Monday, December 31, 2007

Burger Friday

My family has never really wanted for drama. Sometimes it's unwelcome and unpleasant, but sometimes it's the best thing ever.

The Friday before Christmas, I met my family for lunch. There's a really great and pretty fancy steakhouse in town, which is usually only open for dinners, but every Friday afternoon they open for lunch and only serve burgers. They call it "Burger Friday" and the burgers are DEEE-licious. I suspect that they secretly use Burger Friday as a way to get rid of their leftover meat before the weekend rush, but whatever they do, it makes for a tasty and inexpensive lunch. And it's kind of fun to sit in a fancy restaurant in your blue jeans and eat burgers. But I digress...

So, the Family Johnson met for Burger Friday at the height of the Christmas madness. My brother and sister and I arrived first (per usual) and waited for Mom and Dad to show up. We chatted about what gift-shopping we had left to do. We got a table. We joked about whether or not our parents would be on time to their own funerals. We got hungrier. Pretty standard, really. After about 15 minutes, my brother said he was going to go ahead and order because he had an appointment at 1pm and needed to get moving. Mom and Dad showed up shortly afterwards, and we all ate burgers.

During lunch, we decided that we would try to meet up later that afternoon for a post-Christmas-shopping movie and then have dinner together somewhere. Brother said he wasn't sure if he could make the movie, but he would definitely catch back up with us for dinner. [Skip ahead, skip ahead.] We called Brother just as we were going into the movie later that afternoon and he said he wasn't going to make it, but that he would meet us afterwards. Oh yeah, and that he was bringing Girlfriend to dinner.

So, when we got out of the movie, we walked over to our local Totally Average Mexican Restaurant and called Brother and Girlfriend to meet us there. They showed up. We ordered. We sat. We began eating. So far, so good.

Our family spends a lot of time ribbing each other. It's how we show love, or something like that. Anyway, my mother was joking about how, even after getting a PhD, I tend to call my parents' friends "Mr." or "Mrs." Whatever, even after they tell me I can call them by their first names. She, of course, wasn't really joking, as this practice is more like a Commandmant in my family and she is very proud that all her kids still do it. We're all laughing about the ridiculousness of this and Girlfriend says, "Wow, I didn't know that was such a big deal to y'all. Should I call you Mr. and Mrs. Johnson?" My mom shrugs it off and says no, of course not, we're fine with you calling us by our first names, et cetera, et cetera...

Then, Brother says: "I think you should just call them Mom and Dad."


Now, the rest of my family just kept eating, but I-- being the super-sensitive and perceptive sister that I am-- thought this was a little bit of an odd comment coming from my bro. Well, that and the fact that I noticed The Fear of God strike both Brother and Girlfriend at the same time as they sat there, frozen, sporkfull of refried beans hanging over their plates, seemingly waiting for a response...

"What's that supposed to mean?" I say. "Did you two get engaged?"

We had all been pretty much expecting an engagement announcement this holiday, but it wasn't Christmas yet, so the timing seemed a little off. My brother reaches across the table. His hand is shaking. And it has a ring on it.

"No, we're married."

I may be a super-sensitive and perceptive sister, but I am not the family member who you would describe as The One Who Says Exactly The Right Thing At The Right Time. I was thinking back to the fact that earlier, at lunch, Brother had ordered ahead of everyone else because he said he had a "1 o'clock appointment" and that he was ambivalent about whether or not he was going to meet us for the movie. I was trying to imagine how one might somehow fit an elopement into Brother's afternoon plans, but it wasn't working out in my not-marriage-inclined brain. So, I say:

"What? Is that something you figured you could just squeeze in between burgers and a movie?"

After some shock absorption and a lot of questions, The Fam finally got its collective head around what had just happened, and we gladly welcomed Girlfriend-now-Wife into our crazy brood. So, for Christmas I got a new sister-and-law and a new nephew. (New Nephew is 6 years old, just between my 8- and 4-year-old nieces.) And for Christmas I only got my brother a subscription to Men's Health, the movie Troy, and The Great American Bathroom Book, Volume I. But, hey, you know, Christmas is not a contest. Thank God.

Girlfriend-now-Wife was my brother's high school sweetheart. They've both been married and divorced and they both have kids, but they somehow found each other and their old love again and I just think that's about the greatest thing ever. My brother took his new wife back to a small bridge over a creek near an old house that we used to live in, the site of their first kiss, and on a Friday afternoon-- between burgers and burritos-- he married her. Nobody was there but them, two of their friends who served as witnesses, and the Minister-in-a-Minute. (No, I swear, I didn't make that one up. Apparently, there is a whole market for on-the-fly marriages.)

I love him and I am envious of his love. You go, bro. And I want to say for the New Year that I hope he continues to do it his way.

UPDATE 12/21/11: I'm happy to report that, four years later, the marriage is still going strong. Here's the happy couple, Ben and Angie Johnson. Love you both!


Booga Face said...


petya said...

stories like theirs give me so much hope! congratulations to you all!