Not long ago, I publicly noodled on proper attire for my sister’s upcoming wedding. I have made my selection — simple, tailored black frock with pink Yves Saint Laurent heels — and it’s a good thing I have. The wedding is on Sunday!
Even now, I am trundling along on a train to Green Bay, inching closer and closer to the occasion. In a few hours time, I will be scooped up by my elder sibling who is coming in from New York. She has procured a car so that we can drive north to Door County. Once we reach the tip of the peninsula we will drive the car onto the car ferry and float over to Washington Island. And then it’s game on.
My sister and her betrothed have been up on the Island for a number of days, now, getting everything ready. The wedding is taking place at our home there and the kids will get married outside, though I’m not exactly sure where they’ve set up shop for that; they might be down by the water or maybe up closer to the house. Understanding the location of the actual ceremony is on my list of things to do.
The next few days will be dispatches from the wedding. Consider me your Girl Friday, reporting on The Wedding Of The Century. It’s gonna be good, I assure you: a magnificent wedding dress on an exquisite bride, well over 100 guests, a pig roast, and actual, literal fireworks. Seriously, there are going to be fireworks at my sister’s wedding. I know, right?
If you’re the praying kind, pray that it will not rain and that there will not be a bug issue. If you are not the praying kind, pretend you are for two seconds and pray that it will not rain and that there will not be a bug issue. Merci.
A few months ago, up at the lake house, an inside joke was born — and it’s one for the ages, too. I wasn’t there the moment “PAM the pan” came into existence, but by now the whole thing has a mind of its own and it doesn’t matter; family jokes are good like that.
Here’s what happened.
My sister’s fiancee, Jack, was making dinner. Jack is gifted in the kitchen and had made something delicious in a pan that unfortunately was giving him a little trouble. Stuff was sticking. My stepdad, Mark, not trying to be funny or ironic in any way, asked,
“Did you PAM the pan?”
PAM is a non-stick cooking spray, as most of us recognize. I am feeling very annoyed that I have to capitalize it like that, but it turns out “PAM” is an acronym: Product of Arthur Meyerhoff. Isn’t that something? Some dude figured out that you could spray canola oil on a pan and keep stuff from sticking to it and he actually named it after himself. Astonishing. Anyway, that’s what PAM stands for and none of that has to do with the story, though it is relevant that a) PAM is an inherently funny, plosive sound and b) non-stick cooking spray isn’t really Jack’s style in the first place.
So Mark’s question, “Did you PAM the pan?” was just too aurally/verbally fantastic to let go. Everyone in the room tried it out, and all were gleeful with the results — but they were not satisfied, no. I’m pretty sure my mom was responsible for the initial escalation because my mother is hilarious. Note: if you’re in a place where you can actually read these lines aloud, you should.
“Are you gonna make ham? Better PAM that pan.”
Then, my sister: “Damn! That ham pan need PAM!”
Then, Mark, chuckling: “Ask Sam. He’s got PAM. He’s got PAM for every pan.”
Mom again: “Look at that man, Sam. He can sure PAM a pan — why yes, he can!”
Then Jack: “Please stop.”
Jack is frequently the straight man to Fons women hijinks. He loves it, though — enough to marry my sister, which is solid evidence. All this PAM talk went on and on and finally made its way to me when Mom told me the story. My sister Nan in New York learned about it, too, and since then, we’ve had entire family email threads playing this game. Some of my favorites have included:
“Gram never PAM’ed the pan, no ma’am. Ham or lamb, she used a no-PAM pan.”
“Hotdamn, Stan, you better scram if you ain’t gon’ PAM that pan. Makin’ flan calls for a PAM’ed pan, man!”
The best things in life aren’t always free. I mean, I love a great handbag and those ain’t free, let me tell you. But there isn’t an admission charge to my family’s weird sense of humor and this stuff is priceless. You maybe had to be there, and that’s okay. But if you were there, you’d be laughing.
My sister Rebecca and I went for brunchies about a month ago. We sat at a booth inside Eggsperience — a restaurant we chose soley due to the amazing name– and there, my younger sister elicited from me a strange, honk/wail/sob-sound I had not produced in my life until that moment.
She gave me a card. I put down my fork and opened the card and that’s when the sound happened, because this is what the first two lines of the card said:
“Dear Sissie — Will you be my maid of honor?”
The diners around us shot four feet in the air. It was like a gun had been fired or maybe someone had just seen an actual, verifiable ghost come out of the kitchen with a side of ham. I was burbling with joy, insane with happiness, my heartstrings pulled to the maximum max. There were incredible words after the initial, handwritten question, and I have since read them many times. But that opening invitation meant that I could, in a very outwardly and laser beam-focused way, show my beautiful, incredible sister how much I love her.
“Yes! Yes! Oh, god, yes!” I squealed and flew to her side of the booth; there, Rebecca kinda hugged me down. She was extremely excited as well, but there were people looking at us (me) with a mix of concern and criticism, mostly the latter.
So far in my life, I have been in two bridal parties: I was present in my own wedding, and I was a bridesmaid for my friend Leia something like ten years before that. Leia got married in Colorado, and the morning of the wedding there was a fire in the mountains where the ceremony was to take place. The pretty pagoda she had arranged was now burning to the ground, so the entire operation, booze to pastor, was swiftly moved to the foothills, i.e., the backyard of someone’s house at the foothills. We would occasionally look up at the smoking mountains and laugh nervously about engulfing flames on your wedding day being “a bad omen, haha,” but Leia was gorgeous and happy and remains married to this day. I didn’t battle fire on my wedding day and look what happened to me.
I remember being totally game for Leia, doing All The Bridesmaid Things with a glad heart. I brought little gifts to the other girls in the wedding and I was as generous as I could be with the wedding gift. And as fun and pure as all that was, it was small-scale stuff. I was a waitress trying to launch a writing career, for heaven’s sake! There was only so much I could do; there was even a limit on my attention span. Barely making rent will do that to a person.
But my station in life has improved significantly since then, and as I look to the role of maid of honor to my sissie, I have to stop myself from rubbing my hands together and chortling with a creepy, near-gluttonous mirth: this is gonna be good.Figuratively speaking, as a bridesmaid ten years ago, I was able to offer a box of powdered donuts; as MOH to my sister this year, I’m bringing oxtail stew, a tureen of vichyssoise, and the cake. Hell, throw in the donuts! People love donuts! And cocktails! Donut cocktails! Let’s do this!
Again, the opportunity is once-in-a-lifetime, really, because I’m able to focus time, money, and attention on my sister Rebecca, who is the coolest girl I have ever met — and lemme tell you, I know plenty of cool girls, having worked in Chicago theater and now the quilt industry. I’m surrounded by cool girls, and she takes the cake.
Four-tiered, buttercream, marbled, filled, caramelized whatever. Nonpareils. Ganache. You tell me, sissie. I got this.