Illustration by Andres Garzon
Hi, Honey! Oh, Granny is so glad to see you. I hardly ever get a chance to baby-sit now that Nanna lives with you guys. I can’t compete with her!
Oh, my. Look how you’ve grown. You’re a big girl now, five years old already! C’mon in, Granny has oatmeal cookies and milky tea just like the other time. Only don’t tell Mummy or you’ll never be allowed back! Just kidding, darling . . . wave bye-bye to Mummy in the car.
Yes, Granny’s been decluttering—throwing out old pictures and books and things. What, this big white book? That’s Granny’s wedding album. Pictures of the day Granny got married to Grandpa. No, Grandpa doesn’t live with Granny any more.
It’s a wedding, you know, the day people get married. Marriage. Do you know what that is? Well, maybe you don’t.
You’ve seen people riding around in big cars in the summer in white dresses or in a horse and carriage like last summer when my neighbors finally got that lowlife to marry their youngest . . . well, never mind. So, these are Granny’s pictures. From the olden days! D’you want to have a look?
Wait, Granny will just pour the tea and get the cookies and we’ll look together, OK?
Why do people get married, honey? Well, they love each other and want to promise in front of everybody that they’ll keep on loving each other, and stay together, and share everything and raise a family. It’s a lovely day. It was a lovely sunny day for us, I remember.
Well, no, Granny and Grandpa didn’t stay together for our whole lives, darling. Ten years was quite enough.
Lying? Of course not. How could we have known we’d get divorced?
I know Nanna always tells you that you should keep your promises . . . and not tell lies. Yes, she’s quite right.
It’s hard to judge though when you’re just a young girl. What’s that? Your Nana says you shouldn’t judge other people? Well, that’s easy for her to say. Her husband died young before he had a chance to go off the rails, poor guy. You see, there is such a thing as “Good Judgement,” and Granny didn’t have any of that when she married Grandpa.
Yes, we do all look nice, all dressed up and smiling. Except this old man? You’re right, he does look a little grouchy. That’s my Daddy, your great grandfather. He was pretty mad that day. He had to pay for a big party for the wedding and he didn’t like Grandpa very much.
So, why did he pay? Well, I guess he wanted to please me and my mom, to make us happy. No, I wouldn’t say he was a people pleaser. I know, Nanna says you shouldn’t be a people pleaser.
That man in the long dress is the priest. I’m sure you don’t know any men in long dresses like that. Your Nanna’s a Baptist, and they don’t go in for that, and I doubt your mother and that man of hers—yes, dear, Barry—have set foot in a church in twenty years.
That’s the priest blessing us. I don’t really know what that means, dear but he made a sign of the cross like this over us. No, you don’t need to make that sign at home…well, yes, maybe over the cat. That would be alright.
We went to church because it was the most important day of our lives. Not any more, only at Christmas and Easter. I go for the music.
Look! This picture shows the whole family. Nice, eh? People always come together for a wedding. That’s my older brother, James. Oh, I haven’t seen him for years. He took all your great grandfather’s money when he died, and didn’t give one red cent to me, his only sister, so we had a big fight and I haven’t seen him since.
Yes, I know I tell you not to fight with your brother. This was very important though, he —oh, well never mind. Have another cookie and we’ll turn over the page.
Oh, there I am with my long veil and the train on my dress all spread out. You know, that was my grandmother’s dress. That’s why it has long sleeves and doesn’t look like a bathing suit or a chorus girl’s outfit, like the wedding dresses the brides wear these days. Maybe one day you’ll wear it at your wedding. Would you like that? It’s a tradition in our family. Even your mother wore it once.
I have to admit it hasn’t brought much luck the last couple of times it was worn, but maybe if you carry on the tradition – what’s a tradition? Well, it’s something we do over and over again. We like doing it, and it feels comfortable.
No, dear, not like biting your nails. That’s not a tradition.
Here we’re putting on the rings. Yes, I have mine somewhere in my jewelry box. You have to make your promises when you put them on in the ceremony. To love, honor and obey. That’s what I had to promise. They told you what to promise in those days. You couldn’t make it all up yourself. No, only the last part was really hard. I did love Grandpa and honored him like any other human being, but as for obeying some of the nonsense that came out of his mouth, well, really honey, there are limits. You’ll find that out as you get older.
I guess it is a silly idea if you think about it. Marriage! After all, imagine making promises about things you can’t be sure of.
Is there anything I’m sure about, honey? Not many things, not anymore, but there are still a few. I know I’ll always have milky tea, oatmeal cookies and love waiting for you.
Let’s put this old book away now. I think I’d like to paint a picture this morning. How about you? You can take it home to Nanna if you want, and she can do a critique. What’s a critique? Questions, questions! Go get the paint box.
ISOBEL CUNNINGHAM writes short fiction and poetry. Her poetry book, Northern Compass, appeared in 2015 and is available on Amazon. Her poetry has appeared in The Lake, Rat’s Ass Review and Silver Birch Literary Blog. Her fiction has appeared in Passager Journal and Dime Show Review. She is working on her first novel.
Copyright © 2019 by Isobel Cunningham. All rights reserved.