My dad was my greatest critic, and my best audience. He would read everything I wrote and, most of the time, just share it with others. I often write these posts and think, 'Dad would have laughed at that'. However, time marches on, and waits for no man!
One of the things that I inherited from my dad, (apart from the gap in my teeth) was my sense of direction. He had an amazing ability to 'find' places. I know, at times, especially since I have moved to Texas, that this gifting has not always been apparent, as my ability to 'get lost' appears to be more prevalent, but I am still able to find my way home, providing there are no more pressing stress factors involved (lack of petrol, flat tire, leaving home without my purse!). I am sure you can all guess where this is leading!
Due to circumstances beyond their control, Samantha and Edward tied the knot, legally, at the beginning of last year, and denied family and friends the opportunity of celebrating the occasion. Whether the latter wished to partake of the festivities, the former (well, the bride for the most part) wishes for a belated traditional function! (Affair does not seem to be an appropriate word in the circumstances, due to its broader interpretation!)
The search for venues has become the focus of our recent discussions, and whilst this should be a tremendously exciting time for me, I have left this chore to the happy couple (well, the bride for the most part) and had given them a budget in which to work. Fortunately, the bride's father wanted to do more than 'give her away' (we had always discussed buying her a ladder for her 16th birthday, so that she could elope with our blessing!) and during his trip to visit a few weeks ago, we had discussed the possibilities of venue, which side of the pond etc, at length, and it was finally decided (by the bride, for the most part) that as the majority of the wedding party lived this side of the Atlantic, a Texas style party would be the most appropriate.
The possible site had been whittled down to three, and two were viewed last weekend. One was crossed off the list, hastily, as the proprietor had given them a 'things to do' book, and told them to look around. Apparently, she had to be hunted down for any questions, and was not particularly helpful. 'It's all in the book', was not really the answer they wanted, and so the final choice was going to be between the other venue, and the one to be viewed this weekend.
Unfortunately for me, Edward was unable to accompany Samantha to the appointment on Saturday (I have not wanted to influence them in anyway) and it was down to me to join the already married bride-to-be. The journey was going to take about 40 minutes, and we were booked in for the 3 o'clock tour. Being a creature of habit, a mid afternoon scheduling had started a stress level raise from the beginning of the week, and I was attempting to fit in all the other activities to an organised agenda. After completing the boring tasks which constitute my Saturday morning, I took myself down to the pool, with a new book, and waited for my daughter to join me, before having to get ready to head out to goodness knows where.
Finally, after what seemed an age, we found the venue. We had to pull off the dirt track onto another, less civilised, road. This, I realised, is why so many people in Texas drive trucks! The 'House' stood in beautiful surroundings, albeit very unkempt. We were greeted by the owners, who was as willowy as the trees around her, but very pleasant. She explained that they had not lived here for very long and this was a new venture, but they hoped, within a couple of years, that everything would be just as they planned, and perfect. I decided it was not the time to point out that Samantha had less than twelve months in mind for her date, and to just 'go with the flow'. I looked over at the area which was going to be set up for the 'dinner', and was slightly disappointed that they had not appeared to have cleared up from the last event. What a fool I felt when the owner announced, 'We have laid the table so you can get a feel for what to expect'. Things could only get better! Admittedly, the wooded area, with the glade for the ceremony was idyllic. I started to mellow, and my sympathy gene took over. The gene I knew would be the one that would influence the kids, and the reason why I had preferred to be given a fait accomplis rather than have to be a part of the decision. By the time the lady had finished telling us her life story, I was ready to write a cheque! Samantha could see the potential in the venue, but knew it would not be exactly what she wanted by next year. She had informed me that she wanted a sort of redneck wedding, but not that redneck!
It did not help when Mrs Willowy announced that once everything was fixed in the house, they would have to put up the prices. It did not help that when she announced that it would probably take a few years to get everything fixed in the house, and there were so many teething problems. Everyone has to start somewhere, but Samantha felt she did not want to be guinea pig. I commented, in between swatting mosquitoes, that it was a beautiful site, and I could definitely see that the finished article would, indeed, attract a lot of customers. The couple who were following us around had apparently been to see it when it was first purchased, and commented on the improved conditions, and how they hoped there would be more by the time their big day arrived. All I could see was the congregation trying to keep their chairs from toppling into the creek as the downward slant of the ceremonial area would have been marked with a warning sign if it was on a road! However, it was not for me to suggest to the owners how to run their business, and we left with smiles and a potential customer pack in hand. I was trying to look at all the good points, and reasons for hiring, but unfortunately, the only real 'pro' was the price. I am certain that this time next year, the House and gardens will be incredible, but we do not have the luxury of time.
The drive home was meant to be quicker. We were going to follow the signs to the Interstate and enjoy the less scenic but more civilised, and more us kind of way. No matter how much we try, I don't think we will ever really adjust to the laid back way of life that this state offers. I am too fond of my creature comforts, which include petrol stations on every corner, cell phone coverage, and other things, like grocery stores conveniently situated. I am somewhat spoilt in that area, and I appreciate that! However, the signs to the Interstate were not as prevalent as those going in the other direction, and we found ourselves backtracking into town. The red light started to flicker next to the pump sign on the tachometer, and I was flicking the switch by the steering wheel, unhelpfully announcing as to the amount of miles we had left in the tank. Samantha was busy with a pen and paper, letting me know how much more her first choice was going to cost (I am mercenary!) and the breakdown of everything that was included. Peace of mind was at the forefront of her vision, and the sympathy gene became less and less compelling the nearer civilisation we drew.
As Walmart appeared, so my insecurity disappeared, and we stopped to do our weekly shopping, being irritated by rude people and discourteous children. There is no happy medium! Petrol was readily available on every corner we passed, and abundance of food was, once again, taken for granted. Yes, we are blessed, and yes I am thankful, but I make no excuses for being who I am! I started to think of how easy it would be to have a home in the country, which I could hire out for weddings, and realised that the uphill struggle taken on by the couple we had just met, was indeed like climbing a mountain. I admired them more and more as I settled down again, in my comfy chair, by the pool, to take in the last of the sun's rays, before going out to dinner with my husband.
I could hear my father's voice in my head over and over again, when I struggled with the options. 'Why spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar!', he would say. Slightly more than a 'ha'porth' of course, but it is not my responsibility to make someone else's dream a success. Despite his humble background, living through the blitz, and having far less than I could ever imagine, my dad struggled and pulled himself out of an impoverished childhood, (a way of life for most of his contemporaries,) he worked hard to enjoy the 'finer' things in life. If I could afford to do so, I wanted to give my daughter her choice for her special day. (Within reason, of course!)
Samantha emailed her first choice with a list of questions she had forgotten to ask, and to ask if the date was still available. Edward, knowing my moral dilemma, told me that I needed to confirm with the other place, as my denying them the hiring fee would cause a severe setback to Mr and Mrs Willowy. I started to feel slightly guilty until he over played his hand and told me that this time next year they would be in the bankruptcy courts. The wry smile he thought I did not see, further gave him away!
We enjoyed a lovely father's day meal with Edward and Samantha, after a relaxing afternoon by the pool with a neighbour. It was a bitter sweet day all around, as I knew my dad would be so proud of all his grandchildren, and how several of my friends were facing today for the first time, without their dads. Happy Fathers Day to all dads, past and present. I also wish all good things for Mr and Mrs Willowy. The sun is setting on another glorious day in our part of Texas, and I am ready for another week, and ..... another story.