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Charity’s Column: A memorable bridal shower

When my son and his girlfriend finally told us last year they had decided to marry this fall, I cried tears of joy, told them both how much I love them, and made plans to drive to the Finger Lakes ASAP.

As of last summer, we had still not been upstate to meet her family. We had corresponded yes, exchanged gifts of plants at the holidays, of course. But had we discussed how many head of cattle, barrels of oysters and bolts of silk needed to change hands to seal the deal?

That we still needed to do.

So last fall we went to meet her family, and toast the couple. We had a great weekend seeing where she grew up and meeting the new (and extremely adorable) baby who her sister had just given birth to.

I was delighted when a few months later Gretchen’s mom suggested a bridal shower upstate, giving all the females on both sides an opportunity to meet, discuss where they should live, the bridal registry, and maybe even get into such matters as how many children they should have — all within earshot of the long-suffering bride.

For the private, retiring sort of bride, being the center of attention at a bridal shower must be hard. (I love attention, so I wouldn’t know.)

How to remain composed when you have to sit in front of friends and relatives opening gifts while expressing surprise at receiving things you picked out yourself, or delight at receiving things you never imagined you would ever own?

Gretchen sailed through it with grace.

She even held steady during “Advice to the Bride,” that thing where words of wisdom are composed by each guest and read out loud to the bride. Fortunately, Gretchen’s sister was on hand to read the advice, aided by her son who slept sweetly in a carrier attached to her bosom.

These days, a lot of the advice given to brides sounds a little archaic, but having it delivered by her Supermom sister and sweet, tiny nephew was a solid recommendation for a domestic happiness standing right in front of us.

It was a beautiful party, with great food and wine, and the pleasure of meeting people who Gretchen grew up with. We rode home at the end of the weekend in a haze of happy anticipation, and the next morning I was in a dentist’s chair in Greenport when I felt my stomach rumble.

Walking back to the ferry, I was not well.

At home, I texted the family: “Gastric mayhem! Is everyone else O.K?”

Green-face emojis arrived from bride, and sister-in-law, followed by Gretchen’s mom. My mother-in-law-in-arms reported that Gretchen’s dad had retired to the far end of the house hours ago, and come to think of it, she hadn’t heard from him, save a request for ginger ale. 

This sounded ominous.

Gretchen was the first to report that the scene in her bathroom was right out of Bridesmaids, the 2011 movie in which food poisoning hilariously strikes a wedding party trying on bridesmaid dresses.

Her observation went viral, as one shower guest after another turned up sick, and I collapsed on my sofa like Melissa McCarthy going over the back of the white silk, tufted-back settee in the movie.

In the end, about half of the guests got sick, and others reported having recently recovered from a stomach bug with the same symptoms, that was making the rounds in Westchester County. Like everyone else, after 12 hours of intense discomfort (shorter than childbirth, but without the exciting payoff at the end) I recovered completely.

Only thing is, there is now a patch of weeds in a vacant lot in Greenport that I can never pass by again without clutching my stomach.

I guess nothing helps forge strong relationships like shared experience. And when that experience is brief, harrowing, and ends well, it’s even better.

I’ve been thinking about Bruce Springsteen all week. He’s singing, “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all be funny.” It’s too soon to laugh about it now, but there will be a time when our families will gather and tell the story and laugh hard.

It’s the adventure of a lifetime we are all embarking on, and if we’re lucky there will be more super-spreader parties and unwanted advice and we’ll live long enough to laugh at all of it.

Now that we’ve survived the bridal shower, it will be a breeze.