Her mannerisms and conversation spoke of generations of careful upbringing: elegant, controlled, and proper. Though, her hair and her smile were her undoing—completely unregulated—they revealed the indigenous part of her soul.
Several of her spiraled tendrils kept swinging and weaving amid her dangling earrings as if they were playing some sort of cat and mouse game, every time she would laugh. Inexplicably, he felt almost a compulsion to untangle her hair from the hullabaloo. But, he knew that the impulse was more about a constant need to touch her.
He had to concentrate so completely on using restraint that he kept losing track of the conversation between his parents and their friends. He just heard clips:
“We met at Applebees..”
“Yes, another scotch..”
“”20 years of marriage..”
“Bad times and good…”
“I couldn’t stand him when I first met him…”
“Another bottle please…”
Then there would be bursts of laughter, summoning him back into the conversation; widening the lens to show a table of 12, instead of 2.
“These 2 may be THE 2”, his mother thought looking at her oldest son fade in and out of the dinner conversation. 20 years or so ago, the same mother’s eyes that would catch him doing things that it should have been physically impossible to see, had observed her son’s and this young lady’s interactions the entire evening, all while fully engaging with her friends.
She used to admonish him when he was a kid, “sit still at the table.” She and Phil wanted to prepare their children to be able to eat at the finest establishments in the world, so she was a stickler for table manners. By the time he was 10, his manners could rival those of any cultured adult; but, tonight, her oldest couldn’t sit straight. When he was a child, it was because he was antsy, so sitting through a 5-course meal was understandably difficult. Tonight, he was obviously in love. Like a Redwood that has been guided by the direction of the wind for decades, all night, her son leaned towards his woman—clearly pulled by a force.
She understood that force, glancing over at her husband and smiling to herself. She then had to take a huge gulp of wine, “Lord have mercy, if her son and this young lady are anything like she and Phil were, she better not let them go to the bathroom together. This sweet girl couldn’t be as bad as she was—could she? “Pour me some more wine, honey,” she bade.
He kept looking over at his wife to get a read. After decades together, he knew what even the smallest movement meant. If he spoke any other language fluently besides English, it was “wife.” She wasn’t fiddling with her hair or her rings, which would have indicated that she was stressed. Instead her head was titled in a way that showed off the long neck that had always made her look elegant, even in ripped up jeans and designer t-shirts. What made him fall in love with her and keep falling in love with her is that she was a formidable women—highly educated, smart, quick, witty, cultured, connected, and respected; but she took none of it—especially herself—seriously. She was in on the joke of it all—and she was tickled by it all. They had yelled, talked, cried –but mostly giggled as they lived through 5 career changes, 4 health crises, 3 countries, and raising 2 sons together.
Together only 3 months and here she was meeting his parents and their friends. “Unbelievable”, she thought. But, once she allowed herself, she fell quickly and solidly in love with him. She was trying to make a good impression, particularly on his mother whom she knew was her man’s heart; but he was making it tough. He kept touching her hair, her neck, her knee, the beginnings of her thigh—speaking to her in their private language that was naturally developing.
She took her hand and nervously wrapped her finger around one of the spiraled tendrils as she joined in the laughter around the table. “Yes, thank you,” she replied as the server offered her another pour of red wine. She took a tentative sip, when she really wanted to take a gulp, briefly looked at her Love out of the corner of her eye and smiled.