23. Umbrella Chairs

23. Umbrella Chairs

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Umbrella Chairs

The best advice is this: Don’t take advice and don’t give advice.

~Author Unknown

She wanted large; I wanted small. She wanted an event to remember; I wanted intimate with only close friends. She wanted country club; I wanted backyard. She wanted a six-course meal; I wanted chocolate cake and champagne. It went on like this until she suggested umbrella chairs, and I said I wasn’t coming to my own wedding. In retrospect, what my mother wanted was very generous and done with tons of love. However, what my mother wanted wasn’t me. Sam and I had been living together for several years. We were just going through a formality. My mother was the one who wanted a party. We would have been happy making it formal with just a handful of our closest relatives and friends.

The “discussion” came to a head on an unusually warm Sunday in April. After several phone calls from Mom, I told her we were going out. This was before cell phones, so the ongoing stressful wedding conversation would have to wait until I got back. That’s when Mom started calling the machine. I was sitting by the answering machine with Sam, listening to my mother’s messages as they came through.

“It’s Mom. I’m sitting in the backyard. It’s about noon. Since you’re insisting on doing YOUR WEDDING in the backyard, I just wanted you to know that it is already very hot out here. In August, it will be sweltering. This isn’t a good idea.” That was the first message.

A few minutes later, she called again. “I’m still in the backyard. It’s 12:05. We need a tent. We need a large tent with some kind of air conditioning pumped in. People will melt if they have to be out here in the heat of the summer. That’s how hot it is. You’ll have to have ambulances on call.”

Continuing her one-sided dialogue, she left a third message. “It’s Mom again. Are you sure you don’t want to just do this at a country club? CALL ME BACK!”

I told Sam I wanted to elope.

The messages continued.

“It’s Mom. I don’t think the backyard is large enough for a tent.”

“It’s Mom. I don’t know why you have to be so stubborn. A country club would be so nice. All you would have to do is SHOW UP. We can tell the orchestra that you don’t want to do a first dance and the caterer that you don’t want to make a fuss about cutting a cake.”

“It’s your mother. I was thinking. If I cut all my second cousins and friends I haven’t seen in over two years off the list, I can get it down to 150.”

“It’s Mom. In August, it’s also very humid. This backyard wedding idea of yours is inhumane. People will die, and then we’ll be planning funerals.”

“It’s Mom. I’ve got it! This is brilliant: UMBRELLA CHAIRS!”

On that, Sam looked at me and asked, “What’s an umbrella chair?”

“It’s Mom, the one who carried you for almost ten months and was in horrible labor for a week before you decided to make your entrance. Umbrella chairs will solve all the problems.”

I picked up the phone before she hung up. “What’s an umbrella chair?”

“So you were home.”

“We just walked in. What’s an umbrella chair?”

“You know. Chairs with umbrellas on them to block the sun. I’ll bet we can get them to match whatever color you choose for your wedding. We can even have cup holders on the chairs so people who are prone to heat stroke can have a glass of water. We can have the umbrellas removable so the guests can carry them around when they’re not sitting.”

“And if it rains, Mom, they won’t get wet!” I added, with a definite tone of sarcasm.

Sam scribbled on a pad and put it in front of my face. “Your mother has lost it,” I read. Then, “Don’t fight!”

There was a long pause from my mom. Then she said, “You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?”

“No,” I said. “But umbrella chairs are stupid. If you order umbrella chairs, I’m not coming.”

“Then how will we keep everyone comfortable?” she asked, in all sincerity.

“We won’t, Mom. If they’re too hot, they’ll eat fast, leave a present, congratulate us, and go home early. Then Sam and I can get back to our apartment and start making babies.”

“Making babies?” my mother asked.

“Sure. Why else do you think we’re getting married?”

At that, my mom sighed, “Babies…”

I got my small backyard wedding on one of the hottest days recorded for that day in August. People came dressed comfortably and commented on the heat, but no one complained. We handed out “Sam and Felice, August 1, 1982” spray bottles and champagne as each person arrived in case anyone needed to cool down. It was a wonderful wedding. My mother did hire a caterer because “You can’t just serve chocolate cake and champagne, Felice.”

And Sam and I went home… to make babies.

~Felice Prager

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