About six years ago, my newlywed husband, John, and I drove over to my mother-in-law’s house on a Sunday. We’d been married about one month and truly believed our love was here to stay. Still feeling that honeymoon bliss, we were happy to go over for Sunday dinner. This dinner was in honor of my brother-in-law, Jimmy, and his wife Kathy. It was their tenth wedding anniversary.
“I can’t believe it was ten years ago, I can still remember sweating in that tux outside when we took pictures. It was so humid, and the limo’s air conditioning broke. It was awful,” John said. I couldn’t tell you a thing about that day myself, for I was but a twinkle in my husband’s eye.
Anyway, we hadn’t actually bought them a gift. Jimmy worked for the state and had a hectic schedule. We were planning on getting them tickets to see The Lion King on Broadway. Truth be told, we weren’t ready to fork over a few hundred bucks on tickets until we knew when they’d be able to go for sure. So in the cute little Hallmark card I wrote:Dear Jimmy and Kathy,
Congratulations and Happy 10th Anniversary! I hope that we’re half as happy and as in love as you two are today when it’s our tenth! Consider this a gift certificate for two tickets to “The Lion King”. Just give us the date you can go and we’ll take care of the rest.
Deb & John
We pulled in the driveway and walked in the side door, which is the entrance to the kitchen. I had smile on my face and said “Hello!” but that smile and cherry disposition quickly faded. I looked at my mother and sister-in-law who were sitting at the kitchen table. They looked upset.
“Deb why don’t sit down, we need to talk,” said Theresa, my sister-in-law.
Jimmy entered the kitchen and took my husband aside into the den where I couldn’t hear what they were saying.
What the hell is going on? They’ve split us up, something happened, someone died! Oh God, someone must have died. My mind was racing.
I sat down cautiously, “What’s going on? You guys are really making me a little worried.”
Theresa looked at my mother-in-law who gave her the nod to go ahead and speak. She drew in a deep breath and said, “Jimmy and Kathy are going to a marriage counselor.”
I have to say that I was never more relieved- I really thought someone died. But why the hell are we finding this out now on their wedding anniversary?
“I don’t understand, they seem so happy. How long have they been going to one? What’s the problem? Where’s Kathy?” I whispered.
“Kathy’s not here. Jimmy thought it best if she stayed home.”
“What?! I don’t get it, what’s going on? I’m just in shock! I mean, yeah, they bicker, but…” I began to realize they did bicker, quite a lot actually. Kathy tended to get a little heated over small things. She seemed to always spend money on new clothes, jewelry, manicures, going on spur of the moment trips all the time. I just assumed they made lots of cash and they treated themselves to a vacation or two- every few months. She was pretty rude to John, too. She’d always pick on him for being cheap. And he was, still is. Even though I tried to believe that she was just busting his balls, sometimes she’d crossed the line. I used to think that maybe I just need not be so sensitive. She was also pretty opinionated. Like, in your face, opinionated. Not a characteristic of hers that I particularly enjoyed.
“We were pretty shocked, too,” Theresa continued. “Jimmy said they’d been going for a couple months. He’s never mentioned anything about having problems. He says he wanted to get divorced, but she really wants to give the counseling a try, so I don’t what’s going to happen.”
After the three of us sat in stunned silence at the table, John and Jimmy reappeared. Now the five of us were silent in the tiny kitchen. The noise of the blaring TV in the den was only bit of distraction from the tension. My father-in-law was still sitting in the recliner watching baseball.
I don’t remember who got up or spoke first, but I found myself helping set the table. We sat and ate supper, barely speaking a word. I felt like we shouldn’t be eating. I think I just pushed the ziti and meatballs around my plate.
My husband always looks forward to these family get-togethers, especially when there’s a birthday or anniversary. Not because he loves partaking in the celebration so much as he does stuffing his face with cake. My mother-in-law buys a cake for everything. A new job, a new house, she finds any or no reason at all to gather the family around a cake.
He’d noticed the cake in refrigerator earlier when he’d gotten a coke. Jimmy and my father-in-law went in the den after they finished eating and my mother-in-law gathered the dishes to clean up.
John leaned in towards Theresa and I, “So…what are we going to do with cake? I mean Mom got a cake, I guess we’re not going to eat it?”
“Johnny, no, I don’t think we’re going to eat it,” said Theresa.
“John! I think it’s a little inappropriate to ask, don’t you think everyone is upset enough? You better not say anything,” I shuddered at the thought that he could be so insensitive as to think we’d eat the cake.
“Johnny, you’re such an ass.”
We went into the den for awhile and my mother in law put on the kettle for tea and made coffee. She came in and asked if anyone was going to have any.
We all shuffled into the kitchen pathetically quiet. And on the table, there it was in all its glory: the cake. “Happy 10th Anniversary to Jimmy & Kathy!” it shouted sarcastically in pastel frosting.
“We’re going to eat the cake?!” John practically shouted.
My mother-in-law huffed and shook her head, “Well you better, it cost me $16.00!”