Old Wives' Tales
Here comes the bride, and that odd couple with the stories
"Be quiet," the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston hissed.
The youth of the newlyweds wasn't the only thing that got my attention. When we went into the church basement for the reception, I noticed something else. There were no old people in the crowd.
I remember weddings and family gatherings over the years, and the one thing I could always count on was seeing old people at them. These were lumpy guys in baggy suits and gray-haired women in flowery dresses. They seemed to know everyone in the crowd, and you could always count on them to smack you on the back and leave sweet-smelling powder on your shoulder after pinching your cheeks and screaming that you looked like some long-dead relative.
At the Johnston-family gatherings, you could always count on Uncle Art and Aunt Alice. I knew they weren't my aunt and uncle because they weren't sister or brother to my mother or father. But they showed up every time the family got together, pinched our cheeks, ate the food and told stories about dead relatives.
At this particular wedding, I looked over the crowd to see this family's version of Uncle Art and Aunt Alice, but I didn't see any old couples wandering through the crowd, pinching cheeks and telling stories. When I pointed this out to Mrs. Johnston, she looked at me like I had lost my mind.
"We are the old people, dear," the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston said.
Wow! I had never thought of myself as an Uncle Art, but I suppose to a 20-something I look like an old man in a bad-fitting suit. I stopped myself from calling any of the youngsters taking to the dance floor "those young whippersnappers," but I felt like it.
Life is funny that way. Has this ever happened to you? You go to bed feeling like a teenager and you wake up with a wife, four kids and a mortgage the size of some Third World country. It happened to me while I wasn't paying attention.
To top it off, by the time you read this column I will take on a new title. A young woman will identify me as her father-in-law. It seems one of the three Johnston boys has convinced a young lady that marrying into the Johnston clan is a good idea. Fortunately, I have managed to keep this young woman from having any heart-to-heart talks with Mrs. Johnston. But I have caught Mrs. Johnston "mouthing" a word of advice to the bride-to-be.
"Run," Mrs. Johnston seems to be saying. "Run."
But I think the young lady thought her future mother-in-law was only joking. When Mrs. Johnston left the table to do something in the kitchen, I made a little joke about the warning.
"You know your future mother-in-law is nuts," I said light-heartedly. She nodded in agreement but looked worried.
This young woman seems to be fairly stable, though, and maybe she can take it.
The wedding is going to be in her home town of 900, in Montana. She hired a local guy to cater the wedding feast, and naturally he wanted to know how many people were coming to the reception. About 180, she replied.
That will be 24 feet of food, the guy said. Not 180 dinners. Not 100 steak and 80 chicken dinners. Just 24 feet of food. (I'm hoping the 24 feet will be divided into sections like vegetables, salads and main dishes, but I cannot say for sure.)
The only thing I know for sure is that I plan to eat a foot of food and make people think Mrs. Johnston and I are Uncle Art and Aunt Alice. It's a family tradition.
Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times reporter. His e-mail address is email@example.com. Paul Schmid is a Times news artist.
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