Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin. Barbara Kingsolver
I feel as if people are put in my life for a reason so when they leave it’s always difficult for me to deal with. There’s a For Sale in front of Dawn and Yves’s former home. They lived in our neighborhood for years and we grew accustomed to watching Yves pull out of the drive to go on one of his beloved fishing trips just as we always looked forward to their annual Kentucky Derby party. Yves always complained that Dawn rigged the betting but I was there the day he won several hundred dollars. That was his way of teasing her about the party that celebrated the race and his birthday.
Not long after their last party we were standing in the shoe store. It was just the girls and I. We were buying sandals because overnight my oldest daughter’s shoes didn’t fit and she needed something to wear to a graduation party we were going to. My husband was already there. He had gone straight from work and if I would have been smart I would have had him meet us at the shoe store instead of the party. My youngest daughter hadn’t had a nap, both girls were running around the store and I was in general hot, tired and ready to throw in the towel and forget the stupid sandals altogether.
We were on our way out when I heard a voice I recognized. Considering that Yves is French he has a very distinctive voice. It’s rather high-pitched. He’s a tenor and I would recognize his voice anywhere. The girls raced over to see Dawn and Yves. They were buying shoes for their son Christian and that’s when we found out that they were moving to San Antonio. Dawn doesn’t care for Wisconsin winters and Yves had found a job that he hoped would be less work for more pay.
They offered to take us out to eat but I explained we were on our way to a party so we parted with promises to keep in touch. I was thinking about them on my walk past their place. It’s been almost two years now but seeing their home for sale has brought back those memories.
Thinking back it’s hard to say how long I stood there talking to Dawn and Yves but by the time I rounded up the girls and found the park where the party was at people were taking things down and packing them up. The food had already been cleared. It was now supper time and the girls were hungry.
Downtown Delafield is pretty any time of the year but it’s especially so in summer. Proprietors open doors and set out flowers. It’s cute and quaint. A tourist’s dream that even the locals can appreciate. We passed The Blue Iris, a friend of mine owns and runs it with her mother as a partner. It’s a neat place to browse for unique gifts. I wanted to stop in to say hi but a meal was our first priority.
It was my daughter Jill who noticed the sign first. She told us it had a J on it, we looked up and by this time we had walked across town to Jessica’s Cafe. It’s one of my favorite restaurants, a friend of mine works there and it had been a while since I had been there. There’s nothing that says you can’t bring children but they are more apt to appreciate grilled cheese sandwiches than warm duck salad with champagne vinaigrette. We weren’t dressed for Jessica’s but that’s where we ended up because it was close, we were there and everyone was hungry.
During the meal there was the usual flurry of activity. Napkins were dropped. Someone dropped a straw. The server brought us a new one and I felt like everyone in there was staring at us and our children. One couple in particular seemed to have their eyes on us and by the end of the meal I was regretting not accepting the invitation from Dawn and Yves.
Eventually the meal ended. Jamie took the girls out while I paid the bill. I turned to follow them but a very elegantly dressed woman stopped me. She had the kind of jewelry that I will never own but it wasn’t an affectation it was just her. Her husband stood just in back of her, they introduced themselves as Tom and Marlene and I could hardly believe it when they commented on how well our children had behaved themselves during the meal.
My perception was that Jill and Jane had been loud, careless and disruptive but Tom and Marlene perceived things differently. They thought Jill and Jane had been a dainty addition to the surroundings. Marlene especially was touched by the fact that at one point the two sisters had been sitting at the same barstool eagerly awaiting a glass with a straw in it.
One of the first things I noticed about Marlene was her necklace. A crescent shaped sliver of moon held three small pearls. The moon was silver, the pearls were nestled protectively in the curved embrace and it was a neat piece of jewelry but at odds with everything else she was wearing.
That should have been a clue but I have always been famous for putting my foot in my mouth so I asked her about it. My cousins are triplets and I wondered if perhaps the pearls in the necklace represented Marlene's children.
The moment the words left my mouth I wanted to call them back. Marlene was visibly shaken. I stepped back awkwardly and even the girls were uncomfortable in the tense silence that fell over our group.
The diamonds on Marlene’s left hand glittered in the fading sunlight as she touched her necklace. I could see the shimmer of tears in her eyes and I was inwardly raging at myself for being so thoughtless.
When she was more composed Marlene explained that her former daughter-in-law had given her the necklace after her husband had passed away. His heart had given out and the necklace was a gift for Marlene in memory of all three of her sons. The living and the dead.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to start crying or not. I apologized to both Tom and Marlene for being insensitive. They brushed my words aside. Marlene gave me a wobbly smile but the only thing I could do was stand there feeling horrible.
Once I started crying I didn’t feel like I could stop. Marlene put her hand on my arm. Now she was crying so we walked down towards the pond to sit on one of the benches. Time passed slowly. She wanted to talk about her son and the necklace. She said I was the first person who had ever asked if the necklace had any significance and that was so surprising to me that I stopped crying. We chatted for a few more minutes before it was time to leave and I’ve never seen either Tom or Marlene again although I’ve been back to Jessica’s Cafe and the town of Delafield several times since.
The For Sale sign in Dawn and Yves’s front yard is blowing in the breeze on my way back from the lake. The sun is out but there is the faintest sliver of moon visible in the sky. I wonder when Marlene and the moon pearls will meet up with her son again.
For Tom and Marlene, Dawn and Yves. Wherever you may be.