The Right One

My grandma and grandpa celebrated their 55th anniversary surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and a lifetime collection of friends. I thought that Grandma had forgotten anything she may have known about being single. I was wrong.

As she was getting ready for the party, arranging her long white hair in a French twist, my grandma commented, "I'm always surprised when I look in the mirror and see all these wrinkles." Holding her hand over her heart, she added, "In here, I'm still a young woman." She applied bright red lipstick.

I sat on the bed watching her primp. "So, what is the secret of a long happy marriage?"

She sprayed floral cologne on her wrists. "Don't settle."

I must have looked puzzled.

"Don't settle. That is all you need to know." She tucked a stray wisp of hair in place.

I twisted my own hair around my fingers hoping to coax it into curl. Turning the page of Grandma's photo album, I saw an out-of-focus photo of nondescript steps.

"Where's this?"

"That is where your grandpa proposed to me; we had known each other six weeks. When he first saw me, he told his cousin that he had seen the girl he was going to marry. That was before we had even spoken one word to each other."

"Six weeks?" My images of Edwardian modesty shattered. My grandma was born in 1890. Opposite the picture of the steps was a sepia studio portrait of a ringleted young woman with limpid eyes. That was Grandma, in the high-collared lace blouse, her mouth primly shut, her huge eyes staring off into the unknown future. "I thought people used to have a long courtship."

"I had a long courtship, it just wasn't with your grandfather." She giggled. Grandma's eyes had not changed since that young girl held her rigid pose for the photographer.

My grandma was one of 13 children. Her parents had a large house which Grandma described as a mansion. They were an unusual family for the turn-of-the century. One of Grandma's sisters was a bookkeeper. Her sister Ceil was an attorney; a plaque on a building in McKeesport, Pennsylvania marks the site of her office.

Grandma always wanted to be a wife and mother. She was 25 when she married my grandfather.

"Grandma, I always thought things were different back then. I thought maybe Grandpa came over and sat around the den or parlor or whatever for years before he proposed."

Grandma smiled and moved closer, just like one of my friends settling in for a good gossip. "I kept company with another man for six years. He kept pushing me to marry him. I kept saying `I don't want to leave my mother,' or I'm not ready.' I said this, I said that. The truth was, there was no spark; he was nice, but he just wasn't the one."

I leaned forward. The years had fallen off Grandma's voice. Her speech sounded young, expectant.

"Everyone kept saying, `Annie, so when are we dancing at your wedding?' People talked-people have always liked to talk-there was talk I'd end up an old maid. We took that kind of thing seriously. I didn't say anything. I kept going out with him, but something stopped me from getting engaged. He wasn't the one. My mother was worried about me. I wasn't worried. I knew that there was someone, somewhere. I wasn't ready to settle."

She looked at our faces in the ornately framed mirror. In my face she saw the young woman she had been, in her face I saw my future. She squeezed my hand.

"So, then I met your grandfather. He saw me out walking with my friends and found-who knows how-that he knew my cousin. In a few days, he managed to come calling with my cousin. I never saw the other man again."

"Six weeks later your grandpa proposed." She started laughing until tears gathered in her eyes, tiny droplets glinting like the diamond stud earrings in her ears. "He said he needed a wife to manage his money. He didn't have two dimes to rub together."

"Did you know that before you married him?" I asked, thinking of the tales I had heard about her well-off parents.

"Of course I knew that. I also knew he was the one I had waited for," she said. She looked at our faces in the ornately framed mirror. In my face she saw the young woman she had been; in her face I saw my future. I kissed Grandma's cheek, knowing I would never settle. I would wait for the right one, and now I was certain I would know him when I saw him.

[ Diane Goldberg -- from 'Love Quotes' ]


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