marrying a guy who didn’t look that bad. Under her filmy veil, she was
pink in the face from the big deal of it all.
“After three years away, you couldn’t even get here on time?” my father said to me at the reception. He was a little stouter, a little older.
“Thanks, Dad, you look great too,” I said.
“I guess you heard I’m an ogre,” he said when he shook Phoebe’s
hand. She chuckled politely.
My mother was better. She leaned up to hug me, flooding me with
her carnation perfume, and said, “So, so glad you’re here.” She looked
good, the happy mom of the bride. And my sister cried when I kissed
her, my brother clapped me on the back a long time. I was just getting
sentimental, also a little drunk, when my father gave his toast, which
had the phrase “nation of families” in every clause.
“Mom’s leaving, you know,” my brother said. “It’s our last time all
“Not Dad’s idea, I’m sure.”
“He broke the windows in her car when she told him.”
I thought about my father’s fury and the little he ever got from it.
He roared and raged and grabbed with all his might at what couldn’t
be held on to. His pretty wife, his youngest son, the crazy oligarchical
America in his head—gone, gone, phantoms in the mist. How futile all
that grasping was. Not that I felt sorry for him.
My brother said, “Cute girl you brought.”
Phoebe, who’d had even more champagne than I had, said, “Why do
people spend all this money on weddings? Children are starving all over
the country. No one here believes that, do they?”
I lost track of her while my brother and I were reminiscing about
playing Foosball, and she went over to the caterers who were hauling
away the platters and explained to them where they could donate the
leftovers (in Boston, four hours away). My mother was right near her and
said, “It would just be a mess.”
By the time I got there, Phoebe was telling her she had no idea what
a mess was. And a few other things. “Your mother has been having a
lovely day,” my father informed me. “I think you will have to remove
your guest from the premises.”
Phoebe was not even shouting, not really, just discussing cases of
mothers feeding toddlers out of garbage bins. I myself had been gladly
scarfing down the oysters Rockefeller, the filet mignon, the potatoes dau-