Phyllis stamped her foot and its classic black pump in anger, but her fury was swallowed up by the plush carpeting. This was the most out of control I had ever seen Phyllis. I didn’t know whether to be horrified or amused.
My mother had no qualms about her reaction and began giggling.
Sensing the showdown, the manager of the boutique scurried from the backroom and headed toward our party. “Perhaps I can be of assistance here?” Both Brenda and Phyllis turned on her and in unison hissed, “No!” Phyllis added a terse “thank you” as the manager hastily boomeranged back to the racks of dresses.
I had had enough. In the brief silence that followed the manager I calmed my breathing and cleared my throat. “You know, it’s not really about what’s best for your daughter,” I pointed a finger at my mother, warning her via my body language not to interrupt me. “Or what’s best for your son.” I gestured toward the still fuming Phyllis. “It’s about what’s best for us.” I beckoned impatiently for Blake to come join me in some show of solidarity. He strode toward me and then stood behind me with a hand on each shoulder. I felt slightly like a human shield, but I continued, hoping that the tremor in my voice would be unnoticeable.
I summoned my courage. “I know a little something about negotiating. And it seems to me that Blake and I are the ones with the power here. We have the motivation and the means to pull off this wedding entirely by ourselves. So your participation in it is a privilege, not a right. Bryce and I love each other and we love you and you love us, so I hope you can find sufficient motivation to figure out how to tolerate each other.” I looked at both of them meaningfully. “And not just for the wedding,” I added, “but afterward too because we’re in this for the long haul.” I gave my final plea. “Please figure this out because we do want you at the wedding.”
After several seconds of silence spent staring at each other, Brenda finally threw up her hands. “Oh, whatever Desi. If you’re going to go all lawyer-like on me, then I guess I have no choice. If I paid for all that school, then I might as well listen to you. I’ll butt out.” Truth be told, my mother paid for hardly any of my school, but I wasn’t about to argue with her when she had finally conceded to backing down. My mother headed for the door, but added over her shoulder. “Just make sure to call me when you taste test the cake.” It wasn’t a throw-away line; I knew she was completely serious about the cake. She sauntered out the door without any formal farewell.
Phyllis had a difficult time sweetening the sour expression on her face. “Well, I can certainly tell when I’m not wanted.” Finally, I thought; I wished she had picked up the vibe days ago. “If this is something you need to do for yourself, then I suppose I should wish you the best of luck.” Phyllis kissed Blake on the cheek and then slowly walked out of the store, trying to recapture the regal air that she had relinquished during the time spent in my mother’s presence.
Set free from orbiting our crazy mothers, I summoned the shell-shocked manager and continued to try on dresses. After conferring with Blake and then sending him home, I finally settled on the mermaid gown with the V-neck and long sleeves that draped off my shoulders. A voluminous veil would cover everything for the ceremony and keep it church appropriate. I felt classy and sexy. Blake was going to be in heaven. Perfect.
My mother, my much-adored but mostly absentee father and I stood with elbows linked ready to walk down the aisle as they gave me away. My father looked handsome as ever in a classic tuxedo. He had flown in two days before the wedding and followed all my instructions including how to be attired down to the letter. Brenda conceded to convention only in that her mother-of-the-bride outfit was one of my wedding colors. But she had certainly successfully negotiated her own style. In exchange for keeping mum on my dress choice, I had basically given her free reign on her own dress. Family, friends and work colleagues from both my side and Blake’s were about to get a glimpse of who Brenda was and a little bit of insight into who raised me. Come to think of it, they were going to get more than just a glimpse of Brenda as the dress she had chosen was so tight it left nothing to the imagination. She reached over with her free hand and tried to adjust my neckline lower. I batted her hand away. “Remember, you have zero say,” I scolded. “The girls are reined in today. Stop trying to set them free. And don’t even mess with the veil.”
My mother tried to justify herself but we were shushed by my father. “That’s our cue,” he said as the organist hit the first notes of the bridal march.
The guests stood as we headed toward Blake at the front of the chapel. I saw Phyllis and Larry rise on the front row. She genuinely smiled at our family trio. I don’t know what kind of conversation she had with herself post-shopping fiasco, but she had come around. Over the rest of the course of wedding planning, Phyllis offered advice but did not pressure. Upon seeing my mother’s dress selection, she said nothing to Brenda, but did offer to run interference with Father Thomas. I didn’t ask for details, but I came to understand that Father Thomas was appreciative of Blake’s family’s sizable donation to the building fund.
Blake beamed at me from where he awaited my walk down the aisle.
I wondered what percentage of love was simple tolerance. I believed I would have lots of time to figure it out.