Monday, December 5, 2011

My Sister is Wile E. Coyote

by Kathleen Bradean

If anyone from my family reads this, I'll probably be cut off forever. That's added incentive to post it.

My middle sister is like Wile E. Coyote of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Not the evil genius part. Not the roadrunner obsessed part. Nope. She's living proof that ignorance is bliss, just like when Wile E. Coyote runs off the edge of a cliff. He's perfectly fine as long as he doesn't realize that he's run off a cliff, but the moment the cloud of dust disappears and he looks down at the tiny trickle of a river far, far below him, he plummets.

She was seven months pregnant and my parents had pressured her into getting married. At the time, I lived in California, our eldest sister lived in Virginia, my parents lived in Maryland, and she lived in Denver. So she didn't have any family nearby to help her plan anything, which maybe is part of her excuse, but deep in my heart, I feel she was standing on clouds and not looking down the way she's done pretty much all of her life.

Two days before the wedding, we converged on Denver from our respective corners of the continental US. She'd told all of us that we could stay at the house she shared with her fiancee. What she didn't tell us was that it was a tiny two bedroom/ one bath house. Eldest sister and I came without our families, so we gamely took the couch cushions and blankets to make beds on the floor like we'd done back in our fort building days. My parents took the second bedroom. Cozy, but good enough.

At dinner, eldest sister starts asking a few questions about the wedding ceremony, such as where will it be and what time, since we never received official invitations. As she pried the sketchy details out of middle sister, we came to the rather horrifying conclusion that middle sister hadn't planned anything. Nothing. Okay - she had someone to officiate and she thought (thought!) that she'd ordered a cake. She wasn't sure how many people were coming. She wasn't sure what time the ceremony was supposed to take place. She thought maybe she'd hold it in her living room (cue both eldest sister and I leaning back in our chairs at the kitchen table to get a good look at our fort-bed that took 90% of the floor space in the tiny living room, exchanging a look with raised eyebrows, and leaning back forward again). I asked about a photographer. She asked if I'd brought my camera. Eldest sister asked what she planned to wear. She said she wanted to go shopping the next day. I asked what she planned to serve her guests, because just cake and beverages is actually cool (there's no rule that a wedding be a huge catered event) but it would be nice if we maybe picked up some beverages, maybe some champagne for a toast, and maybe, just maybe, we should double check with the bakery that she'd actually ordered a cake. She said that she wanted a buffet to serve her guests too. So I volunteered to spend the next day cooking my ass off to whip up a spread for an indeterminate amount of people while eldest sister vowed to take on the decorations and dress shopping.

We only had one rental car, so eldest sister and I decided to make one big shopping trip, bring everything back to the house, and split the tasks from there. We fell asleep that night thinking we had matters well in hand. *rueful shake of the head* We should have known that even the best laid plans of Wile E. Coyote fail spectacularly.

The first task was to find a dress for middle sister. She wanted to wear white for her wedding. Did I mention that she was seven months pregnant at the time? Yeah. They don't make a lot of maternity dresses in white. But after three hours of driving from one end of Denver to the other (this was before cell phones and internet) we actually found one. Yay for us! Next we hit up a craft store. Middle sister wanted a veil with handmade headpiece just like eldest sister had for her wedding. I told her flat out no, we didn't have time. This is one of the many reasons she hates me. Eldest sister sighed and bought the supplies. We envisioned making an archway of silk flowers for her to stand under for the ceremony, managed our expectations down to a balloon arch, and finally settled for a couple nice big flower arrangements. Middle sister didn't like the types of flowers in the arrangements. I pointed out that with less than twenty four hours to go, she didn't have much choice. That didn't go over well. Eldest sister shelled out big bucks to the florist for a rush job with the flowers middle sister wanted. By then, I was exhausted and entertaining thoughts of strangling middle sister. Instead, we headed to the super market and started an infuriating discussion about what I could cook with the time we had left versus middle sister's vision of her wedding spread. But we compromised and everything was a peachy as it could be given the circumstances, so we finally headed back to her place.

It was like buying instant wedding in a box from Acme.

In our absence, two remarkable changes had transformed middle sister's house. Since it was the week before Thanksgiving (the only reason this qualifies as a holiday story), our mother decided to cook a Thanksgiving feast. The tiny kitchen was a disaster area. (In high school, I actually wrote a story where her spaghetti sauce was used to torture prisoners on a space ship.) But that wasn't the biggest shock. Pop decided that the toilet and sink in her house needed to be replaced so he ripped them out and put them on the front lawn. (for the record, the toilet and sink were working just fine. he just got a bug up his ass about it. while visiting eldest sister one time, he woke the entire house at three in the morning because he didn't like the way their heater sounded, and he wanted them to shut it off and rip it out right them. in the middle of one of New York's coldest winters, when they had a newborn. So this sort of thing isn't unprecedented. We just keep hoping it will never happen again.)

Six people in a house with no bathroom, the kitchen completely off limits, a toilet on the front lawn and now only twenty hours left before an untold number of people showed up expecting a wedding. My parents were there for the entire "how will we pull off this wedding" conversation, but completely ignored it. Middle sister obviously inherited the oblivious to reality gene from both sides, so one can hardly blame her. My parents though... no bathroom for twenty four hours? Come on, Pop? Really? (The answer to that is always yes.)

Too late to make this a short story, but eldest sister and I got up at two in the morning to start cleaning the house. I was cooking by three. Eldest sister was hard at work making a ribbon and silk flower headpiece and sewing on a veil. By eight in the morning, we'd already driven to two different gas stations to use the bathroom and brush our teeth. While we were gone the second time, middle sister disappeared. (it turns out that she went to work and while she was on the way there, she picked up her cake and left it sitting in her car) Mom made us sit down at noon to choke down Thanksgiving dinner. Pop had the new toilet and sink installed by one in the afternoon. At some point, the old toilet was moved from the front lawn to the garage. The guests showed up ten minutes later. As did the preacher. Middle sister waltzed back in (okay, pregnant waddled) half an hour after that. With the melting cake.

I forgot to mention that in all of that, we had to run out and buy a wedding band for her. And no, her fiancee didn't get involved in any of this. As far as he was concerned, it was a shotgun affair, and his entire part was showing up.

Anyway, the wedding happened, and middle sister was perfectly happy with everything. Why wouldn't she be? She was floating on clouds, oblivious to any peril, while the rest of us worked like crazy to construct bridges under her feet so she wouldn't fall - like always. Ignorance is bliss. The stress of knowledge can kill you.


  1. This has got to be true, Kathleen. Because even with your imagination, you couldn't have totally made this up!

    Incredible. And definitely a good fit for the topic!

  2. Lisabet - completely true story. My oldest sister is a saint. The rest of the family....

  3. I'm glad you didn't make this long story short. I got so many laughs out of it!

    And part of it is, because I know a Wile E. Coyote type or two in real life. But I don't think any of them can match up to your middle sister.

    Excellent tale!

  4. Craig - nothing says "welcome guests" like a toilet on the front lawn. We laughed through the entire thing because even for us it was beyond absurd.

    The thing I wonder about is if the Wile E. Coyotes of this world would manage just fine without us. Maybe we should just let them run over the chasms, happy and oblivious to the concept of falling. They'd probably make it to the other side unscathed.

  5. I couldn't stop thinking about this story, Kathleen. Funny as it is, I realized that it also showcases your family's ability to roll with the punches - especially you and your oldest sis. It's actually very impressive that you didn't just throw up your hands and leave. I probably would have. The lack of a bathroom would have been the last straw...

  6. That was insane. W.E.C.'s always survive. What hold does your sister have over you?

  7. Widdershins - Who can explain family dynamics? It's love, duty, habit, survivial, and collective insanity.

  8. Lisabet - Walking away never occured to me, especially after our parents started adding to the problem instead of helping. That's the last time we really marshalled our forces and pulled something off together (meaning the sisters) so with all the craziness, that event holds a special place in my heart.

  9. Wow, Kathleen. This would make a great story in a collection of cliffhangers, true or fictional. Yours doesn't need to be embellished.

  10. Hi Kathleen!

    i can just hear the Looney Tunes music. There is something weirdly ill fated about this wedding - the groom didn;t buy her a ring? I have this theory that men are expected to buy insanely expensive diamond rings as a residual evolutionary token, showing the potential female mate they're propserous and all and can provide for said offspring and therefore should be granted generous mating priveleges by the female. that didn;t seem to work here. Did their marriage turn out okay?


  11. Garce - my parents forced the wedding and then a few years later coerced her into a divorce. What they accomplished by all that, I have no idea. He was a decent guy, and had certainly done nothing to deserve dealing with us.

    As a side note, middle sister writes me an annual letter about how I'm the scum of the earth. (I wasn't kidding when I said that she hates me) In the P.S. one year, she informed me that she'd lost her wedding ring and this time she wanted me to get her a bigger diamond.

    Needless to say, I ignored her.


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