The Date Part 2 continued

January 5, 2010

We were all surprised to see a silver serving tray.

Pretty classy, I thought.

My newly rich uncle had gone from borrowing money, which is what he usually did when he made contact with the family, to tasteful giving. I must admit, I was flattered that he regarded us as the type of people who would put a silver tray to good use.

As I pulled the tray from the box, I noticed that a small, white card fell to the floor. The weird thing was I recognized it. In bold, black letters across the top were the initials “ZCMI”. It’s not every day you see a ZCMI card in California. If you wanted one, you had to go to Utah, where ZCMI department stores were located.

I had my suspicions that the silver tray was purchased by Miss California’s relatives in Utah—a wedding gift for my uncle and his new wife…and I had her relatives’ signature on the card to prove it.

What a disappointment. I thought they were giving us a silver tray because they thought we were elegant enough to need one. And they were well-off, so I heard, and that silver tray made me feel like they had accepted us into their circle. When I realized they were not so much giving us the tray as passing it along, I felt common again.

Still, I wrote my uncle and pageant-beauty aunt a nice thank you note. I told them we loved the tray and were honored that they remembered us on our wedding day. I signed our names to the card then added: “P.S. You forgot something.” And I put that ZCMI card in the envelope, licked it shut and mailed it.

My uncle’s visit that day set us back about a half-an-hour. K needed to get ready. My mother had food to make. The rain stopped and the clouds cleared, which meant I had to mow the front yard. We were desperate for help when my brother’s wife showed up. She immediately went to work on removing the big red fingernail polish square on the door.  Things were looking up.

A little while later, K came outside to see me. “Your brother’s wife decided to bathe the little ones in the guest bathroom. They’ve turned that bathroom into an Olympic-sized swimming pool. There’s water everywhere. She’s used all of the guest towels—I’ve never seen a bigger mess.”

“Don’t worry,” I told her, “everything will work out.”

She went back into the house to finish getting ready. Moments later my sister returned home. I watched from the yard as she ran into the house. I could tell she was rushing. She had a lot to do before the reception—shower, dress her kids and pick up the cake that was still at her friend’s house.

 From where I stood, I didn’t see or hear the explosion. I saw only my brother and his wife and their children fly out the front door. “We’re leaving. Maybe you can stop by later to get your gift,” he said.

Now what? I wondered. I went inside for some answers. My sister was screaming hysterical. “I left this house spotless!” she kept repeating. K was hugging my crying mother.

“This would never happen in your family!” my mother said in between sobs.

“Yes it would,” K said. “Yes it would.”

It was pretty obvious to me why my sister was upset. All you had to do was look at the condition of the house—the clutter and detritus had quadrupled in the short hour it took me to mow the lawn. But what was making my mother cry? Something really bad, I thought. And something that goes on in K’s family too…what had I married into?

I went back outside to finish the yard. K soon followed. She looked liked she had just survived a plane crash, mystified that she was able to walk away from the wreckage.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m fine, but I don’t think your brother is coming back.”


“He sort of disagreed with your sister when she called his wife a whore.”

“So it got ugly?”

“Awful. I’m still shaking.”

“Wait, you said this goes on in your family.”


“But you told my mom…”

“To comfort her. My family would never do this. I had no idea families had these kind of fights.” I suppose K did the right thing telling my mom that little fib, even though it spooked me a bit at first. I didn’t want to be married to a family that misbehaved.  K continued: “I hate to say it, but I’m relieved your brother won’t be here. On the other hand, I’m worried that this reception is going to be a complete disaster.”

“It won’t. Everything will work out. You’ll see.”

We went inside the house so K could finish getting ready, and I could clean. My sister left to finish the cake, my mom continued preparing food, and I vacuumed, showered and dressed. We worked fast. Guests would be showing up anytime.  Soon order was restored and the house was again spotless and calm.

My mother laid out an incredible spread of food on a buffet table. My sister made it home in time to set up the cake. Just a little adjustment and it was centered perfectly on the table. K was fastening her earring, the final touch to her outfit, when the doorbell rang. It was our first guest.

As promised, everything worked out.

I didn’t give my daughter too many details about our reception in California—I got the impression that she was interested in something a little more top hat and a little less big top. I simply told her that with a minimum of planning, she could pull off a reception as memorable as the one we had. “So relax and don’t worry so much.” I assured her, like I assured my wife twenty-six years ago, that no matter what, everything would work out fine. She seemed convinced and thanked me for my wise words.

The next day, K told me that she overheard my daughter having one of those heart to hearts with M on the phone. It was late at night. My daughter’s bedroom door was closed, but K could hear her crying as she painted a pretty gloomy picture of their wedding day. I was a little deflated to think that my daughter was not so crazy about my advice.

“Did you speak to her?” I asked my wife.

“No, I don’t want to interfere,” K said.

I confronted my daughter.

“Mom said you were on the phone last night with M and that you were having a nervous breakdown about this wedding.”

“Yes. And did she also tell you that this morning, while I was in the bathroom, she crashed the door open and stood right in the doorway with her hands on her hips and said, ‘Well?’”

“Oh, you’re kidding! What did you say?”

“I screamed, ‘Mom! I’m pooing!” 


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