Right, no more excuses about how much I love my dad and his wife, there are enough tales to tell to warrant the telling. What a LONG day though...
We arrived early, wanting to make sure that loading and unloading of small people and slings and bags of toys was not going to be disruptive and generally make us late. That first half hour was wonderful, welcoming people as they arrived and letting the children play. Jenna spent a while sitting up in the pulpit with only her fingers visible over the edge, and when we asked what she was doing we were informed that it was a puppet show without puppets. :)
My grandmother came in and chatted for a moment - she said to Morgan, "Oh you're so big! I haven't seen you since you were one day old... You were such a scrawny baby." I didn't know whether or not it would be acceptable in such circumstances to laugh, so I tried not to.
The service was lovely, but Martin didn't get to see much of it as Morgan wanted to join grandad up at the front and was going to protest in the loudest possible way. Jenna soon followed them out to see what was happening (we could hear little happy shrieks from Morgan every now and again, muffled by the heavy wooden doors). They came back in for the vows, and I noticed that the backs of both children were rather muddy and damp JUST as if they had been sliding down the hill outside... I didn't ask.
When we got through the silent awe part of the ceremony and my dad and his new wife had rejoined us we were meant to be singing a couple of final hymns. Only the effect would have been better if the organist had owned a metronome. I call these cases, "Tune by consensus and tempo by committee." Our own Church is often guilty of these crimes against music, but for my brothers it was a new experience. We stood there, the first two rows, disgracing ourselves by being unable to sing one note between us, shoulders shaking violently. I suspect my dad didn't notice.
There is that moment, in such cases of musical ineptitude as practiced by a large congregation, when a verse ends - a glorious moment of pause while the organist waits for a third of the congregation to finish the verse in their own sweet time. It cracked me up afresh every time. Even better, a friend of my dad was seated a little further back, and from my seat at the end of the row I could see him out of the corner of my eye. Every time a wrong note was played, he whipped his head round to look at the organist in confusion.
More than anything, that one song justified my crappy day and the pain of pretending to be friendly towards family that I really can't stand. It was a wonderful brief period of sibling solidarity, the three of us against the world, in on our own private joke. I've rarely felt so close to my two brothers as just then, at the wedding we were mostly dreading but also hope-against-hoping will work out for the best.
I nursed Morgan for most of the rest of the service. As predicted, nobody noticed and if they had I doubt they would have said anything (after all the only people sitting near enough were also close enough to understand). Then outside we all went, where the rain held off for just long enough and Jenna tore her dress climbing a tree. :)
Now, here comes some of the reason why I dread encounters with my dad's family. My paternal grandmother loves me - I am assured of it any time I dare be sarky in front of my dad. But in the four years I've had children, we have seen her the same number of times. Once to pick up some furniture she was storing for us. Once when Jenna was born and once when she was four months old. Once when Morgan was born. We don't have a car and haven't had for most of that time, yet she drives past our street roughly once a week. Before Jenna was born I can't remember seeing her for years! I've never had much of a relationship with her, except that she used to send me quite a bit of money at birthdays, and that always just to leave me with an odd feeling that she'd rather pay me off than spend time with me.
The rest of that side of the family are much the same. My own wedding was attended unwillingly, by a delegation in jeans who didn't actually come all the way in to the building and didn't hang around afterwards. I realised at dad's wedding this weekend that some of the family don't even know I have children! This is a relevation to me, that my pregnancy was obviously well hushed up in that circle. I'm quite shocked, but I can't say why.
After photographs, interminably, and getting a short but pleasant moment to congratulate my dad and the gorgeous and beaming Christine, we took my youngest brother to get some money. When we got to the reception, we found the place packed and no seats saved - so between Jay, Martin, myself, and two girls, we had two seats. Nice. Balancing plates and children, with the latter running off as often as we could be persuaded to put them down, we had a pretty stressful afternoon. Along with trying to find small talk for several more relatives.
I think part of my problem is that I am just not good at forced mingling. I'm too prone to say what I really think, and to cause arguments by doing so. Take, for example, a guy in the queue for food. He noted that my husband seemed to be the one running after the baby all of the time. I tried the polite smile and joked that they are just as much his children. Then, caution to the wind, I sneakily dropped in, "If I go to her she'll only want feeding." For a moment the guy didn't get it, and then looked horrified (exactly the response I expected and couldn't resist provoking). He said, "Oh no, you couldn't do that in here. Your husband would be so embarrased!"
My sister in law intervened (oh Maarja you are a STAR) and backed me up with a sweet smile and the phrase, "If they're hungry, you feed them." :) I don't think she realised that I was having a moment of existential horror at being in this crazy world with these crazy people, but she saved me from it with her act of gentle friendship.
And there we pretty much are. We left early, feeling slightly guilty as we did so, because the children were tired out and so were we! I feel both hopeful that the manifest affection between the newly-weds might be enough, and desperately sad for the plain wierd world that my relatives inhabit, and also insanely blessed and contented with the closeness between those of us who value closeness.