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copyright 1999, Lois June Wicktrom


What is the Name of Your Car?

By Lois June Wickstrom

The first question I asked my brother's future wife was, "What's the name of your car?" She asked me to repeat the question, which I did, and then she said, "I wasn't sure I heard you right the first time." At this point, I wasn't sure she would make a good wife for my brother, but I gave her another chance, and asked again, "What is the name of your car?" This time she looked to my brother for guidance, and finally answered, "Mulciber." That made everything all right, again. Mulciber is the Greek god of ceremony when children are formally admitted to the city organization. My brother's wife (he married her) runs a child care center. 
Naming cars isn't all there is to marrying into my family. In fact the question was quite different when my husband told my father that we were getting married. When we announced our wedding plans, my husband was a junior at the college where my father taught Biology 1. My husband had already passed my father's class before I met him or I'd never have consented to date him. Our planned wedding date was set for after my husband's graduation. My father's question was "You are a junior, aren't you?" When my husband said "yes," my father did a quick calculation that the wedding date was more than nine months off and that therefore I wasn't pregnant. He asked no more questions. 
We did get married sooner than that, and when our first daughter was born fourteen months later, my father did another back calculation to make sure pregnancy hadn't been the reason for the date change.
My husband's father had had some questions for me, too. He was a carpenter, and was concerned that my politics were too bourgeois for his son. After all, I was a professor's daughter, and might have expensive tastes, and worse yet; might vote wrong. He asked me what I thought of Nixon and Brezhnev, and what they were saying about their respective countries. I told him I never believe what any country president has to say about that country, and that Nixon and Brezhnev were two of a kind. He called me an anarchist, but withdrew his objections. Shortly thereafter, he bought the apartment building he lived in, and became a landlord.
With my sister it was different, too. My sister met her husband when she needed a carpenter to make a bed she had designed. The first thing she told me was, "No, I didn't invite him in to try it out." In fact, to hear her husband tell it, he did quite a bit of asking around after making the bed, before he asked to date her. He is a counselor for conscientious objectors in California where alternate lifestyles seem to be the norm. The first question he asked my sister's coworkers was, "Does she go out with men?" He then went on to ask what she did for a living and if she was an est graduate. 
My sister did her fair share of question asking, too. She dumped a boyfriend once because of a dream. In the dream, she was sitting on a bench talking to her boyfriend. She looked away and looked back and found she was talking to our father. Her questions were mostly versions of "You aren't like my father, are you?"
Their wedding was an exercise in California cool.
There were no questions in the ceremony. My sister and her husband talked about their relationship. Their parents talked about the "peak experiences" of their births. The minister said, "I know the groom doesn't need anybody to pronounce him a man." Then he paused as if to ask if the audience had any questions in this matter. And that was it.
Since no one spoke up, the wedding was over. Afterwards, several people in the audience asked, "That's it? He isn't even going to announce that they're married?" That kind of question isn't cool, so nobody answered it.
At the wedding, I met my father's current wife. I asked her, "How did you get my father to let you have two cats in the house?" My father, who works with radio-active chemicals, was terrified of hamsters and parakeets when I lived with him. She said, "It was easy. I promised they wouldn't sleep with him, but of course they do." I could tell right away that she would fit in. So I asked her what she named her car. She had just bought a new one, and hadn't decided yet.
When I asked my brother's wife about the name of her car, I was far more interested to find out if she had named her car than what the name was. Then again, if she'd named her car Fred or Murgatroyd, I'd have worried that she might find our family uncomfortable. People who marry into our family need to know that we are the sort of people who give their cars sensible names. I think all the recent additions will make it.
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