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2002-08-19 | 11:52 p.m.

On Thursday night we are all driving to Las Vegas. We are going to convoy with Bambi and her bairns, her four-sons-under-the-age-of-five. Bambi will also be accompanied by her friend Alyssa (whose younger sister Melissa is a tall tale unto herself, and one that I may share with you eventually. For now you'll have to be content with the knowledge that their mother swears she didn't realize their names rhymed until Melissa was three years old).

Because somehow, whenever something big is going on, my sister eludes all inquiries, I cannot say with certainty that she will be driving with us. But I have heard a rumor. Rumors swirl around her, a fleeting figure in dark glasses, and sometimes, like Priscilla at Graceland, it is not at all clear that she has arrived until after she is gone.

The rumor I heard is too incredible to be reliable. I heard that Diane will indeed be part of our convoy, driving the new but commute-blighted Suburban that Damien and Stefani purchased around the same time we got our van, and--this is where the rumor becomes hard to fathom--that the Suburban will contain 1) Damien and Stefani's formal attire; 2) Stefani's sullen alcoholic "artist" father; and 3) Stefani's two bickering school-age children. Oh, and lest I forget, 4) a backseat DVD player intended to placate the bickering children, which is amusing when you know that my sister can barely stand to listen to the radio when driving.

You have to understand that my sister would be happiest driving to Las Vegas all by herself, for the entire 10 hours, with one Ike & Tina CD and maybe, MAYBE one more from her all-time favorite band, Cold Blood.

My mother will be riding and staying with us. Though Damien's wedding is to be held at one of the swankier casinos, I booked two rooms at one of the cheapest hotels around--one that advertises itself as being the "locals' favorite." Since my mother, my sister, my niece and I have all worked in casinos, we are in many ways more like locals than tourists. (Even though our casinos weren't in Las Vegas.)

The other rumor I heard is that Damien and Stefani have made no provisions for her children. Where are they supposed to stay? Nobody knows. But surely, surely this cannot be true. Surely they will not expect Diane to fill the breech, when Stefani has more parents and step-parents and half-parents and god-parents than we have members of our entire family? Well, Damien would expect it, yes, I know that much. But Stefani--what can she be thinking? How could any mother go through so much planning and neglect to arrange accommodations and care for her own kids? No, no--it can't be true. My unreliable source is being unreliable again, I'm sure of it.

I have mixed feelings about us going to this wedding. I've been fretting and fretting about driving in the desert in August. I remember what it was like to drive across Texas in triple-digit temperatures running the heat at full blast to keep the car from overheating. I also keep thinking, reflexively, that Damien and Stefani really don't care if we show up. So why bother?

I came very close to not going at all. If our family weren't so small, I don't think I'd have hesitated. Damien doesn't care. He wants to party with his friends. Isn't that what most working-class twentysomething guys would be thinking? He wanted me to do the calligraphy, I know that much, and I did it. And he was happy. Case closed. It was Bambi and my Mom who urged me to go. Bambi laid on the guilt as thick as she could make it. She said that since I didn't marry, and she didn't marry, this would probably be the only family wedding "in our generation." Which I had to admit was true, even though I hated the bald sound of it, the way it made me feel like some sort of untouchable. The old spinster aunt. Arsenic and old lace. Put that way, she also made it seem almost economical to drive to Las Vegas for the Only Copes Wedding in a Generation! Plus $3.99 All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast!

So I had my little Traumatic Episode of Indecision, with Crying. Because, of course, Duff has to pay for the whole shebang, including my Mom, and that's another bitter pill I have to swallow. Not because Duff makes it misery (he really doesn't, not usually, though it has happened), but because I just hate hate HATE always having to go to him and say, I want to do this thing, it's going to cost an arm and a leg, blah blah blah. I wish I were the sort of woman who has five hundred dollars in pin money taped to the bottom of the cookie jar.

I mean just the two cut-rate rooms is almost three hundred dollars. Then it's going to cost us another hundred and fifty-plus to board Daisy at the veterinarian's because, at 14-and-three-quarters, she is too fragile and arthritic to stay in an outdoor kennel. (That price does include an exam, since she was way overdue for one and hey, she'll be there anyway). Gas, food--sure, we'll take a cooler full of sandwiches, but you know we're going to eat out. Oh, and I forgot about the damn wedding gift! I'm leaning toward knives. Never could pass up a good symbolic gesture.

Oh, P.S.: For once I do not intend to worry about what on earth I am going to wear. This is my usual wedding crisis but this time, because of all the expense we've already incurred, I've forbidden myself from buying a new dress. I'll just have to wear something I've already got, whether I like it or not. If you catch me sweating this in the least, please, do call me on it!

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