It’s the end of May and the beginning of wedding season. We spent Memorial Day weekend in Livermore at the wedding of Alamedan Victoria Bray, whom we’ve known since she was a kindergartner at St. Joseph’s Elementary School.
As part of the extended Nackerman family entourage, Tori spent countless afternoons playing at our house on Burbank Street. She stood out in the group — a lanky exotic Pacific Islander in a sea of blue-eyed towheads. (My husband, Si maintains that she is the loveliest of all our daughters’ friends, and believe you me — they have a boatload of beautiful friends.)
In grammar school, Tori and the Nackermans were like siblings to our daughters. When I needed groceries, I would pile all seven into and around my shopping cart, ignoring scornful looks from other shoppers that said, “Who is this woman with seven children? Hasn’t she heard of birth control? And who was the father of that brunette?”
Ann Nackerman, Lolly Bray and I would trade child care and carpooling. In the morning when I swung by to pick up carpool, someone would holler, “Alice is here!” The youngest Nackerman, Colin, thought that “Alice-is-here” was my name.
Knowing I would see everyone in one place for the first time in years, I was excited for the weekend. And it was a sure bet that Tori would be a stunning bride.
Her aunties and mother made her dress from scratch. Because she is more slender than a standard dress form, they wrapped her in an old T-shirt, cellophane and duct tape, then sliced it up the back to build a mannequin to her exact measurements. (Add it to the list of “101 Uses for Duct Tape.”) They entered numbers in spreadsheets to calculate the exact yardage required, then cut and hand-frayed yards upon yards of ivory silk ribbon to stitch together into the finished piece. Somewhere sewn into layers of petticoats is a strip with the words, “Made with love from your aunties and mother.”
In our house, shirts in need of a button end up at the Salvation Army. I told my daughters that as much as I love them, if they ever wanted a dress like that, I would just swallow hard, put it on a credit card and figure out how to pay for it later.
As I watched the bridal party cross the lawn between rows of white chairs, I recognized Alamedans on both sides of the aisle. Jennifer Steed, one of Sarah’s all-time favorite St. Joe’s teachers, was among them. (Even though Jen is married with children of her own now, our family will refer to her as “Miss Steed” forever.)
While we waited for the wedding party to take photos, I sat down at the “kids' table” to catch up on the latest news. The youngest Nackerman, Colin, is a recent high school grad and proud to be the tallest in his family. (Between you and me, Colin, that’s not saying much, but be proud. Be darned proud.) He is deciding between a college in Virginia and UCSB. As a card-carrying member of Mothers United, I tried to sway him toward Santa Barbara. But I know he will thrive wherever he lands.
I am pleased to report that Emily’s childhood buddy, Garrett, has moved back into the Nackerman basement on Benton Avenue. With Emily in our basement and Carrie in town as well, I’m hoping for more extended family reunions.
Carrie’s beau, Alex, was good-natured about my interrogation to ensure he was Carrie-worthy. (He passed, and then received extra credit late in the evening for hoisting a ladder onto his broad shoulders to take down the multiple strands of glass light bulbs he installed earlier that day.)
At dinnertime, I headed inside to find my table. Glasses clanked, the bride and groom kissed, and Tori’s father, Ren, gave a toast to his daughter. He couldn’t keep his voice from breaking. I managed to hold it together until halfway through the slideshow when I saw a photo of best friends Tori and Carrie, side by side, taken about the time I first met them.
After a delicious meal, we headed outside to dance. The groom, Brad Schuler, grew up performing with his Aunt Marnell’s West Coast Dance Theatre. (Our daughter, Sarah danced with Dance 10 — Marnell’s competition.) With former child dance stars on the floor and the contagious choreography of the 14-piece Michael Jackson cover band Foreverland, I still have the lyrics, “Jenny are you ok? Are you ok, Jenny?” stuck in my head. Si and I danced with our daughters in the open courtyard under the first-quarter moon until my bare feet begged me to stop.
At breakfast in the hotel lobby the next morning, it felt just like old times — Lolly on one side and Ann on the other. The mother of the bride looked quite glamorous with fake eyelashes still attached from the night before. As we ate toasted bagels and Belgian waffles from the do-it-yourself waffle iron, we laughed about the varied strengths of our over-the-counter reading glasses and Ren’s hearing aids being on the blink.
I hated to be the first to say goodbye but, true to form, I had procrastinated a deadline and needed to get home. Ann said, “It’s nice to know that some things never change, Alice.”
These people know me well. Only good friends are comfortable being quite that candid.
Riding back to Alameda in the car together, Sarah said, “Hey Dad — Molly Nackerman just put a picture of you, her dad and Ren on facebook! She posted, ‘Three of my favorite men.’”
Thank you for including us in a memorable weekend, Bray family. And heartfelt best wishes to the new Mr. and Mrs. Schuler for a truly “Happily Ever After!” You’re off to an excellent start.