Back at Maggy’s the wedding was being planned from scratch and the arguing had started all over again.
“Peter’s business partner said we could use his summer home.”
“We don’t know his business partner well enough.”
“It’s a beautiful place.”
“No one wants to wear a gown and high heels to a cottage by the sea.”
“I could wear my bathing suit.”
“You mind your manners.”
“How about taking a look at it.”
“It’s too far away.”
“It’s no further than going across town in traffic.”
“It’s an hour’s drive.”
“That’s not far.”
“Yes it is.”
“No it’s not.”
“The food will get full of sand.”
“That’s not funny.”
“It’s all arranged.”
“Peter has a van and we’re driving out tomorrow. You can come if you want.”
The next morning there was a bit of a fuss as they tried to decide if they should take swimsuits and towels. Even though Maggy’s mother was against the outing she was still excited about a trip to the ocean.
Soon they were out of the city and had turned off the highway onto a side road. They drove past a dusty gas station that had postcards and shark’s teeth necklaces hanging in the window, and an antique shop that had strings of sea shells and wind chimes swinging from the ceiling of the veranda. Soon they entered a narrow country lane covered in broken asphalt.
“This is it,” said Maggy cheerily.
“It’s not exactly inviting,” whispered Maggy’s aunt.
Maggy’s mother said nothing. She bit her lip for Maggy’s sake and prayed that with just two weeks left before the wedding, they would be able to find the perfect place. By the looks of the run down gate she feared that this was going to be another waste of time.
Peter drove the van down the dirt path that had a row of grass growing in the middle. With each hill and winding turn, the in-law’s expectations lowered. However, as they came around the last bend, Maggy’s mother shouted, “Great Mother of God!”
Before them stood a beautiful cape cod home nestled amongst sugar sand dunes and tall oat grasses. It was one of the most exquisite seashore homes that any of them had ever seen. Set against a backdrop of an aquamarine harbour it had taken their breath away. Peter parked alongside a perfectly manicured row of cedar hedges and when he stepped onto the crushed-stone driveway he took a deep breath of salty air. He looked to see if the others were coming but no one had gotten out of the van because they were too busy making themselves presentable. They finally emerged and huddled around Peter as he approached the front door. When he rang the bell the women stepped back to let him do all the talking. Peter rolled his eyes at them and shook his head. He was amused that these women, most of whom were fierce, could become so timid so quickly.
“How do I look?” asked Maggy’s mother.
Maggy’s mother heard footsteps and bristled.
A tall beautiful woman opened the door and graciously invited them inside.
“Welcome. How was your drive?” she asked. “I’m Mrs. Santini, Bill’s wife. Just call me May.” She listened genuinely to their introductions and then she escorted the group on a tour of her home. They were mesmerized by how lovely it was and by the spectacular views of the ocean.
“Make yourselves comfortable while I go find Bill.”
They spread out around the central living area and made note of the large walk-in fireplace, the shell encrusted lamp shades and the hand made glass dolphins that looked like they were swimming across one of the tables. Maggy’s mother and aunts stayed in the centre of the room so as not to break anything, and gave knowing glances to each other when they saw something of value.
May and Bill returned and invited the group into the kitchen to show them that it was professionally designed to accommodate caterers. The home was made for entertaining. “The fire code says that we can only have one hundred and fifty people here at one time, but if the weather is fine we can put up a tent outdoors and accommodate fifty more,” explained Bill.
Peter smiled at May. He wanted to say, “Yes. Of course we’ll have our wedding here!” but he had to wait for his mother-in-law’s approval.
“We can’t impose on these people,” thought Maggy’s mother.
“Nonsense,” said May.
“No imposition at all.”
Maggy’s mother was embarrassed that she must have spoken her thoughts out loud. “Besides. This is my daughter. Not yours,” she said to herself.
“Of course,” said May. “But everyone loves Maggy.”
“Why don’t we go for a sail?” suggested Bill.
Maggy’s mother was upset with her roller-coaster emotions. At first she didn’t want to come see the place, then she fell in love with it, and now she felt overwhelmed and wanted to leave. Maggy’s mother and her sisters talked over the situation while they waited for Bill.
“Who would want 150 strangers in their house?”
“What if someone breaks something?”
“What if someone steals something?”
“What if they cancel at the last minute?”
May saw things differently. She had grown up in this house but because she had poor health she couldn’t travel with the rest of her family and experience the world like they did. She was so jealous of their adventures that she vowed that she would invite the whole world to her place as often as she could. May also loved Maggy and Peter and would be thrilled to host their wedding.
“We had a fabulous wedding here last summer,” said May. “The groom was an old sea captain and the bride was my mother. She insisted on throwing her bouquet from the top of the lighthouse turret. You should have seen the grand-children chasing flower petals like bubbles in the wind.”
“Follow me,” insisted Bill. “The boat’s ready and we can have lunch onboard.”
Maggy and Peter walked hand in hand along the grey, wooden walkway that meandered around the dunes, while Erin and Kelly raced each other down to the Atlantic where they ran like galloping horses along the surf. The aunts huddled together and held their skirts tight in order to keep them from rising with the breeze. After letting their guests explore, May and Bill invited the them onto the boat and Peter tried to help his in-law’s make the step from the dock onto the heaving deck.
“One step across and don’t look down,” he advised. Even though the ladies had grown up among boats they welcomed a steady arm.
When everyone was onboard and seated in the shade, May set out the lunch and little by little a hint of laughter began to appear on the horizon. By the time the whipped cream had been heaped on the scones and fresh strawberries, the visitors had become less defensive and more trusting. Maggy’s mother even made jokes and teased Peter about nearly letting her fall into the sea. They talked and laughed and told many many stories about Ireland. Maggy’s aunt said that when God created emeralds He made them to match the colour of Ireland, and not the other way round.
After lunch May handed out life-jackets and insisted that everyone put one on. “True captains don’t wear floats,” Bill complained as he snapped his together. Even though he had grown up in the city he had always been attracted to the sea, and in contrast, many of the guests who grew up by the sea, were not comfortable on boats. They had watched fisherman come and go, in and out of harbours most of their lives, but they had always witnessed it instead of being a part of it.
It was obvious that Bill and May were expert sailors as they tweaked the rigging for a steady day on the water. They knew how to get just the right amount of power out of the sails and even though it was a relatively calm day they wanted to make their guests feel comfortable.
Maggy leaned her back against Peter and looked at the beach house that had grown smaller in the distance. She turned to face Peter and said, “Well? What do you think?”
“I love it here. I always have.”
Maggy’s mother was enjoying herself so much that she was lost in a daydream. The wind and the open ocean had blown away her fears and she felt like a kid again. The thought of returning to this place to celebrate Maggy’s wedding was icing on the cake.
“Let’s do it!” beamed Finola. “But the service has to be in a church.”
“O.K.” agreed Maggy and they toasted the good news.
Finola wondered if she had made the right decision so she made the sign of the cross over her chest just to make sure.
“We could bring some of the Irish Blue flowers out here,” suggested Erin.
“If we have enough,” joked Kelly.
“Land ho!” shouted Bill as he brought the bow round the point and tacked his way back to shore. “Land ho!” echoed his crew as they vowed to make Peter and Maggy’s wedding a time to remember.