I place a bottle of prosecco on its side then work in a hexagonal glass jar of lemon curd next to it. Then, two packages of crumpets and a box mix of scones go into the doubled brown paper bags.
Viv is in white and blue striped pajamas she didn’t want to take off this morning. She’s holding a yellow lollipop she won’t even eat but takes as a reward for telling the cashier she found the stuffed lobster, caterpillar, octopus, and turtle hidden throughout our local grocery store.
“You watching the wedding this weekend?” the cashier says.
I look up from bagging with the start of a smile (because Obviously!). But he’s not looking at me.
Seven feet away, the next cashier over — a tall man with average brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses — replies with a straight face, “I don’t think there’s any way I won’t be watching it.”
I can’t tell if he means it sarcastically, like his wife will be in control of the TV and computer from 4 am Saturday until midnight on Sunday or because every news channel on planet earth will be (as they should be) covering the royal nuptials; or, if he, with his unemotional but honest self was simply saying, Yes, like most everyone, I’ll watch Harry marry Megan.
I fill six paper bags with groceries, a not-so-insignificant amount of which are potential I-could-make-this-for-the-wedding ingredients when the cashier, my cashier — a tan guy with spiky salt-and-pepper hair — turns to me, “How ‘bout you?”
“Yep! My friend is hosting a wedding party on Saturday. Gonna get up early and go to her house with a bunch of ladies from my neighborhood.” I’m gushing.
Next to me, Viv starts to hop from one foot to the other in her pink flip-flops.
“Those boys are so great,” spikey tan man says. “I mean, it’s so cool to see them grown up. We all loved Diana. Charles was, geez … I mean, what was that guy thinking? Did you know Megan Markle is related to Winston Churchill?”
“I’m sorry, what?” I make a mental note to do some reading up on Megan before Saturday.
“Yeah. Pretty cool, huh? I just think those boys have done so well. Here they are … all grown up and getting married. They’re just really good guys.”
Wire-rims nods his head in stoic agreement, “Yeah.”
I stopped bagging long enough to register what he was saying: that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about these boys. What I thought I, alone, understood, was being said by two men at a grocery store.
After loading the last of my bags into the cart and handing me my receipt, he says, “Have a great day. Enjoy the wedding.”
“Thanks,” I smile. I feel very fond of these guys by now. “You too.” Wire-rims nods his head at me as I pass by to leave, as if he wore a top-hat and tails.
It was early. I was alone. And it was dark. Just like I wanted. Just like it should be when you wake up well before the rest of your family to walk with soft feet from your upstairs bedroom, down through the first floor, and into the basement. When you want to cry with abandon, not needing to think about what you look like or how crazy you feel for getting up early to watch a funeral on television.
The solitary darkness, save the light of the screen, is what you seek when you willingly welcome sadness to roll around in your head until it comes to rest and ties itself up to your throat. It’s what you need when, with each breath, a force deep within your head, which one may assume originates from somewhere near your pituitary, pulls each temple inward towards itself; a tethered throb matching each of your pulsing heartbeats.
September 6th, 1997 — the day of Diana’s funeral — was a year and a month after my own mother’s funeral. A year is impossibly too long to have passed and also no more than a breath away from that last day. I was 19 then. My brother, upstairs in bed, 17, and my little sister turned 12 that spring.
I watched as the boys — William, 15 and Harry, 12 — walked behind the coffin.
The envelope addressed to “Mummy” undoing us all.
Mourning Diana was a comfort, a privilege. A strange allowance — to wake and sit with those boys who knew the same hurt. To cry and grieve both of our mothers.
I don’t remember exactly what I did when William got married. (I had a three-year-old and an almost-5 year old and I’ll blame it on them for the lapse in memory.) But I must have watched because I remember Kate in the carriage. And her gown. Those flower girls. William in red. Pippa. Beatrice and that crazy gravity-defying-tan-circle-bow fascinator thing that matched her dowdy suit-dress to perfection.
But this wedding? Harry’s wedding? Less than a week after Mother’s day?
Harry? The little boy who wrote Mummy. The second son. The troublemaker. The partier. The sweetheart.
This Saturday, May 19th, 2018, I’m waking up way too early to wash my face, brew a pot of coffee, put a quiche (which I’ll prepare on Friday) into the oven to warm before donning my peacock-feathered fascinator and fancy jewelry to drive through my neighborhood to my friend’s house. Twenty-or-so women will greet me (hopefully with more coffee and maybe later we’ll clink mimosas) to watch the festivities before, during, and after Prince Harry marries Megan.
I’m watching — celebrating, really — because all those years ago, I saw him like I saw my little sister (like I saw myself, in a way): a child without a mother.
It’s an undeniable pain.
It’s an irreplaceable loss.
Over twenty years later, I still see him that way. Because that’s how it is. And I’m feeling protective of Harry.
So much time has passed, but just as I couldn’t help the passive tears springing from my eyes on Mother’s Day when a friend said, “I know this is a hard day for you” — and I willed them not to form or drop down my cheeks, but because some things you can’t control (and missing your mom at big events and on Mother’s Day feels like one of the things you shouldn’t need to control) — as Harry marries, my heart (like many of your) is full of emotion about his young man getting marries.
I might as well be a big sister with a tissue tucked into her sleeve.
I’m also a mother — with my own 12-year-old — and, just like the men in the grocery store: I’m proud of him.
What a thing, really, isn’t it? For a young person grow (not without bumps, not perfectly, and yes with privileges their station assures) out of such a tragedy, into a someone their mother would be so over-the-moon for and proud of.
My friend Sarah’s Blueberry Orange Oatmeal Scone recipe.
1 c. milk
1 lb bacon
1-1 ½ c. gruyere, grated
1/2 c Half n Half
1 tsp. Salt
Pepper to taste
⅛ tsp nutmeg
Cut bacon into narrow strips and fry until crisp and brown. Place bacon bits into greased pie plate and cover with gruyere. Beat eggs, milk, and half and half. Season. Pour over cheese and bake in 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or golden brown.
Option 1: add spinach into bacon drippings until wilted, drain then place over bacon.
Option 2: make it a Broccoli Cheese Quiche by substituting 3c. Broccoli cut small and steamed until tender crisp. Cheddar cheese works well here. And add a little bit of cayenne instead of nutmeg.
A pitcher of Pimms. Because we don’t celebrate weddings alone.
Photo cred: My (almost) 12 year old for the B&W. And my friend Jen for her Royal Wedding party prep pictures.