Virginia gave the sauce a quick stir then brought the wooden spoon to her mouth. It was possibly the best yet in all her 58 years. The large pot seemed to grow ever larger on the stovetop as she stared. It had been over 4 years since she’d consistently made a meal for more than 2 people. Two people who had certainly eaten a lot less in their advancing years.
When the kids came over that was just more of a reminder of how the clock hands keep turning no matter how hard you wish them to pause or even go backwards for just a moment. They were no longer learning how to read, do math or ride bikes. They were even way past the first time their father sat in the passenger seat of the family station wagon, a vehicle that has since been traded in for a smaller more efficient model, with a white-knuckled grip on the door handle.
The eldest of the four, finally married but no plans for grandchildren yet. The second one, he wouldn’t be able to make it to dinner tonight, being deployed to the other side of the world. The third one, after floating about for a couple of years, finally got his act together and is attending a technical school. And the youngest, her little baby girl she hoped so desperately for, well she just graduated college.
Virginia was astonished when she first learned Melanie had actually gotten a job and an apartment close to home, after spending 5 years in college in California no less. She always figured her daughter would never come back. The one she wanted the most had always been expected to be the one she’d see the least. But Virginia saw more of her daughter than her boys and usually more often than just the first Wednesday every month family dinner night. She was also always early for those dinner nights.
So when Virginia heard the front door open she made no moves just continued stirring.
Virginia gave her daughter a hug, leaving the spaghetti sauce in the pot unattended.
Melanie took an opportunity, while her Mother moved back towards the counter, to grab the wooden spoon and stick it in her mouth.
“Hey get out of that!”
“This is missing something…”
“Since when did you become a food critic, Miss Ramen noodles?”
Melanie positioned herself on her usual barstool up against the counter facing the kitchen. She thought briefly this is where her parents would eat if they didn’t already plant themselves in front of the TV.
“Hey now, you know I eat better than I did in college.” Virginia just gave her a look. “Okay, I’ll clarify. Just because when I cook it comes from a box, doesn’t mean I can’t understand food. Trish is an excellent cook, and that is why she usually does it.”
Melanie made it a point to mention Trisha to her mother and had pretty much always done so since the two had met in junior high. It wasn’t so pointed or purposeful at first, she had always just had a reason to mention her best friend. Lately though it was very purposeful. She didn’t have to stretch for a reason though, the two were roommates after all.
Virginia knows Trisha. She remembers her daughter coming home one day from the 8th grade talking about her and she hasn’t stopped since. How agonizing it was when she became a freshman in high school and then in college for her best friend was a year behind her. No surprise either when Melanie decided to stay a 5th year to tack on a minor to her degree. But when her daughter said she had gotten a job and was headed back near home that was a shocker. However, it wasn’t a surprise that Trisha was too and the two of them had moved in together.
Virginia decided to continue their conversation. “How’s Trisha?”
Despite Melanie’s propensity to recite volumes about her friend the question always invoked the same response. “Fine.”
This response was similar to any question about any one’s well being or other status, especially when it came to Melanie. Virginia could not break with tradition though.
“And you… How are you?”
“How’s work going?”
It was like pulling teeth to get Melanie to open up. But Virginia, as a mother, had her ways. Part of it was mother’s intuition, the rest of it merely just keeping her eyes and ears open for when Melanie did speak. All Virginia had to do was change the subject.
“So I talked to your brother the other day,” Virginia said, knowing she didn’t have to clarify which one.
“I know… he called me after that.” Melanie talked to her brother more than she talked to her mother. It was constant communication, email, phone, even snail mail. They were very close and had always shared each other’s secrets.
So Melanie steeled herself waiting to hear a repeat of everything she and her brother had talked about, an irritation but one she was used to.
But the barrage did not come. Instead, Virginia stopped silent, for once her turn to be unspoken. Focusing back on to the food, she grabbed a bottle of seasoning, twisted off the cap and began shaking it into the pot.
“I wasn’t done yet, give it 5 minutes and taste it again.”
It was this silence that had been waiting patiently all these years. There had been particularly spectacular instances before perfect for the moment to speak the truth, but they passed. But today, being the day before it began, the day before the arguments would be heard to determine whether or not Melanie’s heart would get broken again, or mended fully from the heartbreak in November.
Was Melanie really going to do it, or let it slip away? She could have mentioned it when she and Trish got back from their summer vacation in California, to visit their college buddies and attend a wedding. She could have mentioned it in November after they got back from California, another vacation but not a happy one. They spent most of that time on streets with signs. But instead she just kept moving her ring to the right hand when she pulled into the driveway. It felt uncomfortable there.
Virginia faced the stove, waiting. If Melanie didn’t do it soon, she was going to. She glanced at her daughter. It made her sad to see her baby girl so conflicted. As Melanie began playing with her ring on her right hand again, Virginia knew exactly what to do.
Melanie was so lost in thought she didn’t realize she was playing with her ring and had only just noticed her mother leaving the room. Lost again, this time in bewilderment, Melanie almost jumped out of her seat when her mother reappeared again.
“I have something for you. Now this is something very important and you must promise me you will use it wisely.” Melanie nodded, still confused. “It has been through a couple generations and it needs to be passed on now. I had originally figured it would be used a little differently, but I got over that a long time ago.”
Virginia held a closed fist out and slowly opened it. It was a simple gold ring with a quarter carat round cut diamond.
Melanie reached for it and looked it over. Gold wasn’t really her color. Her current ring was white gold, with three tiny slivers of diamond inset. Then her mother’s words reached her.
Virginia started to turn back to the stove top.
“That means give it to your wife dear.”
Flabbergasted all Melanie could utter was, “Really?”
Virginia lifted the sauce spoon and tasted it. Just right.
“Really.” She stated matter-of-factly. Virginia glanced back at Melanie still sitting on the barstool completely dumbstruck. “Oh and next time you talk to your brother, I’m sure you’ll find a way of letting him know I need to talk to him once Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed.”