Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Unhelpful Hints

Right after Rebekah announced her engagement I decided to Google "what are the duties of the mother of the bride?" As is often the case when you Google a question the first thing that came up was an About.com article. It had the promising subtitle of "Role and Responsibilities of the Mother of the Bride."

As I read through the list of responsibilities I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. For instance, there was this little gem:

"Choose your mother-of-the-bride dress as soon as possible, then let the groom's mother know what you have picked. If possible, send her a swatch of the fabric and/or pictures so that she can look for a gown that will compliment yours."

Let's deconstruct this short paragraph. Note it is talking about choosing a dress as soon as possible. I am still at the stage of contemplating whether or not I can get away with wearing my Birkenstock sandals if it is an outdoor wedding. The word dress isn't even on my radar.

If I am considering the possibility of wearing Birkenstocks does it sound like I would be picking the kind of dress that you could harvest a swatch of fabric from?

And is there the possibility that sending Anton's mom a picture of what I might be wearing to the wedding might scare her so badly that she tries to talk him out of marrying into our family for fear whatever I have might be contagious?

Gown? Gown? That was one of the bits that made me laugh.

And then there was this one:

"If you haven't already met, contact the groom's parents and arrange to meet."

There are a few problems with this one. For starters Anton's parents live in Toronto. We live in Kamloops. There are approximately 3200 km (1900 miles) between our homes, which doesn't make for an easy day trip. But this hurdle is not nearly as high as the next one.

Anton's parents speak very little English. Their native language is Russian. My Russian vocabulary is confined to one small phrase, a phrase that if used would probably cause a lot more damage to future relationships than a picture of any potential mother of the bride dress could ever inflict. It is a phrase familiar to every well-educated person North of 49. "Nyet, nyet Soviet."

Let me explain. When I immigrated to Canada in 1980 it quickly became clear that in order to fit in and be a part of this great country I needed to know certain facts. Well, actually, just one fact. You might be thinking that would have been the words to the national anthem, how many provinces and territories there are, or who was prime minister at the time. Sorry. You would be wrong.

What I was expected to know and take pride in was this. In 1972 a series of hockey games pitted Canada against the Soviet Union. In what is arguably the most famous moment in Canadian history Canada scored a goal in the final seconds of the final game, giving them a series victory. Think of it as the Canadian version of "the shot heard round the world." Paul Henderson, a name familiar to all Canadians, scored what was later dubbed "the goal of the century." To give you an idea of just how famous this winning goal and the player who scored it are, the jersey he wore when he scored that goal sold at auction last summer for over a million dollars. To a Canadian.

"Nyet, nyet Soviet became the rallying cry of that series. It worked in 1972, but I don't think it is going to score me any points in 2011. So there you have it. I might be a failure as the mother of the bride, but at least I have been a success at assimilating into my adopted country. After all, only a true Canadian could fit wedding plans and hockey into the same blog post.


  1. Fell off my chair laughing. Hockey and wedding plans -- Canadian indeed!

  2. LOL! You inspired a great idea, but like all of my great ideas I'm sure someone else (or many someone elses) has already done it--a wedding on the hockey ice! Could that be the Canadian equivalent of a US "Elvis" wedding in Vegas?

    My two brothers got married about a month apart. I remember my mom scrambling to figure out what to wear. I'm positive she recycled one of those dresses when I took my turn a few years later.

  3. @kate - I guess the thing is you have to be Canadian to appreciate that it is indeed "Canadian" to wrk hockey into any topic. Glad I was able to give you a laugh!

    @Ric - So you are saying they should have a Canada-Russian rematch on the ice? :-)

  4. May I ask where did you emigrate from? I think you can't make any mistakes, as you are probably one of the coolest moms I know :) At this point, I can only have some small talk with my girlfriend's parents, but I think even if I was very fluent, there would still be a big wall between us, because they're conservative and have some concerns about their daughter dating a foreigner. It's not easy for me, because I always try hard to make a good impression on everybody and usually get along well with everyone I come across... But well. I'm sure it'll be better in the future.

  5. @MKL - I was born in the US, then married a Canadian and moved to Canada. Thanks for the compliment about my mothering skills. :-) I think my kids might beg to differ with you though!

    Hang in there. You will eventually win over your girlfriend's parents once they see how much you care for their daughter. Be patient with them. It will just take them some time to adjust.

  6. Oh, my... talk about unhelpful hints...or old fashioned ones... talk about "nyet soviet"... i was forced to learn russian in school, for eight years...yet i cannot ask for a glass of water in russian. But I can recite the two first verse of the Katusa song anytime :-)

  7. @peony - Thanks for sharing. Now I don't feel so bad about my lack of Russian! :-) And yes, the hints were very old fashioned.