*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
My mother filled the paper doggie bag beyond its limits with leftovers, and it erupted all over the dance floor.
It was just another wedding reception until my mother splattered food scraps all over the floor where the bride and groom were dancing.
I was the baby of the family. So all my cousins got married while I was still in school. When I was a teenager, one of my older cousins on my father’s side got married. They held the reception at a banquet hall known for its exceptional food. However, the floor plan wasn’t as exceptional.
It was an atypical floor plan. You could call it inconvenient.
There was a dance floor in the center of the room. To one side of that illuminated dance floor was a long buffet table filled with everything from prime rib to pasta. On the other side of the dance floor stood the tables and chairs where the guests sat.
As a guest, if you wanted to get more prime rib or pasta salad, you had to cross the dance floor. If you wanted to use the restroom, you had to cross the dance floor. When it was time for you to leave, you had to cross the dance floor one last time to reach the exit.
It wasn’t the best setup, but it was good enough. At least, it was good enough until my family got ready to leave.
The hosts had considerately placed doggie bags at every table so we could take home our uneaten scraps. It was something I’d never seen at previous weddings we’d attended, obviously for good reason.
The paper bags were long and narrow. They had printed a cartoon drawing of a dog on the front of every bag along with the words “Doggie Bag.”
We had a dog at home, and our dog loved table food.
My father had a brilliant idea. He instructed my mother to collect the food scraps from our plates. When the bag was still half-empty, he told her to take food from the other guests' plates, too.
“Load it up,” my father said. “We’ll take it all home to the dog.”
My mother shoved steak bones, bits of fat and gristle, cold and congealed pasta, and crusts of bread into her doggie bag until its sides bulged, and then she moved onto the adjacent table while my father continued to encourage her.
What happened next should not have come as a surprise.
As my parents crossed the dance floor toward the exit with me and my brother in tow, my mother’s carefully overstuffed doggie bag burst at the seams. The ruptured paper bag spewed half-eaten food, from bites of the wedding cake to blobs of mashed potatoes, all over the dance floor.
A buttered bread roll with a bite taken out of it landed at the bride’s feet while she was in the middle of a dance.
Edible detritus was everywhere.
Everyone on the dance floor looked confused. There was a bridesmaid with gravy on the hem of her dress. The floor was slick with juicy, discarded steak.
The dancing came to a halt. Someone scurried to the wedding singer who made an announcement that there had been a mishap. "Everyone, please clear the dance floor," he said. "It isn't safe. There's been a spill. I repeat. There is a spill on the dance floor. Please return to your seats."
The bride started to cry.
My father was angry; my mother looked embarrassed. I just wanted to leave.
We rushed the rest of the way to the exit as a unit and pushed our way into the dark parking lot. It was time to go home without our doggie bag.
There would be no more dancing anyhow.
It’s been decades, and my family still talks about the time my mother ruined my cousin’s wedding with a doggie bag. At least we can laugh about it now.