We are Family

A stunning Brittany at rehearsal

Aunt Laurie beats my siblings to the airport, and we sit and don’t stop talking the whole time. She is Mom’s younger sister. They are so different, but it’s weird listening to her now how similar they sound. Aunt Laurie is loud and funny and says everything she feels…at least she is with me in this moment. Mom is quiet and keeps everything to herself until she explodes at an unexpected time. Beware.

We are so into our conversation that we don’t even realize that Stephen, Courtney, and Christine are walking towards us. Hugs hello – I tell Stephen he has to hug me now because I live across the country.

There can never be an awkward moment with Aunt Laurie because she always finds something to talk about. She asks about me and Mike. “You guys have been together for a while now, right?” Yea. “Do you intend to marry?” I can’t even respond without first laughing at the question. Not that I need to. Stephen is always there to beat you to the punch. “Are you living in medieval times?” Aunt Laurie laughs but doesn’t miss a beat. “Well it doesn’t matter to me, I was just wondering if you did.”

It’s not too far to Aunt Laurie’s house. About 20 minutes. We are greeted by four dogs barking at us and running all over the place, along with Uncle Pat, Chaz, and Pop-Pop. Uncle Pat is quiet and brooding with an extremely dry, sarcastic sense of humor, which we usually enjoy. I haven’t seen him in forever. Like, I don’t think since 2002 when Sarah and I stayed with them for a week on vacation. Chaz is my cousin – 15 years old. Love him to death but he’s 15 so he likes to be a punk sometimes. Pop-Pop is as I have always known him: happy and laughing (unless he’s not approving of your living with a guy before marriage). Jimmy is in the kitchen. Aunt Laurie’s oldest son, we’re close in age. We never get to see each other but always have a good time when we do. Uncle Chuck wanders downstairs and I hug him hello. We’re rushed upstairs to take showers and get ready because we have to leave soon for the rehearsal dinner.

The house is amazing and there’s a sweet pool room at the top of the stairs. No time to play pool, though. Grandma is up here, getting ready, along with Denise. Denise is my Aunt but we don’t call her Aunt. I think because my uncle got married when we were young and it was weird, but we finally started to call his girlfriend-turned-wife, “Aunt.” Then they divorced and he married Denise. I was used to calling her Denise and never made the transition. I say hi to Denise while she’s getting ready. Grandma comes out of the bedroom dressed to the nine – she really is very fashionable for an 80-year-old lady. She rushes us to respective bathrooms to shower and change. “You’ve got 20 minutes.” Yea, OK, Grandma. That’s not happening.

Pop-Pop straight chillin’

When everyone is finally ready, we take two cars to the rehearsal dinner. It’s actually a pretty far drive, and there’s a huge bridge we have to drive over to get there. Apparently, Grandma is deathly afraid of bridges. News to me. Aunt Laurie informs me that she always has been. I’m in a car with the siblings and Aunt Laurie. In the other car is Grandma, Pop-Pop, Uncle Chuck and Uncle Pat. They are leading the way. Aunt Laurie has figured out another route to take that avoids the bridge and really isn’t out of the way. Perfect. She seems them continuing straight in front of us and missing the turn to take the other route. “They’re going towards the bridge.” We were planning on going over the bridge, anyway, so we keep following. Aunt Laurie calls Uncle Chuck to let him know they missed the turn. They finally turn somewhere and are gone, en route to the rehearsal dinner sans bridge.

We finally reach the destination where the entire wedding will take place tomorrow. Walking up I see Andrew and his wife, Ali. I barely know Andrew – he’s the youngest of Aunt Laurie’s kids, a little younger than the twins. I only remember him as a terror running through my house on Christmas day. This is also my first time meeting his wife, Ali. Hello Andrew. This is going to be awkward but we’re going to hug even though I feel like I don’t know you. We walk in and the place is gorgeous. It really is a beautiful place. We finally see David – the groom and middle child of the three boys (I hope this isn’t too confusing). David is about a year younger than me. I’ve talked to him more than any of my other cousins in recent years. He lived in Philly for a while – he went to Drexel University and Brittany (the bride-to-be), UPenn. I hope they move back there for good. Oh wait, I don’t live in Jersey anymore.

Too bad the rest of our caravan isn’t here – they got lost trying to avoid the bridge.

Aunt Laurie, Brittany, and Uncle Chuck
at the rehearsal dinner

So the rehearsal is performed without the father of the bride, one of the groomsmen, and the groom’s grandparents. They finally stroll up at the very end, so while they go through the procession again, I head inside to the bridal suite to cool off. It’s just so hot outside. I sit on a big couch with Courtney and we both start complaining like we’re going to die. I’m starving. I’m so thirsty. I could fall asleep right now on this couch. “If we’re not going to eat then we should at least start drinking.” Agreed. I need something in my body.

There are long tables set up at the rehearsal dinner and I chug my water before I even sit down – I hope Brittany doesn’t have assigned seats for us. She doesn’t, so I sit near the twins, Uncle Chuck, Denise, and Chaz. Uncle Chuck fills me in on the rest of their long drive. “I was trying to avoid the bridge and Mom (Grandma) tells me if we keep going this way, we won’t hit it. I’m like, OK, Mom, but I think the bridge is this way. And what do you know, I make a turn and I can see the bridge in the distance. Mom, sorry – we’re going over the bridge.” Wait, so after all that you still went over the bridge? “Yup.” What did Grandma say. “Nothing.”

Court, Chris, Stephen, David
in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do

Dinner is delicious and I have a good time catching up with some of the Bramble’s (that’s Mom’s maiden name). Uncle Chuck is probably the one I have the easiest time talking to because he lives in Vineland, so I saw a lot of him growing up. I tell him how anxious I get for these things because I feel like I should be doing more than what I’m doing, or accomplishing more than I have. “Are you kidding me, Lynn? I always say how proud I am of you. You have a goal and you’re trying to attain that goal. A lot of people putter along through life and fall into something they don’t want to do. I’ll tell you what, the worst thing that can happen is to look back and have regrets.” Thanks, Uncle Chuck! It’s nice to have this kind of support. We start talking about marriage and kids and how everything keeps getting pushed back and I have no idea when all that will ever happen. Denise is quiet and doesn’t usually say much, but we’ve always gotten along. She tells me the story of how she and Uncle Chuck met (she was his hairdresser), and that she didn’t have Chaz until her mid-30’s. I didn’t realize she had him so late. And then she had Alicia a few years after that. That’s kind of awesome.

Once dinner is over and everyone has drank a few glasses of wine, we want to keep the party going. The cousins are all going back to wear the bridal party is staying, but our hotel is back in Tampa. Uncle Pat stands by in the parking lot, waiting to take us, while we try to figure out if there’s a way we could stay and hitch a ride to our hotel in the morning. It takes a while, but we finally have a plan. We feel bad not staying in the hotel since Aunt Laurie got it for us, but we convince ourselves that Aunt Laurie would want us to all hang out since we never get to see each other. Cousinly love.

Jimmy, Court, and Alicia
being silly at the after-party

Back at the massive house, I drink tequila and sit outside with pretty much the entire bridal party. Jimmy is getting drunk and silly and I love it. Andrew surprises me with how hysterical he is. Ali is pregnant, so there is a discussion about baby names. Andrew wants to name their kid Cotton. Ali is not having it, but “Brooklyn with a C” is a definite possibility. They are too much. This is definitely the first time I’ve ever hung out and drank with my cousins. It’s a good time.

The boys finally leave and I head inside. The twins and I end up talking for a while, just catching up on our lives. By 1am we’re in bed, or on the couches and air mattress Brittany put together for us last minute. I’m glad we were able to stay. It’s not that late, but it feels like I’ve been up for two straight days. Probably because I kind of have.

*Sister Sledge

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