On Rachel Levy’s wedding day, the world wore white.
Early that morning, snow was general over the Delaware Valley. It had fallen steadily through the night, in wildly gusting clouds, over Haddonfield and Swarthmore and Lansdale and Hockessin and Newtown and Vineland.
Part 6 of 10
11 A.M. DEC. 27
The story so far: The Levy and O’Meara clans have gathered in Old City Philadelphia on Christmas weekend for the wedding of Rachel and Aaron. Snow started falling just before the rehearsal dinner, sowing deep anxiety among the parents on both sides. Meanwhile, the eccentric behavior of best man Peter Chen has everyone talking.
On Rachel Levy’s wedding day, the world wore white.
Early that morning, snow was general across the Delaware Valley. It had fallen steadily through the night, in wildly gusting clouds, over Haddonfield and Swarthmore and Lansdale and Hockessin and Newtown and Vineland.
It piled into drifts as high as a sixth-grader’s knit cap, and made many a tree bough sag under its glistening weight. It set up a week of parking wars on the rowhouse streets of the city, as people lugged kitchen chairs and garbage cans out to guard the parking spots they’d laboriously shoveled clear overnight.
How bad had the storm gotten the night before? Well, it led the Eagles to postpone a game at the Linc, which led the governor (the city’s No. 1 fan) to carry on to WIP about what “wusses” the team’s owners and fans were. On that one point, Mike O’Meara and the Guv could agree.
By the time out-of-town guests had gathered, in varying states of hangover and stress, at the second-floor restaurant of the Omni to partake of the Levy-O’Meara wedding morning brunch, the snow had slowed and the sun was peeking through. A billion flakes glistened handsomely outside on Chestnut Street, each one different, and each one, if you were Molly O’Meara or Suzanne Levy, a crying shame.
The hint of pale sunshine didn’t mollify Molly, did not soothe Suzanne. Each, along with their husbands, frantically worked smart phones between bites of waffle and toast, checking e-mails, texts and phone messages, getting reports from the roads and airports.
“Philly airport’s still closed; no word on when they’ll get a runway shoveled,” Seth Levy relayed grimly to the table.
“Turnpike’s closed; Gallaghers are stuck in Harrisburg; the storm’s hit Carolina now; Potsics can’t get out of Charlotte until at least after noon,” Mike O’Meara chimed in.
“Oh, God,” Suzanne her head in her hands, her knuckles kneading her forehead as her silver bracelets jangled. “Oh, God. What a nightmare.”
“It’s OK, Suze, it’s OK.” Her husband touched her arm. “Lots of people made it in yesterday before it got bad. The sun’s out now. People will make it. It’s not until 5; there’s still time. Anyway, the important thing is the kids are getting married. Finish up your coffee and get upstairs to Rach’s room. I’m sure she wants you there.”
Rachel was not at the brunch, and Aaron had been shooed upstairs after a short, dutiful appearance. They were observing the age-old tradition that bride and groom should not see each other until the signing of the wedding contract.
The bride had plenty to do in her suite of rooms on the fourth floor, where she’d spent the night with her five bridesmaids.
Two floors up, Aaron, his brothers and his best man, Pete, and the other groomsmen were getting antsy. Somebody had provided a cooler full of icy PBRs, which the boys were downing despite the early hour.
Aaron’s brother Trip looked out the window down onto Chestnut Street.
“Man, not a thing moving on the road down below. Not a car. Don’t they plow streets in this burg? Snow must be eight inches deep on the road.”
“Shoot, I wish one of us had a football; we could go out and have us a little three-on-three,” Aaron said. “Missed the Santa Bowl this year. First time in forever. Sean, if only we had your ball.”
“Wait a sec, bro,” middle brother Sean said. “My car’s parked in the hotel garage. Ball might be in the trunk. Want me to check?”
Oh, the assembled males did. They so did.
Thus it was that 15 minutes later Chestnut Street was treated to the spectacle of three tall Irish-American lads with flaming red hair, one Chinese-American a full head shorter, and two Italian-Americans of middling height choosing up sides for some street ball, as the groom eagerly tossed a Spalding from hand to hand.
Aaron captained one team; Trip the other. No one questioned that; it always split up that way between the two of them.
There were some interesting play calls in those uproarious huddles: “Go out deep towards those bank steps, then cut right. … Go 10 steps to the Ben Franklin sign, then buttonhook.”
The guys high-fived, talked smack, blew constantly on their bright-red hands (“Gloves? We don’t need no stinking gloves.”) as they dashed, slid, high-stepped and stumbled in and around the drifts.
Sticky his fingers, fleet his feet
Pete, usually no athlete, somehow made the catch of the day, diving into a snowbank to snare a tipped pass for a touchdown. He clutched the ball tight to his skinny chest, then held it aloft triumphantly, his thick black glasses hanging askew off one ear.
“Chen! Chen! Chen!” his teammates chanted as they lifted him out of the snowbank.
The game ended at that moment, since out her hotel room window, Molly had gotten a load of the hijinks on the street, and was just then storming onto Chestnut:
“Well, I have never in all my born days seen supposedly grown men act so foolish. Trip O’Meara, Sean O’Meara, on your brother’s wedding day! And you, Aaron O’Meara, I’m of a mind to send you to your room with no dinner. Inside, now, the lot of you!”
With good-natured grumbling, the groomsmen and groom bowed before the force of maternal will. They trudged back into the hotel, wet, cold and exhilarated.
Part 7 – “The best man blows it: The case of the missing rings” – will appear on Newsworks.org tomorrow morning. To see earlier parts, go to the Whiteout Christmas archive page.
Radio play: Listen to a dramatization of “Whiteout Christmas” on WHYY-FM this holiday weekend. The radio play, with Tony Auth, Chris Satullo and WHYY staffers acting up a storm, will air on 90.9 FM at 8 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Christmas Day.