Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Weddings: or how I Married into a Family that eats Road Kill

Wedding #1: April 9, 1983, Orangetown Town Hall, NY

Wedding #2: October 10, 1983, Oaks Pioneer Church, Portland, OR

This post is to my children and grandchildren, and anyone else that has had wedding woes. I've wanted to write about this for quite some time- approximately 25 years- and this blog gives me a permanent forum in which to do it. Also, prior to this juncture, there were participants that would have had their feelings hurt by my telling. So, I had to wait. Now three are deceased: Marvin, Edna and Grandma Mabel; and Marge is disconnected from us due to probable Alzheimer's disease. I am now the old one. My children probably have stories they want to tell about me. That's the Karma of life: now being the parent that has made the mistakes that children laugh and whisper about.

Wedding Number 1:

Back to the story: Richard-- your Dad (or Pappy) and I were married twice. No we were not divorced in between the two weddings. The first time just wasn't what it should have been. So, we did it again 6 months later.

The impetus for our first wedding was a job. Rich had a summer Bureau of Land Management (BLM) job in Alaska and in order for me to live with him in government housing we had to be legal. So, we did marry. And the job fell through. This is of course the punch line of the story of our first wedding. For a long time I did not find that funny. But, after 25 years I am trying to develop a sense of humor. I'm grateful that the promise of that job connected me to him.

We decided to marry 'in secret' (our second mistake and counting) with only Marge, Marvin and Paula there because we thought that if everyone knew they wouldn't come to our later planned-wedding. My parents did know, and had no interest in attending. As I reflect back now, this was kind of weird for my parents (I am a spoiled, only, adopted child). I can't remember if I was disappointed by their absence. I just think I was in shock-- living at 94 Center Street will do that to you. As for my parents, I'm sure that they were just glad that their wild child was getting married, as I had gone to see Rich for Thanksgiving approximately 5 months earlier and never returned.

Rich was particularly strident about keeping our marriage a secret. But, days before our nuptials, Marvin told his sister Edna (a woman he rarely wanted to be around let alone interact with). Then, someone told Robbie-- who showed up two days before our wedding as a surprise gift to us. No one thought to tell Rich's Grandma Mabel (which turned out to be one Gargantuan error), especially not Marge, as their relationship was often strained, and Mabel was an elderly shut-in.

Marvin arranged for us to marry in the Orangetown Town Hall on April 10th 1983, by Judge Feenick, a friend of his. To emphasize the extreme casualness of the event, Marge offered me one of her wedding bands (she had an extra) with yarn wrapped around it so that it would fit my skinny fingers. That was a little too Elly May Clampett for me: so Rich and I did the classy thing and went to Sears and bought bands on his only credit card.

As I said, Rob came home from the Navy a couple of days before our wedding to surprise Rich. That was wonderful until they went out the night before our 'ceremony' for a sort of bachelor's party. I did not go out with them, but I knew that they'd be greatly hung over and terrifically tired for our event. That was okay with me I guess, but what came after I woke-up was not (okay).

Apparently, they had arrived (or crawled) home early in the morning of our wedding, and sat at the kitchen table in that big house in Pearl River, with no bedrooms at that time on the main floor, in the middle of the night, and ostensibly alone, and recounted various Vloskyisms to each other over a dead rabbit they ran over on the way home and cooked into a kind of Welsh Rarebit,with processed cheese food. (Yes, I married a man who eats, or whose family eats road kill.) I don't think our kids have heard the "cheese food" et al. stories but Uncle Robbie and Dad can recount them to you.. Apparently, they were in hysterics, and apparently some of what they said was about their father (who was awake, on the couch outside the kitchen door, because he was on-call as an EMT. Uh Oh.). By the time I woke up, Marv was not speaking to either of them.

The morning was a blur. I can't remember getting ready, but I would guess that I did what most brides do, shower, blow dry my hair, put on make-up. But, at some point Marvin told me, "I'm not really mad at Richie anymore; I just want to teach him a lesson." Then, I remember Marge saying to me, "I'm sorry. This is not going to be a good day."

Then someone, I believe it was Marge, asked me if we wanted to postpone our wedding. Now, mind you, I was much more reserved then than I am now, but, I did say, "If we don't marry now, I'm going home." I meant it. I'm sure I looked possessed (my children more than anyone know what this looks like).

So, we marched off to Orangetown Town Hall: me in my Mall-purchased Gunnysacks dress, Rich in his suit that he stole from Robert and had altered (the source of another argument and subsequent debt), his dad in his bolo-tie and polyester jeans, and his mother, Edna and Paula (Rich's sister and my Matron of Honor) in something probably more suitable (although Rob remembers that Edna wore her pink satin toaster-oven overcoat, but I have no proof of that now). I don't think anyone said a word on the ride over. It was pouring with rain and hard to drive due to the total white-out-like conditions. Despite having an umbrella and being relatively near the courthouse door, it was like we were literally dumped-on with buckets of water before we could get inside, and we looked like drowned rats. Here was my big moment and Rich was looking pretty pasty and who knows what I was thinking, but I remember Marvin and the judge talking about the state of their rain gutters (or "guttas" if you have a NY accent). Marv was the wedding photographer.

I don't remember the ceremony, except that we said our "I dos," and then Rich fainted. Marvin, sprung (or is it sprang) into action and had Rich lay down on a bench in the hall.

Then we went to a Scandinavian Smorgasbord at The Old Viking for our wedding meal and back home to the Vlosky house. Oh my goodness: Things thought and not said.

The wedding pictures were sad and I was distraught. I remember Marge proudly bringing us the prints. I think I cried. Here they are and of course now they look adorable.

Notice the Gunnysacks dress and Rich's (Robert's) suit, and the waterline on Rich's pants

I didn't remember the corsage, but I did remember my hair (Oy!)

The solemn wedding party: Paula, me, Rich and Rob

Post Script to Wedding Number 1:

Sometime before we took off for the West Coast, Marge was feeling sentimental and told Mabel, her mother and Rich's grandmother about us being married. I am not sure when this happened or how it happened, but I do think Marge had the best of intentions. But, the result was that Mabel decided she would disinherit Rich -- she was understandably distraught that she was not invited to our wedding-- and refused to answer the door to her apartment when he tried to talk to her.

Somehow Marge talked Mabel out of disinheriting Rich, but Mabel never did like me. I doubt we had a word with each other after that. My only saving grace was that she liked my mother and loved Rich. Later, when Rob asked Nancy to marry him, Mabel gave them her diamond ring. All the while, I was still hanging on to my Sears wedding band. Edna did try to remedy that by giving me Zadeh's (literally "grandfather" in Yiddish) diamond, set in a solitaire ring, several years after we were married. I still wear that ring. It was a sweet gesture, sort of unexpected (as Robbie was her favorite) and healing.

Wedding Number 2:

Rich and I were 26 and 25 years old and felt too old for our parents to be paying or planning for our wedding. We planned it in the St. John's Episcopal Church of my upbringing, which was moved to Oaks Park probably 15 years earlier and re-named the Oak's Pioneer Church. We sold it to Rich's parents as an "historical site." For good reason, we felt that they wouldn't like Rich to be married in a Christian environment. We booked the church for October 9th, 1983. We hired a flautist and a harpist to play. I don't remember what they played; just that it was anything but the Wedding March (not my thing). I wore a 'vintage' tea length cotton lace dress that Win, my godmother found for me. We found a Unitarian Minister that would appease both families and wrote our own vows.

Marge offered to pay for the invitations. I wanted my family-- my mother and her sister and my cousins, to cook for the reception, which we held at the Milwaukie Racquet Club. However, my nervous mother thought that sounded so stressful and awful that she paid for the catering. We hired a band, but I don't remember a thing about them. My childhood friend, Steven paid for our limo. My high school best friend, Becky Mitchell, did all of the flowers (to look like wildflowers). My college best friend, Susan, was my Maid of Honor. Of course Robbie was Rich's Best Man (he wore his Navy dress whites and showed-up the groom not to mention the bride). We ordered a carrot cake for our wedding cake, which neither of us got to sample. My father was the photographer in the church, and Marv was the photographer in my parents' house on 23rd street. Both sets of pictures were precious.

At the altar: notice the same suit but different tie!

Kiss the bride

We walked in together and out together (my poor father never got to walk me down the aisle)

Oaks Pioneer Church

We set up a tent in our backyard for people coming in from out of town. The great absences from the event were my mother's sister Eileen (my aunt, who died 2 days after our wedding) and Rich's brother Mark and his children. But, my grandmother, my father's mother, Fay, came to our wedding, which was probably the last time she left the house. My cousin Don's family came. And numerous dear friends came from out of town, most of whom I'm still in contact with. All of my old boyfriends of merit came. Rich can say more about that. The wonderful thing about Rich is that for most of our marriage those things never bothered him. I am very thankful for this freedom to be myself with people that were significant in my life.

In retrospect, I loved both of my weddings. Rich asked me to re-marry him for our 25th anniversary last year and I said "No freaking way!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reminiscing: and trying to force things back to normal

My cousin Carrie Ellen

Me in the Nevada hills

My father with his Impala in Portland, Oregon

My husband Rich (R) and his older brother Robert in Pearl River, NY

After the last couple of difficult weeks (hurricanes and illnesses) I found myself reminiscing about 'the old days.' Specifically, this has manifested itself in a quest for all things 'vintage' (from my childhood), various purchases from etsy and ebay, and a thirst for pictures from days much earlier. This is very unusual for me. For although I was brought up with antiques, in my adult life I have never really been a buyer thereof.

I do think that vintage is more attuned to nostalgia, or a period you have experienced, and an interest in antiques is more about an appreciation for a history that you have not lived.

At any rate, here are a few favorite pictures. My mother contends that things were much simplier then. Were they really?

Even though I still feel sick, I cleaned James' room and bathroom as they were so disgusting (more bad parenting I'm sure). I just couldn't stand to resume normal household operations near those rooms of the house. I am making chicken Cacciatore for dinner and am happily setting the table with fresh linens and candles. Just these things have settled me down. I hear Rich upstairs playing guitar with Jim and Jonathan, James laying on the couch playing XBox, and my mother singing outside in her garden.

Photos in this post were taken 1. by my father, Lowell Ashbaugh, 2. my father, 3. me, 4. and Rich's father, Marvin Vlosky, respectively.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

PS Hurricane Ike: I will stop whining now

Fortunately, we (here in Baton Rouge) did not get hit with Hurricane Ike, although they dismissed LSU and the LSU Laboratory School at noon last Friday because of weather prognostications that never really materialized. However, look at the ruination at Galveston. Here is an aerial view of Crystal Beach, Texas where a friend's family's beach house once stood (you have got to wonder why that one house with the blue roof was spared). Compared to this, our mass of tree tangled, power line wrangled houses don't look so devastated.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Before and After Pictures of Grammy's Garden

By the UK's Nina Clough of "artquirk"

I wanted to post the dazzling original work of art that we commissioned from the talented "artquirk" (aka nina clough) of the courtyard between our house and my mother's addition.

We call it Grammy's Garden.

It has been a place of refuge, solace and beauty, that unfortunately needs a bit of rehabilitating after the hurricane (see the after picture in said garden of the loss of our crepe myrtle-- humble little trees that softly fall over, without damaging your fence even).

The Trees that got Caught in the Power Lines that got Caught in the House that Jacque Built

The tape makes it look like a crime scene... We did have 25 deaths in Louisiana from this storm

On Thursday the power magically came on and we got internet and cable last night. As a result thereof, I am feeling a bit giddy. Like I'm living in the 1st World again.

(Okay. I know that the power did not come back on by magic. I truly appreciate the linemen and women that worked around the clock from a myriad of states to make this happen. Now I can understand the romanticism behind the popularity of the Glen Campbell hit the Wichita Lineman.)

Due to the switch from air conditioned environments (work, my mother's addition) to those without (our house and everywhere else) I have a gross cold. My lungs feel like they're growing the same mold that's creeping along the floorboards of my house and nestled in my bedsheets, which I have to launder today (note to self) so that I don't get full-fledged pneumonia.

I'm posting some pictures of our neighborhood so that I can preserve, for all posterity (mostly my family, let's be realistic) the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav (the under recorded hurricane of the century for Baton Rouge).

First, here are some typical pictures of the roads in many of our subdivisions, the day after Gustav (photo credits in this post go to Daniel Vlosky).

The intelligentsia will notice the power lines tangled in the trees and ask, "Why do they have above-ground power lines in South Louisiana?"

Okay. I'm not the only genius that is asking this question. So is our governor, mayor and my next door neighbor (still without power-- there's no comfort for him in the explanation that he's on another electrical grid...)

Here are the houses that got in the way of the trees that are entangled in the power lines.

You can see what 90 mile an hour winds can do. Just imagine the wrath of Category 2 or more

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Seven days after the Storm: Our House Stinks

Daniel and I at the window... waiting

We are now one week and counting after Hurricane Gustav, and still without power in 40% of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.

Specifically, we are without power in our house, which of course is the most important place power should be revived. To me at least. Not to say that I don't think hospitals, nursing homes and nurseries (the young-children-kind) shouldn't be brought on-line first. I do. They were.

To elaborate just a little bit on my discomfort: this means that the house is 80+ degrees, even at night, even with the windows open, even though the weather has been mercifully mild for this time of year.

For those of you that don't live in the Deep South, it is the humidity that is the problem more than the heat. To be technical, it's the humidity PLUS the heat.
Considering the conditions at my house, it might as well be raining (inside).

When I called Entergy (my electrical company) several days ago they said I would get power between "now and September 24th."

Not very encouraging.

Then, yesterday I got an Entergy bill for $490.

Rich's Photograph: Ode to the Power Lines

I'll call them and complain when I have presence of mind to do so. At least our trusty land-line works, even though it is too expensive, and we never use it (except after a hurricane).

I can't sleep (which I guess makes me cranky), but, I am concerned about mold invading our home. Concerned about the survivability of our electronic equipment. Concerned about our safety (our security system does not work and I'm sleeping naked with all of the windows and curtains wide open. The truth is that at 50 years old, this probably isn't very enticing to the would be robbers out there, which is probably a plus security-wise).

My security company tells me that their generators work for 18 hours without electricity, and after that we get "no protection." Nada. I told them that "we were counting on them to safeguard us, and that a security-black-out 18-hours post-power-outage wasn't very comforting." The person on the phone told me she'd, "pass that onto the brass."

Now I feel bad for being ugly (a South Louisianaism) as Rich tells me that we'd need a battery the size of a room to keep our house's security system running, which I guess isn't very feasible (as I look around for the room in which to place said gynormous battery).

Mostly, the house stinks, which, my friend Elizabeth says, "is depressing."

Rich cleaned out our moldy, gross, and smelly refrigerator yesterday. I keep up with the dish washing so that our sink doesn't turn into a science project. And our dirty clothes are in black plastic garbage bags, tied up, to reduce the smell. However, underwear is a problem. Um, mostly quantity-wise.

What I mean by that is: I need more of it: underwear that is.

I think this might be even more important than other necessities, like generators. I could probably make a good portion of our retirement money by selling underwear on a street corner. I have taken to wearing Rich's colored briefs.

They are cotton and very comfy (and absorbent) although they don't fit very nicely under my pants. So my mid section looks sort of bumpy, which is actually better than looking fat now that I think about it.

------------ No good segue to go here--------------

Actually, I'm pretty sure that The Smell in the house comes from the dampness.

Our bedclothes are damp. The carpet is damp. We are damp. Showers don't help much because minutes after an even cold shower you are right back to where you started from.

Funny thing is: we have hot water if we actually wanted to take a hot shower. Which we don't. Theoretically, the hot water would be good for instant coffee, except that I pulled some slimy thing out of my faucet two days ago, which has pretty much taken away my interest in hot stimulant type drinks, let alone any other type of food.

The good news is that I think I'm losing weight.

My hair is a wild mess (no blow dryer). I was liberated years ago from 'the blow dryer' (I was in my prime in the 70s and 80s) by my travels to Sri Lanka and India, where we stayed "off the grid" for quite a bit of time, which means that there was no electricity, at least in a form that we could tap into. But, before that trip I went to my stylist and he cut my hair so that it could just "go wild," but look sort of "in place" and "very hip." At this point, it is not only not attractive/hip/in-place, it is scary looking.

Actually, I think part of looking "very hip" may have been my age, which at that point was not quite 40. At 50 this isn't a good look.

My hair needs a myriad of things done to it. I think I'll call today and find a hairdresser that actually has power and my color of blond.

I'll post pictures of the post-Gustav destruction after Rich finishes posting them to flickr. It's hard to appreciate the devastation without seeing it.

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