been held up at his previous wedding, by a very tardy bride.
The ceremony was lovely. Every time my umkhonyana (son-in-law) opened his mouth, I burst into tears.
Especially when he said, "All that I am, I give to you. All that I have, I share with you."
Zak had had the foresight to carry a large, clean, mansize hanky for me, but we were not sitting together. I was in the choir of the church, because I had a part in the ceremony. Fiona, Eric's sister-in-law saved me from having to blow my nose on the hem of my jacket, by nipping across the choir and handing me a handful of tissues.
The tiny church was lovely. St Mary the Virgin, Farleigh, has been in constant use since it was built in 1080. What a feeling to be inside a thousand-year-old church, and hearing the wedding vows echo in this space where they must have been spoken and spoken and spoken, from generation to generation.
What a party followed! A Marquee was set up in Arnie's garden (Arnie is Eva's new brother-in-law). What impressed me the most was the thoughtful attention to detail. For instance: there was a kiddies' table. At each child's place was a large box of toys (colouring pens, drawing and puzzle book, and other stuff), in case they got bored during the speeches. Outside the white marquee, a jumping-castle-trampoline type thing had been erected for them. There were fairy lights in the trees all over the garden, and more tables and chairs, and waiters whisking around treats and drinks faster than you could blink for more. There were bowls of fruit and chocolates in case you got peckish in between.
The wedding dinner menu:
Pink fish in Plonk with
some Red stuff on top
Lemon Ice Thin with
some Herb leaf
Bit of Ugly Long Necked bird dished
up with some Yellow Stuff Like Swede,
Flat Peas, and weedy little Potatoes
Weird Ice Cream
Mug of Coffee
Red Booze from France
White Booze from France
Well, that was the menu I found on my plate - probably by the same jokester who composed the cancelled wedding e-mail. Everybody else got this one:
Salmon poached in White Wine under a Pepperdew and Basil dressing
Lemon Sorbet with fresh Mint garnish
Pan Fried Karoo Ostrich in Sesame jus
Accompanied by Cape Butternut Mash,
Mange Pout, and Baby Potatoes
Peppermint Crisp Ice Cream Fantasy
Chateau Borie D'Alfi 2000
Chateau Janon 2001
San Pellegrino Aqua Minerale
We decided to call it a night at just after 3 o'clock in the morning, when the last remaining guests were invited to cool off in the Jacuzzi from their dancing to the live Dixie band. It would have taken a lot more champagne for me to have appeared in a bathing suit.
Close friends and family had been booked into a lodge three blocks away. We walked there, and kept our spirits up by singing "The Grand Old Duke of York" all the way. I do not know why. It seemed appropriate at the time.
Next morning, we gathered at Arnie's house for breakfast, and opening the wedding gifts.
After that, everybody pitched in, helping to dismantle the marquee.
And no, I was not hung over, because I did not over-imbibe. I did not have time. I was too busy "kuiering" with friends old and new.
It was a wonderful and memorable event. I am a very proud mom.