I used to love it when Amy came home, because I got to go out back and sneak a cigarette with her -- I quit officially more than 15 years ago, so this was a sinful treat -- but now Amy has quit, and I am being dutifully supportive. I'm happy for her. So much good is happening in her life. She's getting married to Karl next February, and one of the things we're going to do this weekend is talk weddings.
Amy is my husband's oldest daughter. He and I are 15 years apart, and Amy and I are 14 years apart, so really I'm half-parent and half-peer. I have always thought of Amy and her brother, Peter, as the bonus prize in my marriage, and I have never managed anything close to half-parenting them. Sometimes they half-parent me. Amy is the person singularly responsible for my having had a real wedding with a real wedding dress. I was just going to do something quiet and maybe wear a tunic. Amy said no. She showered me with wedding magazines, unleashed my inner bride. By the time she was done with me, I was getting fitted for a ball gown and I was ordering little boxes with real butterfly larvae in them that the guests would open in one synchronized moment, filling the garden party with a flying surprise.
(Said my mother: "Oh, look. A moth!")
So now it's my turn to help Amy, and I am rolling up my sleeves.
"Well, I hope you don't mind," she says after she and Karl settle in, "but I brought Sarah home."
Sarah? Her cat? Last we left off with Sarah, she was . . . dead. Wasn't this the cat Amy was calling her dad crying about a week ago?
"I had her cremated," she says. "I thought I could bury her under the magic tree. Do you think that's weird?"
"Honey, it's not weird," says Karl. "Sarah was your friend."
"Since college," Amy says.
"Of course you want to bury her," says Karl. "And in the place you call home."
"You," I say to Karl, "are good husband material."
We have a little pet cemetery under an apple tree that has come to be known as "the magic tree." It was so christened a few weeks before my wedding when we buried Bob, my beloved first cat, there. Amy stood behind me. She was there telling me that my ridiculous flood of tears was not ridiculous at all.
So I'm the last person to find her request a weird one. She knows that. Even so, she looks away, embarrassed by her grief. Eventually, we break through with laughter, wondering together if a dead cat is some prerequisite to a happy marriage."Well, it worked for me," I say.
One of the plans I'm promoting this weekend is that we take Amy and Karl to the mall to get an engagement photo taken. Amy thinks this is an impossibly cheesy idea. Or at least she did. Sometimes a woman just needs permission to embrace her inner cheese. Karl, to his credit, is going along with anything. Men are so compliant during the giddier stages of love. I'm advising Amy to take full advantage of this. We are going to get the photo done.