So we watched the Royal Wedding, my friend Julia and I. For reasons to be explained later, we found ourselves among fine veterans for the weekend, at the VFW campground in Wilkes County.
We were at a bit of impasse. We were headed for Merlefest, and we were not willing to miss a second of music and campfire, and we were also not willing to miss the fairy tale spectacle. Or the fashion debacles. There was nothing for it, really, but to e-mail the vets and explain our predicament. They couldn’t have been nicer. “Your can use our lodge t.v.,” the campground manager wrote. I may have greased the wheels by offering a six-pack. But they didn’t insist on it.
We checked in at the VFW on Thursday, twelve hours before the big event. At the desk, we inquired about the t.v. situation. “What time does it start?” our new campground manager friend, Alex, asked. “Five a.m.,” we said. Much to his credit, Alex did not flinch. “I’ll be sleeping on this cot. You’ll have to knock loud and wake me up.”
We did not want to do that. We are not that demanding. We are not campground prima donnas. But the wedding was starting in twelve hours, and we did not have a back-up plan. “Oh, Alex, we won’t wake you; why don’t we just sneak past you and get ourselves situated in the morning?” said Julia.
“Oh, you’d better wake me,” said Alex. “If I hear someone sneaking past, and I get startled, I’ll shoot your asses before I know what I’ve done.”
I was not interested in having our asses shot. So I agreed to knock loudly.
5:00 turned into 5:30, but it was still dark when I dragged my chilly, campground-damp self outside the tent. Our friend Leslie could not be motivated to join us. Julia’s resolve flagged, but then she remembered that watching everyone arrive is the best part of a huge event. Particularly when royalty is involved. So we knocked timidly on the lodge door, and- nothing. I gave Julia the big eyes, bit my lip, and knocked again, like I had an invitation to the wedding itself. (I did not, and therefore it rankles me even more that they let Posh Spice in, with her stuck-up little hat.)
After the knock which would wake the dead, we heard a small fracas from the direction of the cot. There were belt buckles, and stomps, and throat clearings, and expostulations.
“He’s getting dressed,” I said to Julia.
“Good,” was the only possible reply.
Wordlessly, Alex opened the door, led us to the VFW lounge, and found our channel. He tossed a few words of sleep language at us, pinwheeled out of the room, and went back to bed.
We proceeded to have a big time, there in the VFW lounge with the volume turned way down low. I reminisced about getting up before dawn with my Mom to watch Charles & Di’s wedding, on pillows and blankets on a hotel room floor, while the rest of the family slept behind us. Julia has vivid memories of watching that wedding at a friend’s house, which is funny because she hadn’t been born yet. It took her close to two decades to figure out that she had seen the wedding on videotape.
Bu these things stay with you. The thirty foot train, and the little flower girls, and the crowds lining the carriage route, hoping to catch a glimpse at the fairy tale parading by. Even though we know that it ended badly, and it was never what it looked like to start with, and everyone involved was flawed; she was still a princess. Back then, the only way it could have been more magical, is if she had also been a ballerina.
Julia, by the way, was the perfect person to be with for an event like this, because she gave flawless commentary on everyone involved. She’s also good at fashion assessments on the fly, and doesn’t judge those of us who bring disco balls for the tent and want to get up at 5:30 to watch overseas weddings of people we don’t know. But I already knew that about Julia. What I surprised me is that our friend Alex turned out to be equally full of commentary. After about half an hour of shut-eye, Alex returned to us, fully dressed and surprisingly chipper. At first he heckled us just a little, saying things like, “How are all the tiaras?” in mock girl-talk. But then we all got down to real girl talk.
“I really don’t like her veil,” said Alex. “I mean, the dress is perfect, and I appreciate that it’s really tasteful for Westminster Abbey, and the lace looks great. But she should show her face. Oh, and that’s Lady Di’s tiara she’s wearing.”
“Who in the world is that in the crazy hat?” asked Julia.
“The Dutchess of Cornwall,” said Alex. “And that hat looks like a spaceship landed on her.”
Other vets wandered in and out of the lodge, there to work on the early morning breakfast for the campers. They all walked in, made fun of the royals, and considered teasing us. Alex cut them all off before they could start. “These girls pre-arranged,” he stated clearly. “I gave them permission on e-mail, and I’m a man of my word.”
So the happy couple got hitched, and most of the guests wore atrocious outfits, and we loved the trees in Westminster Abbey and the carriage ride. And then we ate the full $6 VFW breakfast in celebration, and went back to bed.
We took Alex the promised beer. I had a plastic tiara, silver with blue butterflies, in my back seat, because I am just that way. Julia suggested that we tuck it into the six pack, which we did. And now I am pretty sure we are all friends for life.