My brother got married last weekend. After a few glasses of wine, and with a bunch of tears, I delivered this speech to a patio of people who love Patrick and Jenni as much as I do.
For over a decade Patrick has only ever referred to Jenni as “the love of my life” or “my best friend.” We Stocktons will admit it took us longer than it should have to realize that maybe that was, well, enough. In fact, it is probably much more than many have after a decade of traditional marriage. But because we are lame traditionalists, and Patrick never seemed to be ring shopping, and maybe he was dating Joel or Shane and that would also be fine, or just because it’s, you know, PATRICK, we kind of aborted any notion that we would ever be here in a room full of people who love both of them fiercely… with the white dress and the snazzy suit and the vows and everything.
But here we are.
Only Patrick and Jenni can tell you how we got here. I have my theories. For sure Paige and I have only suggested this yearly, and then more frequently after they bought a freakin’ house together and we could assault him with more practical arguments about tax advantages. But for these two, for Patrick in particular, this moment was all about romance. And on his terms, but on her birthday, my baby brother gave Jenni a ring and his heart, which frankly, she’s had all along.
This wedding is a joyous proclamation of love that already has roots, a history, a mortgage. This celebration is also a unique time when our muddled assortment of family that are friends and friends that are family are thrown together for the first time, or the first time in a long time. For me, half the excitement of flying out here was to meet all of the fantastic weirdos Patrick has been talking about for 20 years. Because growing up, Patrick’s friends were the funniest, scene-stealing characters of my high school days. Half of them were half in love with all of my girlfriends, and there was always one or five hanging around. Even more during the Band Practice Era as Symptoms of Hate, Appetite for Destruction, and finally the mellower Roger’s Tribe irritated all of the neighbors. Patrick has always attracted smart, zany, talented, and almost universally super attractive people into his orbit.
And look at all of you. All gorgeous and whatnot. Typical Patrick.
On our hearts and in our minds today are those that would be here, but cannot in any sort of chicken-or-fish RSVP way. The Stockton side aunties and Walter and Gertrude. Grandma Mid. Uncle Ray. Joe Burke. Chris Horn. To know what stories Chris could have told, to hear Joe’s booming laugh as he made fun of west coast weirdness. To watch Patrick sneak out for a smoke with the cousins or hear Aunt Billie call the bride just the cutest thing west of the Rockies. While we keep them in our hearts in this moment, we get them for a second or two. Or maybe they’re a little bit here for us, because we’re loving and missing them especially now, when there is this huge news to tell:
PATRICK AND JENNI ARE MARRIED!
(Chris is doing his can’t-see-his-eyes smile, I’m sure.)
And now, I will leave you with a funny story from our youth so that we’re not crying into our cocktails. And this one is called Pizza in the Tree and is mostly about how our mother is bonkers.
Back in high school for a year or two, Aunt Sharon, mom’s twin, was living with or near us in Pennsylvania. This meant, when mom and dad went out of town for a conference or long weekend with the Coys or whatever, Aunt Sharon would come over after school to make sure we didn’t burn the house down. If you know Karen Stockton, you know she was absolutely certain we would burn the house down. Too many boxes in the basement or attic? It’s going to burn the house down. You’d better get rid of that stack of magazines or it’s going to burn the house down. Those Jenn-Air grills that work indoors? No way. Plus, the counter splatters would require her to Bounty roll paper the entire kitchen… and all of that paper toweling? Well, that’s going to burn the house down. Teenage Patrick smoking furtively in flammable corners of the home gave her nightmares. You see how this goes.
Naturally, mom’s strict rule when she was away, and frankly mostly when she was home, was that we were NOT allowed to use the kitchen. Ever. And she had kitchen hours, like, if you wanted a sandwich at 10pm, you’d better be crazy stealth about it. It’s like Mom could literally hear crumbs. But when you are a teenager, if you’re not full, you’re hungry. And so one day after school when our parents were away, we made the insanely insubordinate decision to bake a frozen pizza. This was breaking a bunch of rules. The oven? We totally could have burned the house down. Also, crumbs. But we were starving and really wanted that DiGiorno’s.
It was an uneventful pizza baking and eating event. But there were leftovers that no one could eat and now Aunt Sharon is calling saying she’ll be home in 15 minutes. We stuffed the uneaten pepperoni slices into a Ziploc bag and immediately decided it would be too obvious in the trash. There was no time the bury it. Patrick made the bold decision to hurl the plastic bag of contraband off of the deck. Into the woods. Where it immediately gets snagged on a branch and ends up dangling right in front of the family room window. It’s like oh look Days of Our Lives and to the left, Pizza in a Tree. Only 6 minutes to Aunt Sharon.
We start launching everything we can to knock the ziplock-ed bag of our sins out of the direct view of anyone watching TV. Mom, if you ever wondered why you were missing so much silverware… we’re coming clean. But nothing worked. Still it dangled there. Finally… the hose. We hooked up the garden hose, pointed, aimed, and Aunt Sharon pulls into the driveway. A well-directed spray dislodges the arboreal pizza and it disappears into the woods just as Aunt Sharon is sing-songing through the kitchen, steps out onto the porch, and sees her nephew pointing the nozzle of the garden hose into the thick of the woods.
“Kids? What are you doing?”
“We’re, um… watering the trees?”
Patrick and I then collapse into fits of laughter we could no longer contain nor explain and Aunt Sharon tells us to stop being silly, to put away the hose and come inside already. If she ever smelled the pepperoni, she never told. And I don’t think she did, because the next thing she said threw us into another spell of mouth-gaping, soundless laughing:
“Do you kids want to order a pizza for dinner?”
These are the stories of my youth with my little brother who found all of the same things funny that I did. Many times we exasperated our older sister, Paige, who told us repeatedly on long car trips that we were not funny at all. Our inane nicknames for everyone, inside jokes carried forward through so many years I cannot remember their source, and always our shared inheritance from Dad: the inability to keep a short story short. And to be fair to mom, both of us now act like total Karen Stocktons in the kitchen. I buy those enormous packs of Bounty paper towels that don’t even fit in the cart.
Today, we raise a toast to Patrick and Jenni, who found in each other a best friend, a life long love, and someone to laugh with…. someone who will host impromptu dance parties and would definitely help you dislodge pizza from a tree. We are so happy you found each other and invited all of us to share in it. Congratulations and cheers!
My baby brother before the bride…
Patrick gets a wife… I get another sister.