The first dress arrived today. It came regular mail, from Nordstrom's in Seattle. No one knows if it fits or how it looks. On the hanger, it looks great.
This, I've been informed, is the dress for the party. There will be another for the actual service. For Friday night, business casual will suffice. I wish this were evidence that we're nearing the big day, but it's not.
As it turns out, it will be the dress for neither the service or the party. Demonstrating the risks involved with mail order apparel, Sandra Bullock just strode into the living room wearing a frown. "I don't love it," she said.
Maybe this is why you order a dress almost eight months prior to your event. She should have listened to me. I was lukewarm from the start.
Last night, we nailed down the place settings. Napkin rings were the missing link. You may not have given much thought to the orientation of your eating utensils at the last Bar or Bat Mitzvah you attended. Would you have payed closer attention had you known that nothing was left to chance? If you had known that endless prototypes of fork/knife/spoon strategies had been carefully assembled months prior, considered, scrapped and re-considered and generally paid the kind of attention usually reserved for large-scale government operations?
Had you seen the level of detail considered on our kitchen table the previous January, you would want to lift that perfect place setting above your head like Kunta Kinte's father raised his newborn child over his, saying to the sky, "Behold, the only thing greater than yourself!"
Maybe I'm being dramatic. She spent a lot of time on those things, though. Really. And they came out perfect, as far as I can tell.
No less time than is being spent on every detail of this thing, though. Last night, as I counted down the minutes until the ten o'clock showing of "Men of a Certain Age" on TNT, my bride, looking as youthful as the day we met, sat at her computer, contemplating escort cards.
Escort cards are not a keepsake you might pick up at a particularly business-like brothel. In fact, they're not even always cards. Frankly, I'd thought that by yesterday, our long national nightmare over the escort cards was over. We'd considered Chinese takeout cartons (concealing fortune cookies, even) and even individual rocks. All had fallen far short of the ideal.
Sandra Bullock was not satisfied. While both ideas were original, they were impractical -- either too expensive (cartons), or, as a particularly wise member of our household quickly pointed out, not the kind of thing you want to put in the hands of a group of 13-year-old boys (rocks).
Last week, I don't know where or when, she suddenly produced a roll of wrapping paper that she loved. Since then, she's been trying to find ways to use it. So far it's appeared in the centerpieces. As of last night it looks like a good bet to show up in the escort cards as well.
I previewed three different looks, all featuring the aforementioned wrapping paper. All were compact and neat, and sought different ways to present the information so crucial to an escort cards -- the information that makes an escort card an escort card: the guest's name and table assignment.
How could it be so simple? Could our escort cards really wind up being little cardboard triangles covered with cool wrapping paper? How conventional.
Maybe that was what was amiss with each simple model. The answer simply could not be so obvious, so Sandra Bullock returned to her laptop, where hundreds, no thousands of party supply sites awaited.
"You can find anything on here," she told me at one point.
There are times that I feel like I'm not holding up my end of this deal. Other than chronicling the run-up to our August 21 Bar Mitzvah, attending retreats against my will and taking a real interest in finding the actual venues -- hotel, restaurant, yacht club (for the party) -- I haven't done much in preparation for my son's ascent into manhood. Even as I write this, I'm wondering if I'm correct about those place set-ups. Was it just napkin rings that they were so enthusiastic about, or was it the whole set-up? I remember they liked whatever they did much, much more than they liked the escort cards. The contrast was stunning.
When I see the obvious joy my wife takes from browsing hundreds of party supply sites, the level of commitment she puts toward creating centerpieces eight-and-a-half months before the actual event or the serious consternation shopping online for a dress causes her, I realize a couple of things:
First, I am reminded at how she loathes idleness. Nature may abhor a vacuum. My wife loves a vacuum, especially a Dyson. What she loathes is free time, and I've had seventeen-plus years to get used to that.
At first, I thought the frenzy of activity was in response to my lack of movement, like she was making up for me so we'd add up to complete when put together. As the years have passed, I've decided that's partially true. Nothing makes her as happy as when I exhibit some signs of industriousness. "You emptied the dishwasher!"
What's equally true is that my Sandra Bullock loves herself some sustained activity. When the activity is over, she goes to sleep.
This event, with its multi-layered, extensive checklist of things to research, buy and assemble, she has found a perfect way to fill the evenings I spend reading, watching TV or doing crossword puzzles. Or writing in here.
Sometimes I imagine how successful she would have been as a wedding planner, or as a person who puts together corporate events. Had not she heard the siren song of the lab, she could have found equal success in any field requiring organization, enthusiasm and stellar project management skills.
Those of you reading this who are with us on August 21, seven months and twenty-seven days from now, will see the culmination not of a frenzied month-long period of activity but the organically occuring, well-organized results of almost a year of planning. So far we've felt the crushing weight of the scope of this event not at all. I don't expect to feel it until the Friday before, when people start arriving and I realize that there is no way we'll be able to spend a sufficient amount of time with any one of our guests.