Seventeen with a spread of freckles. That’s how Dad remembers my mother when they eloped to Las Vegas in 1985. There was no cake, and Mom didn’t wear a white dress. She wore her new outfit of a pink skirt and a soft blue and pink sweater.
“I was happy, but I was also terrified that my Daddy would find us before we were married,” She admits, still wringing her hands at the memory.
Dad surveys her somberly, looking more through her than at her. Mom always narrates the story, and Dad helps to fill in the blanks or affirm certain facts.
“We just had to get married before her dad found us,” he nods in agreement.
“Remember the speeding ticket?!” Mom asks. Like the sunlight that disperses through the prism of the water glass she holds in her hand, her manner of speaking is pleasing to watch. She is light and quick with her words.
She doesn’t wait for Dad’s response, but beams and explains, “We were told that we could go to Las Vegas and get married without parental consent because I was only seventeen. Boy, were we wrong! But when we got there they said that a speeding ticket would work as a form of ID. We spent 4 hours driving up and down the Vegas Strip waiting to get pulled over. Once we finally got the speeding ticket, we edited my birth year from ‘68 to ‘67 and presented that to the man who officiated our wedding.”
She sighs contentedly, glad the story ended the same as it always does. Her words stop dancing, and her eyes glide across the room to my Dad, watching and waiting for his response. He smiles slowly.
I empty all of the flower vases, and petals scatter on the floor at my feet. I am twenty-two.
“Did this wedding give you any ideas for your own wedding?” An elderly lady scrutinizes me through thick glasses. Her eyes rest disapprovingly on my naked ring finger. Avoiding her gaze, I stoop to pick up the petals.
“Not quite. I don’t really think of my own wedding.”
“Your first time being a bridesmaid?”
“A lot can happen in a year, you know.”
I move to the sink and start washing the platter used for the wedding cake. The cake crumbs swirl in the dishwater. Although the platter’s clean now, I keep scrubbing because the warm, sudsy water soothes my tired nerves. I hold the platter by the stem underneath and the plate suddenly snaps off and falls into the water. I suck in my breath in dismay.
“Genna!” I call to my friend. Genna’s no longer in her full-skirted ivory gown and cathedral veil, but she’s still aglow with new-bride elation.
“I broke the platter,” I show her helplessly.
“Oh dear,” Her faces stops glowing for a moment as she inspects the dish. She brightens.
“Good thing it happened on today of all days. I don’t think I could be upset about anything on my wedding day!”
She squeezes my hand and then goes off in search of Kevin.
The sunshine pours into my room like a warm drink on a chilly morning. My bridesmaid’s dress hangs neatly in my closet. Books are scattered on my bed. I am not waiting for a text from anyone, and I don’t have any romantic plans for this upcoming weekend.
Mom wants to know how my date with Collin went, but I disappoint her with the news that I won’t be seeing him again. We both laugh when I tell her how his cologne made me sneeze.
I look down at my thumb where the skin has peeled off around my nail. A nervous habit I can never seem to break. Mom sits thinking on the edge of my bed, picking away at the skin on her own thumb. I see my own blue eyes when I meet her gaze. I have her long legs, too.
“You know,” She says, her words soft and deliberate this time. “I was much different at your age. I was married with two kids. I did not plan for a career.”
She stares at me long and hard a moment, reading my impassive face. She changes the subject.
“How’s your novel coming? What’s it called again?”
“I still have a lot of research to do on it, but I’m calling it ‘All the Rich Men Live in Texas.’ It’s about the Gusher Age in Texas in the early 1900’s.”
“I see. Any romance?”
“Some, but it’s not the main plotline.”
“I’ll read it when you’re done.”
She stands up, bends to kiss my forehead, and then goes off in search of my Dad
Sometimes, I am terrified by the undefined continuity that exists between my mother and me. I read her thoughts before she can utter them, and we laugh at the same place in every joke–we can always anticipate the punchline. People tell me more and more that I am becoming just like her. The thought makes me shudder.
She is so womanly while I feel that I am merely a woman. I have not raised children or been a wife, and I have been taught those joys are a woman’s most sacred duty and highest calling. Mom speaks of her children as her greatest accomplishments, while I have merely my words. My words are my life.
I am cautious in my own quest for love. I hold back my maternal instincts that long for children of my own. Instead, I turn to my words. I nourish them in my heart before I bring them out into the world. I guide, caress, sharpen, and refine them until they are perfect. I bless them and hope that they will be a blessing to someone in return. I want to know my efforts are not in vain. While my mother’s body nursed and carried infants, my hands and heart nurse and carry words. So, despite the fact that her blood flows in my veins, and I share her quick wit and profound capacity for feeling, I am not my mother after all.