we got to the reception late, because mom and dad had to wait around for photos. when we finally got to the country club lounge, the food had been cleared, save a few cubes of cheese, cracker crumbs, and dirty crumpled napkins. my mom’s friends were sitting strategically beside the grand piano, the table top covered in jeweled handbags and half-empty wine glasses.
i ordered a cherry coke and joined the ladies, leaning against the window that overlooked the golf course and watching the piano man’s fingers run up the keys.
he played what you’d expect: love songs and standards. if you sat anywhere else, you probably wouldn’t notice that he sang, too. his mouth opened slightly and he cooed to the melody. after awhile, he said, asked the audience, “any requests?”
he probably didn’t expect anyone to hear that, either, but it got my mom’s friends excited and they responded, one after another: “what will be will be!” “when i was just a little girl!” “will i be married? will i be rich?”
i knew where this was headed and that i couldn’t prevent it, so i helped them out and said coolly to him, “Que Sera Sera.” his eyes flashed recognition and he started to play.
“let’s all sing!” my aunties exclaimed, perhaps the only serious thing they said all night. so they did, piping up, chiming in and swaying in chorus. the guests, who up until this point were oblivious, turned heads and pointed eyes our direction. i gazed hard out the window and fought back my laughter because, really, it was all kind of charming. the party is always where they are.
table 7, to be exact. that’s where members of the classes of ’58 and ’59 sat during the reception. i sat with them, listening to high school tales, inquiring about their children and entertaining their plans for my imaginary wedding to my imaginary husband.
when it came time to cheer, the ladies hooted and hollered. when it was time to dance, they dragged me out to the parquet floor. through it all, i wondered if i would be like that with my friends in twenty, thirty, forty years. if we would have as good and giggly a time as they.
the following morning, i met carrie and melissa for brunch at mimi’s café and i knew the answer was yes. it was just like old times, except their husbands were there, looking at us like we were crazy.
we drove back to my parents’ house and stood by the shrub out front, giggling because you can still see the body’s imprint left ten years ago when sean conner fell backwards into the branches.
“i can’t believe it’s still there,” carrie said.
neither could i, but there it was, an unassuming bush beside my parents’ driveway, living proof that some things never do change.