I was very careful not to put anything in my bag that would cause security to open my case, and unpack the very carefully placed 'special event' items. I felt the need to explain to all and sundry, that my hand luggage contained my dress, shoes, bag and fascinator. The lady who was sitting in my seat on the flight from Austin to Houston, had a saucer of beads in her lap, and was threading them onto a thin wire-like material. My first thought was to ask her to move, which was quickly followed by my second thought; ask the stewardess to ask her to move. Both options were quashed as the flight attendant showed great interest in her work, and slight animosity towards me, as I halted the flow of traffic whilst trying to put my bag in the overhead bin. I considered an alternative method of retrieving my seat, but decided that the pathetic cry of, 'But she is in my seat!', would fall on deaf ears, and tipping up the saucer of beads in mindless temper, also would not get me any brownie points, as the second attendant was now admiring the seat-napper's handiwork. With a long journey ahead of me, I took the aisle seat and quietly sulked! However, with nothing but clouds to view, the window seat was no longer essential, and my tantrum subsided when my neighbor, having heard my accent, inquired of my final destination. With great delight I told her about the up and coming nuptials, and the reason for my hand luggage, to which she replied that she was going back to Hawaii, to pack up her household, collect her husband, and return to Texas, to be with her daughter and grandchildren. We said 'goodbye' and I made my way to the next flight, where I stood at the front of the queue, well before the flight was called, just in case someone decided to take my window seat! Two people were privvy to the contents of my bag before we boarded, as I had to leave my space and have my crudentials checked. 'I don't usually have a carry on', I explained to the person who took their seat next to me. Unconcerned by my confession, and equally disinterested in the saga of how I obtained my dress, and possibly in a hope to silence me, he placed my small case in the overhead locker. Sitting comfortably, I failed to notice that I was in the wrong seat. When a confused fellow passenger looked at his ticket, then at me, and back again, I realised my mistake, and apologised profusely, while attempting to retrieve my bag. He found it rather amusing and suggested that my bag would be safe where it was. 'No, my son is getting married on Sunday. It's my dress, shoes, bag and fascinator', I told him. Muttering that he was sure it would be 'fascinating', with his smile slightly altered to that of a patronising, 'you poor pathetic creature, but this IS my seat', he returned my bag to me, and I continued down the aisle. My new neighbor was not interested in my bag, nor the contents, and closed her eyes as I fumbled with the overhead locker, and took my window seat for the long haul! As I studied my menu, I spotted a familiar face, from Radett, and once airborne I left my seat and headed down the plane to say 'hi'. Unfortunately, my acquaintence was asleep, but her husband was not. I smiled and said, 'hi, you are Barbara's husband, aren't you?' He recognised me, and before I could say another word, he told me that they had been in Houston for their son's wedding and were heading home. Fortunately, the intercom drowned out my immediate response; 'that's my line!' I returned to my seat.
Richard was late arriving at the airport, and we took every wrong exit possible, before finally heading in the right direction, and finally arrived at mum's just before 10, where coffee and English toast was a welcome repast! After a shower, nap, trip to Costco, and the first of many potato peeling projects, we were joined for dinner by Richard and Emma.
Most of Friday was spent preparing dinner for the extended family, (more potatoes). Ricky and Steph were spending a week apart before the 'big day'. It was also the 'make or break' day for Samantha. Although she had been awarded 'special circumstances' to live in the USA, five years ago, she did not have the relevant documentation to return, should she ever wish to leave. Marrying Edward afforded her the opportunity to submit new paperwork that would adjust her status, but until this was approved, (the meeting for this would have been on the Friday following the wedding) she could not get a re-entry visa. Although emergencies can expedite the procedure, a sibling's wedding does not constitute such an emergency. Our representative's assistant moved mountains, and with the grace of the Almighty, Samantha was was given the thumbs up by the adjudicator in Nebraska! (Never again will I disrespect the Corn Huskers!) Obviously, the 'it can't hurt', suggestion, had done no harm! However, despite receiving the news first thing in the morning, there were a few other red-tape issues that had to be resolved before she had the 'full speed ahead' confirmation and could postpone her meeting, as well as be guaranteed re-entry. The call to say she was booking her flight came rather late in the evening, and it was only then that I was able to concentrate on the task in hand. I spent until half past midnight with Craig (Rick's best man) and Ricky, fine tuning their speeches.
Mum kept her usual Saturday morning appointment with the hairdresser, while I took the time to make myself presentable. Making sure the wax was cool, before attempting to reshape my eyebrows, would have been a very good idea. As I applied the first blob, the doorbell rang, and with me still in my nightshirt, I raced around to find a dressing gown, before checking who was calling, and did not remove the sticky liquid in time. It was my friend Debbie, who had come to check that I was not overwhelmed, jet lagged or suffering from any other scenario that would prevent me from enjoying the wedding. Everything was fine, apart from the blister that was growing between my eyes. By the afternoon, the big red water spot was very noticeable, and the chemist was attempting, badly, to hold back the laughter when I explained how I received this injury. Explaining why I was trying to make myself beautiful, almost caused her to burst. She could imagine the album. 'Put this on a couple of times a day. You can hardly see a thing', she giggled. Applying burn cream every thirty minutes, did little to reduce the redness, nor the size of the blister. I could only hope it would not look as bad the following day.
Samantha's flight was delayed, but fortunately only by a couple of hours, most of which was made up crossing the pond. She arrived at mum's, with the delay, at 9am! We took off for the hotel at 11.30, and checked into our two rooms. The reunion of siblings was very emotional, and the beginning of the search for tissues. Although there were still three hours to go before the ceremony, Craig had proved himself to be the 'best' best man, as he not only had Richard at the place on time, but dropped off a camp bed at mum's and arranged to take us back to the airport when the time arrived! Back in the rooms, while Samantha was unpacking her essentials in one room, I whipped out the wet wipes and cleaned all the necessary surfaces and bathroom, in the other. I returned to the mum's room and started to get ready. I do not wear a lot of make up, but had bought some 'concealer', just in case the bags under my eyes were mistaken for my suitcases. Fortunately, they were not too heavy, but the big red spot between my eyes did need some cosmetic attention, and arranged my hair so that it would take on a Liza Minnelli look, making the point between my eyes. It was covered reasonably well. Samantha looked lovely, despite only managing to sleep for an hour on the plane, and not eating for nearly twenty four hours. Mum looked beautiful in her black lace, and I was satisfied with my appearance before leaving the room to have some pre-ceremony photographs taken. Everything was perfect. However, out came the exception to the rule. I am not sure whether the chain of my bag caught in the twirly bits of the fascinator, before or after the strap on my shoe broke! Of course, twirling the headpiece around in an attempt to break it free, coupled with falling off the broken shoe, did nothing to calm my nerves. However, I insisted on being left alone and untangled myself before borrowing some sellotape from the front desk, which I wrapped around the instep, and sole, of my shoe, much to the amazement of the receptionist.
Steph looked stunning; breathtaking. It was time for the tissues again, which had managed to stay in the bag, despite the abuse it had received, unlike the tic-tacs which were dropping out one by one, leaving a trail wherever I went. The mirror, too, fortunately remained in the bag as it was used several times to make sure the mascara had not smudged too much. Seeing my son, dressed in morning suit, standing tall, smiling down at my beautiful new daughter in law, was one of the most joyous (and tearful) moments of my life. Sharing such a wonderful day with my family and close friends, could not have been more perfect. We danced the night away, and shared breakfast the next morning. Samantha and I went with Janice to take the newlyweds to the airport on Monday.
Determined not to suffer the 'low' feeling that so often comes after a momentous occasion, I made arrangements to keep busy. As Samantha had not been 'home' for five years, we took the train into London for a sightseeing day. Being tourists was much more fun than we remembered. We bought sandwiches in Marks and Spencer, and ate them outside the Tower of London. We checked out the Houses of Parliament, saw the changing of the Horse Guards, and passed by Downing Street. As we were 'on vacation', I spent a small fortune on buying Samantha an Ice Cream. We walked back through Green Park and took the train back to Radlett.
That evening I met up with four old friends. Lesley, Michele, Karen, Carolene and I had all started school on the same day, in 1965, and it was probably the first time we had all been together since we were 11! Memories poured out and we sat and chatted for four hours, which was not so good for the wait staff, who had obviously had a very long day, and despite being most gracious, seemed to be delighted when we left. Samantha was on the doorstep when I arrived home, checking her watch.
Friday night came around again and Ricky and Steph tried to contact us via a video call, but the signal was not strong enough. Instead we passed messages through the phone. Although we could not see them, we knew they were still smiling. On Saturday, I met up with another old friend, Sally, and we joined her husband and daughter for lunch. On Sunday we went out for lunch to celebrate my Aunt and Uncle's 60th wedding anniversary, after a visit from another old friend, Maggie. (Old in all cases does not mean aged!)
Bright and early Monday morning, Craig arrived to take us to the airport. The traffic was very bad and it took us longer to get there than we had anticipated. It was going to be a very long day, but that is...... another story.