Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Juan Valdez to Lost and Found, Please

Hubs and I went to a wedding this past weekend, a backyard barbeque wedding, way out in the country. It was the second marriage for the wife and the first for the crabby groom. He wasn’t crabby because he was getting married, he’s always been crabby, it’s just the way he is. The wife came to the marriage from her first husband with three kids, aged 2-1/2, 1-1/2 and 9 months.

It was a drizzly, gray, humid day, which wasn’t a good omen. The bride was freaking out, wondering what to do with the 20 or so guests who’d been invited, the groom was trying to calm her down, and the mother of the bride was wondering what the problem was. Father of the bride was doing his best to keep the three kids under control, and, while he looked like Mr. Perfect Grandpa, my eternal Mother eyes noticed that everyone’s paper diaper was already telling tales of extreme liquid evacuation. I took my eyeballs out in the backyard with me.

It really wasn’t bad. They have a vast number of trees, and the groom had made a special effort to erect a very nice deck under the shelter of several of them, contouring the deck around tree trunks, adding benches for seating, so we all had places to sit, and the trees prevented anything more than an occasional drip from hitting us. The ceremony was nice, except for the part where the middle child wandered off towards the fishpond, going out of sight through the garage, and no one noticed but me until after the presentation of the new couple. I was keeping my ears open, listening for splashing or screaming. It did kind of detract from the applause greeting the newlyweds to have a brother in law scampering off, yelling out the child’s name and “COME BACK HERE” at the top of his lungs.

They grilled steaks, and we all had a reasonably nice meal. Truthfully, as they’d already been living together for several months, it kind of felt like they were just going through the motions, which was a little, oh, I don’t know, uninspiring. And small children at a wedding, particularly when no one has been designated to watch over them, are always problematic. It’s boring as all heck for them, the adults are preoccupied, so they do what they want unless checked, and that often involves dirt and noise, so they’re either lost or filthy when it comes time for pictures.

In all, it was better than it could have been, and about what I expected. The ride home, however, was an eye opener. I should mention that on the way there we had to travel through quite a bit of second growth forest, and we were watching for two signs, which presumably marked the turnoff to their house. The first sign, which says “TOMATTOS – CHEAP”, was missing, but the “CAMPING รจ” sign was still there, so we had reasonable confidence we were going in the right direction. We took a different route home.

It was a little like going back in time, only with indoor plumbing. There were a couple of fine examples of rural yard crap – a lovely petunia garden, made three-dimensional with the strategic use of a bicycle spray-painted white, including tires, and another floral display which incorporated the front half of a small school bus, in traditional orangey-yellow, with the word “COOL” painted on it in big, black, block letters. Exotic grasses and a selection of colorful annuals surrounded it.

The real winner, though, included donkeys. Now, mind you, we were tooling through a tiny group of relatively nice houses – not Appalachian corrugated tin shacks. These were fairly new, fairly large, well-maintained suburban type houses made of brick and aluminum siding and so forth. As we rounded a curve, I noticed that one house had a very large fenced in paddock area with a number of….donkeys in it. I’m used to seeing horses from time to time, but the donkeys were a surprise. Especially since the owners appeared to enjoy periodically communing with the donkeys, which I am inferring, as they had left their yard furniture in the paddock.

A particularly placid donkey was standing in a swing. You know the kind – it’s got two bench swings facing each other on an A-frame, with a little platform in between them. I used to play on those when I was a kid. Well, there stood a donkey, his (or her, perhaps) front legs on the platform, not moving, just staring at us as we drove by. I said to my husband, “There’s a donkey in a swing in that yard.” He squinted at me. “What?” he asked. “A donkey in a swing. Back there. He had friends. They were not swinging.” I answered.

Hubby slowed down and then backed up. He eyeballed the swinging donkey. “Yep,” he declared, “That’s a donkey in a swing alright.” As he was unnecessarily confirming my statement, I noticed the other yard furniture in the paddock – a bench glider, which was sans donkey, and a couple of outdoor end tables, also not currently in use. We drove on for a while in silence.

“I wonder why those people put their yard furniture in the paddock,” I said.

“Maybe they didn’t want it any more,” responded hubby.

“Wouldn’t you think it would be a hazard for donkeys and their skinny ankles and hooves and all,” I pondered aloud.

“Looked like maybe that one donkey was stuck in the swing,” answered hubs.

“He didn’t look stuck,” I said, “he looked bored. Maybe donkeys don’t know how to swing.” My husband just gave me a look.

“Will we be driving past any more unusual livestock engaged in leisure activities, do you know?” I asked.

“Just beans and corn, I think,” he answered.

“Probly best,” I said, “I think that donkey’s gonna stick with me for a while.”

So, now, with my memory being the complete repository of whimsy that I know it is, the wedding we went to will be forever memorable, not because of the toddler heading for the fishpond, not for the couple who got married, not on account of the people we met, but because that was the day I saw a donkey in a swing. AAARGH!

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