“We’re going to go eat chicken salad,” I said. “And veggies off of a platter.” She looked silently up at me, but seemed to understand.
“There will also be small cupcakes, of course, and fruit salad,” I continued.
Here, I thought I could read a question in her eyes.
“I don’t make the rules,” I said. “I only follow them. I can’t tell you why it is that women universally love chicken salad and veggie platters and small cupcakes… I only know that they do. This is part of what it means to be a woman.”
She seemed to understand this implicitly.
“Someday, you too will be a woman,” I told her. “And then you will eat chicken salad.”
Joy sprang into her eyes.
We arrived at the bridal shower, set our offerings down, and helped to decorate. Norah watched quietly as bouquets of flowers went up, along with burlap, lace, and inexplicable pink striped straws in mason jars. When the bride arrived, we attached a little flower to her shirt, and to the shirt of her mother.
“This is part of it,” I told Norah. “But not the main part.”
There was a short period of greetings and feminine small talk, as the room began to fill. Then, all the ladies filled little clear plastic plates with dainties, and we sat down. Games were announced. “There are always games,” I explained to Norah. “Sometimes you have to taste gross baby food—oh, excuse me—” (she seemed offended for a moment) “—some of it is actually pretty good. Sometimes you have to steal clothes pins from people when they say ‘wedding’ or ‘baby’—sometimes you have to make dresses out of toilet paper, or write date ideas down on a little stick or try to guess the bride’s favorite color and movie and food…”
Her eyes glazed over for a moment and I realized I was boring her.
“I know,” I said. “But they’re actually pretty fun. Still… they’re not the main part.”
Soon, presents where being unwrapped, and all the little girls who had come with their mothers raced down to the front to watch. Ladles! Vacuum cleaners! Blenders! Curtains! The little girls simply couldn’t get enough of seeing the bride react with enthusiasm to each piece. Someday, they too would have blenders.
“This is very nice, and we’re all happy we can do this for the bride,” I told Norah. “But it’s not the main part either.”
I felt that she wanted to form a question, but couldn’t find the words.
“Well,” I answered, “the main part is coming in just a minute.”
Finally, the host of the party stood up and prayed. Then she asked several of the older women to share a few things.
One of them stood and talked about how, in 35 years of marriage, she had learned the importance of kindness. She talked about how, when it comes down to it, not everything you think has to be said, and how at the same time, there are things that you must say every day in order to keep your marriage healthy.
Another stood and talked about praying together, and how in 18 years, there was nothing that helped her and her husband more. It was a way of solving conflict, of knowing one another, and, most importantly, of knowing their God better and better each year.
Another stood and talked about managing a household, practical things about keeping a neat home and planning ahead and going to sleep at a normal time each night. “These aren’t particularly holy sounding things,” she said, “but they’re things that help us every day to feel rested and relaxed enough to tend to our marriage and other relationships.”
Another talked about having fun. “Remember to take time with your close women friends, too,” she said, “and remember to cultivate hobbies with your husband. Get interested in something together… this is what friends do. My husband and I are still friends, after 21 years.”
The women who said things like these were women who would also be taking time out of another weekend to help the bride with the wedding–food, decorations, organization. They were the same women who this young lady had watched for years as they tended to their own homes and families and church life. They were the same women who had taught her Sunday School classes and helped her own parents through difficult times, women who had brought covered meals for dozens upon dozens of sicknesses and babies and moves.
I leaned over and whispered to Norah.
“You see… these are wise women,” I said. “They have been wives and mothers for a very long time, and that’s how they know more than we do about it. And the bride, she is just starting out. This is a new thing she is about to learn to do… being married. So this shower is sort of a way that all the other women can help. And when the wise women speak, the rest of us can learn too, and be reminded of things we forgot. And then we can all talk about it together afterwards and help each other that way.
“And this…” she’d already guessed, but I thought I’d spell it out for her.
“This is actually the main part.”
Norah responded to this new knowledge with a coo, and deftly worked her hands into her mouth. I took another bite of chicken salad.