Alma’s continued fawning over John made my right eye twitch and there was little I could do to stop the twitch or her fawning. I focused for a moment on my mother-in-law, who was far different from the women in my family. At that moment, I realized how astute my mother and her sisters were regarding makeup, hair, and clothing because of their show business background. They were good-looking and knew how to accentuate their attractiveness without appearing overdone.
My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was in her mid-seventies, with hair dyed blazing red along with well-rouged cheeks and lips. She wore slacks, a white blouse with a large ruffle down the front, and gobs of jewelry. Never mind the three gold necklaces around her neck, she had on dangling earrings, and most of the fingers on her hands, knurled from arthritis, sported big diamond rings in remembrance of some occasion or other. Her fingernails were always painted scarlet.
But it was her shoes that attracted me. She wore three-inch open-toed heels wherever she went, which was mostly to Stewart’s Market where she still worked as bookkeeper, a holdover from the days when she and her husband owned the business. She also wore those heels when she was gardening, an amazing feat for a woman of her age, traipsing in the grass with her barky little dog, Sandy. I have this vision of her with a pair of long, old fashioned scissors in her bejeweled hands, cutting her glorious gladiolas. I never saw her without her jewelry or her high heels except when I found her years later in her bathroom curled benignly between the toilet and the sink after a heart attack.
Alma insisted we have coffee and cake before getting back into the car and driving the two-minute-distance to my husband’s house where my children waited. It was her signature chocolate cake, made from scratch and much too sweet. I could barely choke it down, I was so anxious to see my boys, but instead, I listened to an hour of political hard-ball between John and his father about the upcoming presidential election.
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