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After I overcame all my misgivings and invited my mother to my wedding, it was a little disappointing to learn that she didn’t want to come.
I admit it was the place, rather than the occasion, that drew her objections.
“Warner Pier?” Her voice was so angry it could have melted every line between her phone in Texas and mine in Michigan. “You’re getting married in Warner Pier? Why?”
“It’s where Joe and I live,” I said. “It’s where we plan to continue loving – I mean, living!”
I’d pulled one of my usual stunts, tangling my tongue. I misspeak so often – they’re called “malapropisms” – that most of my family and friends simply ignore my slips. Hoping my mother would do that, I went on quickly. “Warner Pier is where important parts of our families live. It’s where all our friends live. Why wouldn’t we want to get married here?”
My mom ignored my question. “Why not get married here in Dallas? We could plan a lovely wedding in Dallas.”
“Dallas? But Dallas was never – I mean, I don’t have good associations with Dallas. I know I lived there twelve years, but if people ask me where I’m from, I always say Prairie Creek.”
“Podunk Creek! You and your dad, the hick! I’ll never understand this compulsion you tow have to live at the back of nowhere!”
I sighed. “If that’s the way you feel, you’d better know the worst. Daddy has already said he’s coming. And Annie is coming with him.”
“I knew she wouldn’t miss it!”
I ignored that. “And I’ve already told them I expect nice beheading – I mean, behavior! I expect nice behavior from all three of you.”
“I would never ruin your wedding by quarreling with your father and that woman he married.”
I sighed. “Just don’t run out on me, Mom.”
I’m not sure what I meant by that comment, and maybe my mom didn’t know what it meant either. Her voice was calmer than it had been.
“Lee, I wouldn’t run out on your wedding. Believe me, I wouldn’t. I want your wedding to be perfect for you. It’s just that – you know how I feel about Warner Pier.”
“I know how, Mom. But I’ll never understand why. Why do you dislike this town so much?”
“You’ve bought into the tourist view.” Her voice became sarcastic. “It’s a darling little Victorian resort town. A regular trip down memory lane to the good old days.”
“You’re forgetting the crime rate around here. I’m aware that the people of Warner Pier are like people anywhere. There’s a dark side to everyone’s personality. People are always – you know – doing things they shouldn’t have done and leaving undone things they should have done. Seems to me that happens in Dallas.”
“It sure happened in Warner Pier when I lived there, and in Prairie Creek, too.”
Another silence grew up between us. Then my mother spoke. “Is Nettie there?”
I was calling from my office, so I put the phone down and went back into the workroom of TenHuis Chocolade (“Handmade Chocolates in the Dutch Tradition”). Most of the ladies who actually make the chocolate had left for the day, but Aunt Nettie, chocolatier deluxe and my boss, was sprinkling light brown granules of Turbinado sugar over a tray of strawberry truffles (“white chocolate and strawberry interior coated in dark chocolate”).
“Aunt Nettie, your long-lost sister-in-law wants to talk to you.”
“Oh, my goodness!” Aunt Nettie had reason to be surprised. My mom and I usually communicated by e-mail. If Aunt Nettie got involved, it was with a casual, “Say hi to Sally.”
Aunt Nettie washed her hands, turning off the water with her elbow in the health department-approved style. She headed toward the phone in the break-room.
She and my mom were talking by the time I got back to the office pone, and I listened in. My mom hadn’t messed around with a lot of preliminary politeness; she was asking a direct question. It was one that surprised me.
“Who’s sheriff of Warner County now?” she said.
“Sheriff?” Aunt Nettie sounded puzzled. “Let me think. It’s some man named Smith. I don’t remember his first name.”
“Then Car Van Hoosier is out?”
“Van Hoosier? He left office years ago.”
“I suppose that there’s no hope that he’s dead.”
Aunt Nettie laughed. “I don’t have the slightest idea. If he’s alive, he’d be a hundred years old. I could find out.”
“No! No, it’s okay. I just want to make sure he’s not still throwing his weight around. Lee? Are you on the line?”
“Sure am. Do you want me to hang up?”
“Oh, no. What’s the date for the wedding?”
I told her, adding, “It’s on a Saturday.”
“Three weeks after Easter,” Aunt Nettie said. “I told Lee people in the chocolate business can’t take honeymoons until the last bunny’s been sold.”
I could almost hear my mother forcing her voice to sound cheerful. “I’ll clear my schedule and plan to be there. And I’ll be polite. Maybe I can come to a few days early and help fill the rice bags or something.”
“That would be wonderful, Mom.”
She sighed again, and when she spoke her voice sounded faintly worried. “It’ll be okay. I’m sure it will.”
I promised to keep my mother informed on the wedding plans, and we all hung up. Then I met Aunt Nettie in the break room. I was curious. “What’s the deal with this former sheriff? What did he have to do with Mom?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea, Lee.”
“She didn’t leave town one step ahead of the law?”
Aunt Nettie laughed. “As far as I know the sheriff wasn’t after her, thought the minister might have been.”
“The minister? Why would the minister have been concerned? I never heard of Mom darkening the door of a church.”
“That was the problem, I guess. She didn’t darken the door when she should have.”
“What are you talking about?”
Aunt Nettie’s eyes widened. “Don’t you know about how your mother came to leave Warner Pier?”
“She took the bus, I guess. She always told me she wanted to the see the world and could barely wait to get out of town.”
“She never told you any details?”
“Lee, your mother ran away from Warner Pier on what was supposed to be her wedding day!”