The day before her daughter's wedding, Marion Zombolas was preparing the food for about 60 guests as calmly as for any family get-together. She would have preferred a sit- down dinner, she explained, but Carol and Peter wanted a simple, hassle-free buffet. ("After all, we are paying for it," Carol said. "We wanted a wedding party, not a reception," Peter said. "We want everybody to have a good time.") For a reception, Zombolas would have cooked her stuffed cabbage and her piroshki--specialties she learned from a Polish grandmother.
"Oh, I don't have a style," she said. "I just cook. With five children around, I always cook." She has a blender but will not buy a food processor, preferring to cut everything by hand. "It's not better that way," she says, "but it's what I am used to."
She was making two kinds of potato salad ("one regular, one German, with vinegar and bits of bacon"), coleslaw, macaroni salad, a pistachio pudding ("something a little different, from a recipe on the packet") and two kinds of cake ("Jewish apple cake from a recipe I have had for years and another cake my family likes and calls 'poor man's cake.'") Her husband was slicing the ham.
Zombolas, 57, is easygoing and talkative. The oldest of five children, she has always been a homemaker. She now cares for her three grandchildren three days a week and is looking forward to helping with a fourth grandchild, due this summer.
From the first or perhaps the second time they met, she "just knew" that Peter "was meant for" Carol. She didn't have such feelings about any of the other men Carol brought to the house.
"Carol's first husband was always concerned with himself," Zombolas says, speaking slowly and carefully lest what she says sounds negative. "But Pete is really concerned with Carol. My husband and I took to Pete right away. He wasn't reserved. Carol's first husband was quiet. Pete just started to talk. Maybe it was mother's intuition--I don't know. With Carol's first husband I sensed for a long time that something was wrong. But Peter seemed the right one for Carol."
Zombolas thought it was "natural" for Peter to start calling her "Mom," and her husband "Dad" a few weeks after he was introduced to them. "Pete fit right in-- from the beginning. He kissed me the first timewe met. He seems to have fallen right into our family. Pete is like one of my own sons."
Asked what she might do if she weren't happy with her husband, Zombolas says, "I just don't know what I'd do if we didn't get along." She shakes her head.
Zombolas, married for 34 years, was "not too upset" when Carol told her that she and her first husband would divorce. "I was surprised that she stayed married to him as long as she did," the mother says.
A regular churchgoer, Marion Zombolas accepts divorce as a fact of life. "You have to be accepting, you can't get upset," she says, with a shrug. "They are still your children. They are old enough to know their minds. Maybe the church's laws will change in times to come."