My brother just got divorced after 25 years of marriage, and my mother is a wreck.
She didn’t cause the divorce, of course, and along with the rest of us, she’s sad that a quarter-century of wedded bliss (sort of) has pretty much gone down the tubes. Ma has even accepted the fact that one of her very Catholic children (sort of) has entered the heretofore uncharted “Land of the Big D.”
What’s got her knickers in a twist, so to speak, is that my brother is dating – and boy, is she ever worried about his new love life.
We didn’t know how worried until the annual debate about Easter dinner began. My mother reminds us every year that she has ‘retired’ from holiday hosting, and so it falls to one of her children to take over. That’s fine with us because 1) she’s a terrible cook; 2) she insists on using her ‘good’ china, wincing and cringing through the meal as we actually use it, then spending the post-meal checking for microscopic chips; and 3) she gets so manic, one Thanksgiving she even had a panic attack that landed her in the ER.
This year, despite the ER visit, my mother considered hosting the dinner, but as she counted heads, we all noticed she had not counted the lovely head of Elaine, my brother’s new love interest.
Elaine is a wonderful person, a kindergarten teacher, and we all like her. Most important, my brother has started smiling again, something he hasn’t done for months.
My mother, however, didn’t invite her to dinner, for fear of “leading that little girl on.”
That “little girl,” by the way, is a 43-year-old divorcee, dating a divorced 54-year-old lawyer. We’re not talking teenagers in love here.
I pointed out to my mother that she didn’t have to worry about leading Elaine on. And anyway, she didn’t have to invite Elaine to dinner – my brother was invited, and he was bringing Elaine. So Ma, you can host the dinner guilt-free, right?
Wrong. Nothing is guilt-free when it comes to Mom. She feels guilty about everything – the current unrest in the Middle East, the Patriots blowing their Super Bowl chances last year, and the fact that Kirstie Alley has fat ankles, no matter how much weight she loses (and gains, and loses, and gains, to infinity).
And Ma makes everyone else feel guilty, too. I feel guilty about writing this. My sister feels guilty about Mother’s Day 1978 (the statute of limitations has yet to expire, so I can’t get into details). My older brother feels guilty that he doesn’t feel guilty enough about what he should feel guilty about.
In the end, we did have Elaine over for dinner, but at my brother’s newly-wifeless house. It was great. The Big D turns out to have some benefits after all.
Elaine cooked the main course, and she’s a good cook. We used paper plates, so we didn’t have to deal with cracked china, and my mother indulged in a Manhattan, which meant she remained calm and slightly tipsy, so no 911 calls were needed.
Our first holiday meal in “The Land of the Big D” was a success. Christmas? Bring it on.