Small, silver-trimmed circles
of tulle covered the tabletop. Mama held up what looked like two identical pieces of the fabric, one in each hand.
"Don't tell me you can't see the difference, Mace." She thrust the first circle under my nose. "This is celadon." She shook it for emphasis. The fluorescent lights of the VFW hall gave the green tulle a dull gleam. "And this," she waved the second circle within inches of my eyes, "is honeydew."
I batted away her hand. "Like I told you, Mama, they look exactly the same. Light green."
She rolled her eyes and sighed heavily, as if she couldn't stand to deal for one more minute with poor dumb trash who couldn't tell the difference between subtle shadings of tulle. I decided I'd had just about enough of her Bridezilla routine.
"Wouldn't you say you're going a little nuts, Mama? Does it really matter whether every square centimeter of tulle is dyed exactly the same shade as the next? All this whoop-de-doo is kind of tacky, anyway. After all, this is your fifth trip down the aisle."
Mama looked wounded. "You know I've never had a real wedding, Mace. I eloped with your daddy. And when I got married after he died?...?well, you know all about Husband No. 2. After that nightmare, I thought I might jinx my third try by making a big to-do. Turned out that one didn't take either, big wedding or small. And then No. 4 and I met on that cruise and decided to have the ship's captain tie the knot."
I remembered. My sisters and I were horrified when Mama came home with a new husband, twenty years her junior. We also got souvenirs that said My Mother Went to Cancun and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt.
"Poor No. 4," Mama said. "He didn't seem as good a choice on dry land as he had on the high seas. Maybe I shouldn't have mixed champagne with Dramamine. Anyway, Mace, Sally is the first man I've really loved since your daddy. I want this wedding to be perfect."
Mama was marrying Salvatore Provenza-Sally-in less than a week. Under the pressure of pulling off the Ceremony of the Century in Himmarshee, Florida, she'd mutated into someone my sisters and I barely recognized. She was driving us crazy, which wasn't the unusual part. She's always done that. But we'd never seen Mama so obsessed over the inconsequential.
Here's a woman who nearly landed in prison after a corpse turned up in her turquoise convertible. Then, she found an old beau keeled over dead in his Cow Hunter Chili. She's tangled with a gator, and was nearly trampled to death during a week-long horse ride through Florida's cattle country. And that's just what Mama's survived in the past year.
Now, tulle had her in a tizzy. I was ready to head out into the swamp to escape. And my sisters, Maddie and Marty, were almost willing to brave the gators and the snakes to come with me. But I knew I had to give her the customary daughterly pep talk.
"Take a deep breath, Mama," I recited. "Everything's going to be fine . . .