It’s Christmas Eve and the drummer and I are on a bus, again. We’re visiting my family this time. The drummer wakes up from napping, peels his cheek off the cold window and says, “I just dreamt that we ruined your sister’s engagement.” Taking it as a sign, I text her for the fifth time, “We’ll be there in 30 minutes.”
The back story.
December 20: My big sister and her boyfriend arrive at my parents’ house for the holidays.
December 22: My sister’s boyfriend, a history buff, tells her he’d like to take a driving and walking tour of Pennsylvania’s historic Valley Forge park on Christmas Eve day. We spent every winter of our childhood there, sledding down rolling hills.
Morning, December 23: Over the phone, my sister agrees to pick the drummer and I up from the Valley Forge bus depot at 10:30 AM the next day. She mentions the park tour. I invite us along. Sounds fun.
Evening, December 23: The history buff asks my parents for permission to marry my sister and shows them a big, round diamond, but no ring. He’d rather wait for her to choose the setting. Smart. He plans to propose at the park. It would be more romantic if the drummer and I weren’t watching from the back seat when he does so.
12:01 AM, December 24: With my sister finally asleep, my dad calls me. Seeing the caller ID and time, I imagine some awful tragedy at the other end. I answer, yelp at the good news and agree to feign exhaustion rather than go to the park.
8:00 AM, December 24: New York and Philadelphia are being pelted with freezing rain. The loudspeaker in Manhattan’s Port Authority announces a delay. Our bus arrives an hour late and the remainder of the morning is spent frantically texting estimated arrival times–adjusted for traffic–in hopes of leaving my sister enough daylight for the park tour; hence the nightmare.
12:30 PM, December 24: We make it. While my sister takes us home, the history buff covertly checks Doppler weather maps on his Blackberry, waiting for the rain to lift. My sister, unsuspecting, supremely tough, and philosophical without meaning to be, drops us off, tightens the lace to her Bernardo Sahara Boot and says, “It’s just rain, let’s go anyway.”
It didn’t strike me at the time, but it seems fitting mention that the Bernardo Company has had an enviably long and happy life. It was founded in 1947 by Bernard Rudofsky, a designer who bucked the trends in favor of lasting motifs and shaping a shoe with the form of a person’s foot in mind. A good choice on my sister’s part.
So go they do, propose he does (the rain even let up), and their new life begins. From the second they step in the back door of our parents’ house, officially engaged, my head is swimming with dainty wedding details, including delicate white lace heels.
A few days later, despite wedding plans flying, my enduring vision of them doesn’t include the fancy, clean, elegance of their upcoming nuptials. It’s my sister and her fiancé, damp with rain and mud, faces flushed, both wearing the kind of boots that will be around–muddied and left in the hall, then cleaned and muddied, again and again–as they build a life together, complete with bad weather and a fretting, loving, and enduringly inconvenient family.