Friday morning I woke up to a torrential downpour. No—what’s the next level above torrential downpour? Because it was coming down in buckets.
I had been afraid to check the weather most of the week, because I knew weather was out of my control, and if I didn’t like what I was going to see, I almost didn’t want to know. With all my bad luck in the previous few weeks I thought for sure it would rain for our weddings. About ten days before Weather.com said that there would be rain on Weds, Thurs, and Friday before our wedding weekend, but it would be partly cloudy and dry on Sat and Sun; however as the days dwindled down, the rain didn’t materialize, eventually the reports said rain on Friday and Saturday. I rationalized that the red wedding was mostly inside, so if it was going to rain one day I’d rather it on Saturday, but waking up to the gray dismal sky I couldn’t help but be a little worried for the whole weekend.
I got up, and ready. My plan was to sneak out of the house early because I had set up an appointment to get my feet hennaed at a pallor I discovered recently at a city-wide Asian festival. I didn’t want to tell anyone about my little indulgence because I thought my mother would get mad that I “ruined my feet for the American wedding” and I thought P’s mother would find it odd since “it isn’t part of our Nepali culture.”
When I got up I noticed P’s parents weren’t around. They had taken advantage of a brief lull in the rain to take their morning walk, so I went down with my sister K to walk our dogs, and to run to the local Dunkin Donuts to get my mom a coffee. Before I left P said that he thought his parents had already walked to the Dunkin Donuts, but I thought he was kidding.
Lo and behold, as I drove up to the DDs I saw P’s parents carrying a box of donuts under an umbrella. I pulled over to the side of the road and offered to drive them back, but they waved me off. They must have felt that they were “hosting” my mom and sisters and wanted to bring back breakfast, which was sweet (although they brought back a bunch of plain donuts instead of chocolate, glaze and other more colorful flavors). I got the coffee, drove back, and by the time I grabbed my wallet to run to the henna place the sky had opened up again. In the few feet from our apartment door to the car I was nearly soaked through.
So I went in search of my soon-to-be in-laws, imagining them drenched carrying a soggy cardboard box of donuts. I drove up and down the street three times, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I even ran into the Vietnamese grocery store looking for them (becoming even more wet in the process) to no avail. I called P and told him how bad the rain was (“I can barely see through the windshield with the wipers on full blast!”), and that he might want to take a car out looking for them, because I was getting late for my appointment.
I arrived at the beauty pallor about fifteen minutes late. I was already starting to regret making the appointment. I thought it was probably frivolous to get my feet hennaed, and that maybe people would be upset with me, that it would take too long, that it would look ridiculous. The woman who was doing the henna reassured me it was fine, and we looked through the books of designs. I picked something that was a medium level of intricacy, not all the way up the leg, but a small design on the ankles, with peacocks on the inner tops of my feet and fans around the edges.
By the time the shop officially opened and the two other employees arrived, one foot was complete. One of the workers was Nepali. She had just arrived from KTM six months before, and was excited to sit with me and talk. I had started the conversation with “Nepali ho?” as she walked by and she was eager to talk to a westerner getting married to a Nepali man. She had a lot of questions—had I been to Nepal? Had I seen a Nepali wedding before? Did I know about tilhari? About sindoor?
I told her about the dubo ko mala P’s parents had brought from Kathmandu and that we were keeping in our refrigerator covered in wet towels to keep them fresh for the wedding. She told me that she was Gurung but her husband was Chetri (a love marriage), so their wedding customs were very different (“In my culture we don’t have red tikka, we have white tikka. We are not Hindu we are Buddhist.”) I explained to her that my soon-to-be MIL is also Buddhist (Newari) but married a Chetri so she follows many Hindu customs as well. As we spoke the Nepali woman grew more excited, and started calling me “Bhauju” (sister-in-law). She offered to thread my eyebrows to make me “beautiful for the wedding.” When she started asking for details about when and where the wedding was taking place, I half expected her to show up the following day, but she didn’t.
The torrential downpour had started to subside, and even though my feet were not completely dry, I was running late to meet my bridesmaids (my sisters K and M and friends AS and R) who had planned a pre-wedding spa appointment as a mini bachelorette party. We were supposed to have lunch (which we missed due to my feet taking longer than expected—the Indian woman originally told me “it will take only half an hour,” but then I ran fifteen minutes late looking for my inlaws in the rain, and the feet took an hour and a half). We hoped that skipping lunch would help get us in and out of the spa quicker, but the spa still took a long time.
At the spa I had my nails done, and a massage to help relax. The massage was nice because it forced me to sit quietly for a little while and collect my thoughts (I was mentally making checklists—go home and grab this, this, and that, etc). Everything seemed to be happening really quickly. As soon as I was done with the massage, I told the girls I had to run home and change and grab some stuff for the white wedding rehearsal, and that I would send R’s husband S to pick them up and bring them to the white wedding venue. I got home to find the rest of the family ready and on their way out the door. I jumped into my rehearsal dress, grabbed the bridesmaids gifts, my dad’s tie and dhaka topi, the seating chart for the dinner tables, extra programs, extra copies of the readings, etc., and shooed S out the door to pick up the girls.
At the spa R and AS had complemented my feet. In retrospect I was glad that I took the time to do henna, even though it made the entire day run late. It’s now pretty faded, but when I look down at my feet it reminds me of the wedding, and makes me smile. It was also like a nice little secret, throughout the wedding weekend I could lift my skirt a few inches to show off my feet like a surprise detail, but they were mostly covered so people only saw them if I wanted to show them off.