Before the Wedding
“Nobody sells eggbeaters anymore,” my mother said, her hand clenched tightly to Alice’s hundred year-old elbow, the four of us hobbling along like a roller skate with two chipped wheels. “Everyone is using whisks instead.”
“What’s this?” my grandma asked. She yanked me to a stop and squinted at the closest store in the outdoor mall.
“Crate and Barrel,” I replied, just a bit restless. It was fun being the focus of a search for wedding gifts, but soon my fiancé would be getting off work and I wanted to be home when he got there.
“Would they have rocking chairs?”
“But they might have an eggbeater,” my mother exclaimed, and steered us towards the door. By the time I got my grandma inside, my mother and Alice were already conferring with an employee.
“She says yes! They do have eggbeaters.” My mother bustled Alice off to the designated aisle. I let go of my grandma to loiter near the entrance, hoping to avoid the fuss and attention of salespeople.
It was no use. A minute later my mom came at me, eggbeater in hand, and asked, “Did you want one with the handle on the top or on the side? Alice said she thought you wanted it on the top, but I remember you telling me the side.”
“No, I’d prefer the handle on the top.”
“Are you sure? I thought you said the side.”
“No, the top. Alice is right.”
“If you ask me one more time I won’t want either kind.”
Back when Alice could see, she was a marvelous cook and baker, and she said she always liked an eggbeater with its handle on the top; easier to operate. When I made a list of kitchen items I needed she chose to provide the eggbeater, among other things, and I placed my confidence in her preferred model.
My mother returned to the spot where she had left Alice waiting, conferred with her, put the eggbeater back, poked around, then went to consult the clerk again. I was embarrassed, suddenly impatient. It was no longer pleasant and easy browsing around the gourmet coffee display. Here came my mother again.
“They don’t have any with a handle on the top.”
“No? Well, one on the side’s okay then.”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
“I could have sworn that was the kind you told me you wanted.”
“Well, it wasn’t, but that’s okay. Handle on the side is fine.”
“We could keep looking.” Her voice was high, almost whiney. Her posture clamored to make me seem the intransigent one, and her eyebrows arched perfectly above her eyes while mine sunk together like floorboards beneath a heavy step.
“No, just get this one.”
“You’re sure that’s okay?”
“I’ll wait outside!”
Everyone was looking at us. Wedding presents were much appreciated, but I’d been trying awfully hard to keep the celebration from becoming an ordeal. My mother would have to maneuver both matriarchs through the exit, for as much as I felt compassion for my grandmother, I could not wait around to take her arm. I sat outside on a bench in the middle of the nearest mini-courtyard and tasted the spring evening air, slowly shaking off the ticks of irritability. Shoppers strolled languidly past, never guessing this carelessly-groomed, barely youthful idealist was a bride-to-be.
A middle-aged man came out of the Crate and Barrel. He was dressed in a suit and tie, bearded, carried a shopping bag, and his step was slow but lively. As he passed me he spoke without making eye contact.
“I think they’re reaching a decision,” he said calmly. I smiled, maybe I said thank you, for I felt much better then. He continued on to a toy store.
I suppose my behavior that hour was reasonable, being that I had already declared myself capable of making the most important choice.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty is simple. Maybe that is what is so wonderful about it: beauty is not ornate or complex. It is spare, lean without being hungry, sure without being proud. Beauty is true; it is honest. When it is fleeting, it makes way for other beauty to take its place. Stories with these qualities provide us with a particular energy, a combination of strength and calm that helps us through the harsh realities of life on Earth. Stepping stones from one good day to the next, the scenic route of every day life.
Jenny McBride’s writing has appeared in Start 82 Review, Rappahannock Review, Tidal Echoes and other journals. She makes her home in the rainforest of southeast Alaska.