Where Do You Keep Your Key?
Auntie Mae's Various Ramblings on Life in a Small Town
Ida Mae Nowes
Nubbins Special Correspondent

Last month, when I was agonizing over whether to marry my sweetheart Merl or not, I overheard something that helped me listen to my heart.

It was during the Nubbins "Last Fling of Summer" picnic held on the banks of Lake LuLu. People bring their picnic baskets, watch kids running across the grass, and complain about the weather.

Several of us sat and talked in the shade of an old oak. Included in the group was the new lady in town Joy. It took me many months to meet Joy when she first moved in, so she was a bit of a mystery. Frankly, she still is. I don't know much about her, but she always seems to say the right thing. On this hot day she was talking to my friend Myrtle, and I overheard her say, "I try to keep the key to my happiness in my own pocket."

Of course! Perhaps my decision to marry Merl was difficult because I was putting the key to my happiness in someone else's pocket. That statement, and lots of other good advice, helped Merl and me decide what we wanted: to get married but keep our separate homes, at least for the time being.

So that was last month all the agonizing is behind us, right? Oh, how wrong you are. Now comes the wedding.

Don't get me wrong. I love a good wedding, as long as it's not overdone and it's somebody else's. But these days weddings have an inflated reputation (the only people who say your wedding day is "the best day of your life" are advertisers and people who've never had one) and have very little to do with marriage. Plus, the amount of advice I got about whether to get married or not turned out to be a drop in the bucket when it came to wedding advice.

For instance, my wedding has been the number one topic of conversation among my Walky-Talky group for four weeks running. Myrtle, the real estate agent and flashy dresser, thinks I should go all out a big to-do where everyone in town is invited and the Walky-Talkers march down the aisle wearing matching magenta dresses. On the other hand, Grace, the librarian who has never been married herself, had Merl's elderly mother in mind when she suggested a traditional, understated church wedding. Pepper likes the idea of an informal service at the community center, followed by a potluck dinner and music by our local oldies band, the Holly Buddies. Pearl, who is through with her chemo treatments and feeling good about the future again, offered to host an outdoor wedding in her backyard with little white lights and paper lanterns in the trees. Of course, Roberta scoffed at the whole thing.

"If you're determined to go through with it, Ida Mae, for heaven's sake, just elope," she harrumphed. Roberta's first marriage ended badly when her husband ran off with his secretary. She's got a steady guy, Brian, but has no intentions of ever tying the knot again.

It seems like everyone I talk to has a wedding suggestion for me, from where to hold it, who should officiate, what I should wear, and who I should invite. Even my young friend Johnny Mac had something to offer.Yesterday, when I was taking a walk to rest my spinning head from all those crazy wedding thoughts, along came Johnny Mac, walking his new dog and best friend, Mae.

"Hi there, Aunt Ida Mae," he said.

"Oh, hello, Johnny Mac," I replied. "How's Mae doing?"

"Just peachy," he said. No telling where he

heard that one. "Hey, I've been meaning to ask you something," he added. "If you want Mae to be in your wedding you know since she's named after you and everything I'd be happy to give her a good bath and put a pink scarf around her neck or something like that."

Oh, my goodness. Now there's going to be a dog in my wedding? But I didn't say that out loud. Instead I just responded with, "Thank you for the offer, Johnny Mac. I'll give that some thought."

Suddenly he started fishing around in his pocket. "Oh, I almost forgot," he said. "I was just over at Miz Joy's house and she asked me to give this to you." He handed over an old brass key.

"What's this for?" I asked, looking at it without recognition.

"I dunno," he said. "She just said you should put it in your pocket."

"That's odd," I said, but then I remembered what she'd said so many weeks ago at the picnic. Was she trying to tell me something about all these wedding worries, in her odd mysterious way? But how did she know?

I could have spent a long time trying to figure out the mystery, but I didn't. What I did do was put that key in my pocket, and I have no plans to take it out.

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