My little sister, Betsy, is getting married next Saturday on the other side of the country. She lives just north of Seattle, where she went to graduate school and met her finance, Seth. And she almost came back to Atlanta for the nuptials but decided go with scenic Grants Pass, Oregon—the gift of adventure.
Most of us, she reasoned, would never think to see that beautiful part of the world if she hadn’t given us a compelling reason to go. She was right—the Internet is burning up with our plans—car rentals, hotels, Facebook pics of first plane rides of small nephews.
Betsy is the youngest of five, and, as the baby, she is our hands-down favorite (we think her intelligence, good nature, sensitivity, and compassion actually mean there was a mix-up in the hospital, and we joke that our mother may have had a hand in it).
Although I guess Betsy could be considered a grown woman at 30, when she texted me the pics of possible wedding dresses, it was hard not to see a little girl playing dress up.
The twinkle of her wide blue eyes, the cropped curly locks…well, she still looked like the same thrifty seven-year-old who thoughtfully purchased Christmas presents for the entire family with just $10 (her father, the college founder, taught her “cheap tastes better”; my father, the jazz musician, taught me “never own more than you can carry”).
Betsy didn’t pick any china patterns because she likes things that have meaning, from the earthen pottery she plans for future dinner parties to the tarnished Mary Everitt silver. Our mother, also a Mary Everitt, worked it into Betsy’s name by simple elongation: Jean Mary Everitt Elizabeth Vance.
I’ve been thinking I’d give Betsy our grandmother’s old Hamilton wristwatch (10-carat gold, black band). We were both close to her; ’Tine gave it to me one Christmas when I was a young writer, telling me what her mother had told her when she gave it to her in the 1950s: “Pawn it if you need to.”
My little brother David, who will be marrying the couple, has told me on numerous occasions that the watch is the right thing to give. “Betsy cares about things that have meaning,” he has reminded.
But I’ve put off having it repaired from being wound too tight. And maybe I’ve also put it off thinking that it’s not grand enough in the usual way of wedding finery—pearls, old lace, items preserved in musty felt or things that sparkle when splashed with candlelight and champagne.
At this point, if I go the old watch route, Betsy will indeed receive a family something that neither fits her wrist nor keeps time. But then again, who’s keeping track of time?