This is my maid of honor, my sister Heelya, whose real name is Holly. I’m a sucker for nicknames and whenever I give them, they tend to stick, so beware. When Holly and I were kids, she reminded me of Amelia Bedelia, the absent-minded, but endearing protagonist in those little paperbacks by Peggy Parish, so I started calling her Heelya Bedelia. I even wrote a song to go with the name, but whenever I sing it, she turns into The Hulk so I’ll keep my mouth shut and just say that Holly is 11 months and 29 days younger than me. She’s a funny girl, mostly because she doesn’t even know she’s funny. Up until three weeks ago, she and my best friend Ro (see below) worked at the same school in Buffalo, and Ro used to say, “Your sister is so stinkin’ funny. I just piss my pants when I’m around her.” Heelya likes to poke her head out of shrubbery and/or flowers, especially when she’s having her picture taken. She has mad art skills and a pug named Owen Oscar. She moved to Conway, S.C. a few weeks ago with her boyfriend Brian, who reads this Lance more often than she does. Together they enjoy 1 a.m.Walmart runs and hiking through enchanted forests. They are quite possibly the most compatible yin-yang couple I know. Ro and I are taking bets on when they’ll get engaged. I can’t wait to see their house in Conway. Joe can’t wait to see their refrigerator. My sister grocery shops like she’s feeding an army.
This is my youngest sister PK. Look familiar? PK’s sense of humor is totally different than Heelya’s. She’s sarcastic and self-deprecating. See here. She’s naive, but not vulnerable. She’s guarded, but not reserved. I don’t really know how to describe PK without writing contradictions. She’s a freakin trip. We spend a lot of time together. Some of you might recall that PK moved to Florida a year or so ago. She got a job working as a preschool teacher in Sarasota and despite the hour drive, would head up to St. Pete on the weekends to lay on the beach with me. PK doesn’t have a pug. Her current landlord won’t let her, so instead she visits the same pet shop every Friday and holds the same French bulldog for an hour and cries to the employees about how she can’t have a dog, but if she could have a dog, she’d take the French bulldog and treat him like a prince. When we were growing up, PK, who’s four years younger than me, used to bite her own arm until it bled and then wail like hell until my parents noticed, and in the most pathetic voice imaginable, blame Heelya and I for biting her. PK is a figure skater. She can do jumps and twirls and spins and all that crazy shit. Growing up, she idolized Michelle Kwan. In fact, my father called her Kwanee for awhile because she was so obsessed. She used to record the Olympics on VHS tapes so she could watch them over and over. She watched the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics so much the tape fell apart. PK started a new job last week at a Greek elementary school in Clearwater. Joe and I are taking her apartment hunting today. I’ll let you know how that goes later.
This is my gal Ro (at left) in one of my favorite photos of all time. She and Cubbie look so darling together my eyes get misty every time I look at this picture. Ro is getting married July 10, 2010. I’m her maid of honor. You should have heard us squeal when we figured out that by the time she gets married, I’ll be her matron of honor. Ro has a memory like an elephant. If you’re trying to figure out what so-and-so did to piss off so-and-so in 8th grade, Ro will not only fill in their names, she’ll tell you what the bitches were wearing when they pulled each other’s hair out. Ro is a girlie girl, but a tomboy too. How do I explain this? Well, for example, she sent me a text message the other day about how she wants an ice sculpture at her wedding and when I responded with the text, “ICE SCULPTURE OF WHAT? You and Tom embracing?” She replied, “Something Bills or Sabres related. You know, elegant but trashy.” Ro is one of my greatest confidants. She still lives in Buffalo and I love that she refuses to leave. We try to talk at least once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on how crazy things are in our lives. Ro’s fiancé, Tom, is so funny and warm. He makes me giggle within seconds of seeing him. The drunkest Joe has been in YEARS happened on Tom’s watch two Christmases ago when he took us out to a grungy metal-head bar in Buffalo. I seriously thought Joe was going to die. That night, on Ro’s trundle bed in her spare room, Joe started trembling so bad I thought he was having a seizure. In the morning, when we returned to my parents house and walked through the front door, my dad, who was sitting at the kitchen table shooting the shit with a friend of his, was all like, “Yelllllo Joe! Sit down. Meet Bruce.” And Joe was all like, “Gotta barf. Sorry Rick.” Also that night, while Tom and Joe pounded their weight in Labatt Blue, Ro and I talked about whether or not we’d be engaged in a year. Ahh life.
This is Joe’s sister Rosemary. She goes by Rosey. Joe and I have a never-ending debate over the spelling of her name. He spells it with an “ie” I spell it with an “ey,” which is how Rosey spells it and thus how I think it should be spelled. Rosey has the cutest voice I’ve ever heard. It’s childlike, but not in a Jennifer Tilly kind of way. Anyone who ever meets Rosey walks away saying, “she’s so sweet.” When I was struggling with my wedding invitations, which came as a kit and required several hours of assembling, Rosey came over and volunteered her services. In one night over beer, cheese and watermelon we assembled 75 wedding invitations, including sticking 150 leaves to the front of each card. Rosey got engaged to her boyfriend Adam in Savannah, Ga. on June 8, the day before Phish played in Asheville, N.C. Like Joe, Rosey loves the Phish, almost as much as her sister-in-law Leilani, whose picture is below. Rosey is scared of gnomes and, “little things that can kill you – like children.” (That’s a direct quote folks, and a standing joke between Rosey and her brothers.) Rosey is a mediation attorney and a newly minted yoga devotee. She often joins me on Mondays for Life Balance yoga in St. Pete, where the instructor likes to point out her trembling legs.
Under the top hat you will find Leilani, the music writer for Tampa’s Creative Loafing. To fully understand Leilani’s love of the Phish, check out her series Phish Saves America. Leilani is married to Joe’s brother Phil. They live around the corner from us in a house that has a record player, a disco ball, a telescope and framed concert posters for bands so hip I feel square in their shadows. Leilani loves to nosh on munchies – crackers, cheese, veggies, dip, hummus, pita bread … She loves to make pigs in a blanket. When we had Phil’s birthday party over at our house, Leilani whipped out a cookie sheet, Pillsbury crescent rolls and nubby hot dogs. “I fucking love pigs in a blanket,” she said emphatically as she rolled the furters in dough and tossed them in the oven. Leilani loves to dance, loves concerts, hooded sweatshirts and bed sheets with high thread counts. A few years ago, she took in a stray cat that was so skittish if you so much as breathed in his direction, he’d run away. She and Phil named the cat Rutherford The Brave and nurtured him in the most peaceful, non-domineering, nonchalant way. He’s now more domesticated than Joe.
This is Yuuki, my old exchange student. Her last name is Kajii, so of course I nicknamed her Kaj. She’s flying in from Tokyo and I’m beyond thrilled. Up until a month ago, I didn’t know if Kaj could make it. She works as an English translator for the Japanese Ministry of Defense, coordinating night landing practices and artillery relocation training with the U.S. military. She’s extremely busy. Ungodly busy. What I like to call Japanese busy. (You think Americans work a lot?)
When I get a letter from Kaj, it usually goes something like this: “There is not much time to use freely during weekdays. Since I came back home late and even finish dinner at work. So, I just do stretch at night and take a bath and chat with my family and go to bed right away. My parents are very surprised at my business and they are a little worry I guess. Last weekend I had a meeting at Yausubetsu and I had to prepare the resumes for the meeting in English. Since there were so many stuffs to talk in meeting, I had to stay at office until 1 a.m. As you can imagine, I missed the last train to come home and had to take a taxi. “
Kaj and I exchange letters and packages every few months. Not emails. (That would be too convenient.) In fact, when I asked her to be a bridesmaid, it was via flowery stationary and when she responded – a month later – it was via flowery stationary.
Kaj lived with my family for about a year when she was 16 years old. She and Heelya were in the same classes in high school. (I was in college by then.) At the start of her exchange program, Yuuki lived with another family up the road from us. She was lonely. Her host parents had already raised a large family, so they were empty-nesters by the time she moved in. I remember she’d come over to our house after school so Heelya and I could help her with homework, and I remember it was like painful every time we parted ways. If you have ever met Yuuki, you’d know that she’s insanely lovable; the definition of lovable. Eventually, our tutoring sessions turned into sleep-overs and eventually Yuuki asked her host parents if she could move in with us for the remainder of her exchange program, which worked out to be like 10 months. She cried and agonized and beat herself up over this decision. She felt disrespectful and ungrateful, but we explained that her host parents would understand, and of course they did. We all agreed that Yuuki was perhaps better off surrounded by a houseful of teenage girls whom she could bond with.
And bond we did. It’s hard to put into words how attached my family got in those 10 months. The stories are too long and too close to my heart to recount right now, so I’ll save them for another day. Let’s just say, that when Yuuki went back to Japan that following September, we cried so hard we couldn’t breathe. My dad too. For 10 months she had slept on a mattress in mine and Heelya’s bedroom, with Heelya and I in bunk-beds beside her. When she left, we couldn’t bring ourselves to put her bed away, so for three weeks I slept in it and cried. Since then, Yuuki has come out to visit my family a handful of times. On one trip, she brought her hysterical best friend Saya, whom my family has also kept in touch with, via letters of course. In late 2006, shortly before I met Joe, Kaj visited me in Sarasota. Here’s a picture from that visit. I took it with my cell phone on Lido Beach. I can’t believe we’ll all be together again in three weeks. Ey! Less than three weeks. I can’t wait for Joe to meet Kaj.