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Our neighbor’s daughter Doris and I were flower girls. It was my aunt’s wedding. Only, twenty-eight years later I learned she was both my aunt and my mother. I was confused, but I would have been more confused back then. Doris was nine and I was seven. We were allowed to wear lipstick for the wedding. She knew all about it— how you were supposed to press your lips together after the stretch and pucker; then blot the excess off on tissue paper. How she said to watch and see, brides often fainted midway through the ceremony. How of course you’d run out of air, what with all that ivory lace and satin tightly cinched around a growing waistline.

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On my own wedding day no coterie of girls my age, nor friends, came to giggle and fuss, powder and pencil, fill in the outlines of me. Instead there were Judith and Emily, two women my father knew from work, who came with their pots and pancakes, their lipsticks and feathered blushes. What did I know? I did not own any myself. They braided my hair and lay the plait across the top of my head. Eighteen, but I was a cross between milkmaid and novice: flushed cheeks, severe high-collared gown, long sleeves buttoned at the wrists. Beautiful, they pronounced. I looked, but didn’t see anyone I recognized.

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At the reception, one of father’s wealthy cousins paid the whole tab on the open bar. I heard there was a drunken brawl afterward in the parking lot. The details don’t even matter— such things often began with something simple. Ukininam; lukdit mo. Fuck you; dickhead. The piano kept on playing.

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In the money dance, the guests come up with bills and silver seamstress’ pins. There is some sort of contest to see which side— the groom’s or bride’s— will paper them with the most money. We sprout shingles, little pennants on sleeves, my skirt, my veil. As the music plays we grow uneven armor, a blue-green covering shot through with many gaping holes.

1 Comment


  1. I like the Ilocano cusswords uttered before the brawl. This time around, did you do these rituals for Julia’s wedding? Nostalgic.

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