The Notebook: Page 1
I have finally reached the point with my prognosis where I accept that there are certain things I will not live to see. I will not see the day your father retires from the law firm (he always promised me he would retire on his 65th birthday, safe to say that promise was only made to appease me); I will not live to see my grandchildren ride roller coasters, get pimples, or go on dates — and I will not live to see you get married.
This last item pains me the most. As I write this, you are a senior in college and you have just broken up with Jason. For my sake, you are pretending like it's no big deal, you said you knew he wasn't "the One"; his favorite politician is Pat Buchanan and yours in Ralph Nader. So it won't be Jason you end up with — dishy though he was (sorry, true) — but there will be someone, someday, who will light you up. You will get married, and you have said that you would like a big, traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles. Since you've been a little girl you've had your heart set on getting married on Nantucket, and although marriage is probably further from your mind now than it was when you were six, I hope that is still true.
That's where this notebook comes in. I won't be here to encourage or guide you when the time comes; I will, sweet Jenna, probably never meet the man you're going to marry (unless it's the delivery man from FTD who has been here three times this week. I can tell he has a crush on you.) My hand actually aches knowing that it will not be squeezing your hand just before you walk down the aisle.
But enough feeling sorry for ourselves! I will, in these pages, endeavor to bestow my best advice for your big day. You can follow it or ignore it, but at the very least you will know where I weigh in on each and every matter.
I wish for you a beautiful day, Jenna, my darling. You alone will make it so.
Finn Sullivan-Walker (Bridesmaid): I can't wait to see Jenna wearing her mother's gown. It's vintage Priscilla of Boston, silk bodice with a sweetheart neckline and lace column skirt. There used to be a picture in the Carmichael house of Jenna's mother, Beth, wearing the dress. I was obsessed with that picture when I was younger, even before Beth died. Seeing Jenna in that dress is going to be surreal, you know? Like seeing a ghost.
Douglas Carmichael (Father of bride): I can't stand the thought of giving Jenna away. She's my last one. Well, I guess technically Nick is my last one, but Nick might never get married.
Nick Carmichael (Brother of bride): My sister has extremely hot friends.
Margot (Sister of bride, Maid of Honor): Can I be honest? I really just want this weekend to be over.
Jenna looked so happy.
They were on the ferry, the hulking white Steamship which was properly named "the Eagle," but which Margot had always thought of as Moby Dick, because that was what their mother used to call it. Every year when the Carmichael family drove their Ford Country Squire into the darkened hold of the boat, Beth used to say it was like being swallowed by a whale. She had found the ride on the Steamship romantic, literary, and possibly also Biblical (she would have been thinking of Jonah, right?) — but Margot had despised the ferry ride then, and she despised it even more now. The thick, swirling fumes from the engines made her queasy, as did the lurching motion. For this trip, Margot had taken the Dramamine that Jenna offered her in Hyannis. Really, with the seven thousand details of her wedding to triage, the fact that Jenna had remembered to pack pills for her sister's seasickness was astonishing — but that was Jenna for you. She was thoughtful, nearly to a fault. She was, Margot thought with no small amount of envy, exactly like their mother.
Margot pretended the Dramamine was working for Jenna's sake. She pulled down the brim of her straw hat against the hot July sun, which was blinding when reflected off the surface of the water. The last thing she wanted was to freckle right before the wedding. They were outside, on the upper deck. Jenna and her best friend, Finn Sullivan-Walker, were posing against the railing at the bow of the boat. Nantucket was just a smudge on the horizon; even Christopher Columbus might not have said for sure there was land ahead, but Jenna was adamant that Margot take a picture of her and Finn, with their blond hair billowing around their faces, as soon as Nantucket was visible in the background.
Margot planted her feet at shoulder-width to steady herself against the gentle and yet nefarious rocking of the boat, and raised the camera. Her sister looked happy. She looked excited-happy that this was the beginning of her wedding weekend which was certain to be the most fun-filled and memorable weekend of her life (!!!) — and she also looked contented happy, because she was confident that marrying Stuart James Graham was her life's mission. Stuart was the One.
Stuart had proposed to Jenna on a park bench across the street from Little Minds, the progressive, "sustainable" pre-school where Jenna was the lead teacher, presenting her with a ring featuring Ceylon sapphires and ethically-mined diamonds from Canada. (Stuart was a banker, who made money buying and selling money, but he knew the path to Jenna's heart.) Since that day, Margot had cast herself as Devil's Advocate to Jenna's vision of a lifetime of happiness with Stuart. Marriage was the worst idea in all of civilization, Margot said. For two people to meet when they were young and decide to spend the rest of their lives together was unnatural, Margot said, because everyone knew that human beings changed as they got older and what were the chances — honestly, what were the chances — that two people would evolve in ways that were compatible?
"Listen, " Margot had said one evening when it was just her and Jenna having drinks at Cafe Gitane in Soho. "You like having sex with Stuart now. But imagine doing it four thousand times. You'll lose interest, I promise you. You'll grow sick of it. And the enthusiasm that you used to have for having sex with Stuart will migrate — against your will — to something else. You'll develop an unhealthy interest in cultivating orchids. You'll be that mother on the baseball field, harassing the umpire over every pitch that crosses the plate. You'll start flirting with the cashier at Whole Foods, or the compost guru at the local nursery, and the flirting will turn into fantasies and the fantasies will become a fling, then perhaps a full-blown affair, and Stuart will find out by checking your cell phone records, and your life will be ruined, your reputation will end up in shreds and your children will require expensive therapy." Margot paused to sip her sauvignon blanc. "Don't get married."
Jenna had stared at her levelly. Or almost. Margot thought that this time, maybe, somewhere deep inside those clear blue eyes, she detected a flicker of worry.
"Shut up," Jenna said. "You're just saying that because you're divorced."
"Everyone is divorced," Margot said. "We owe our very livelihood to the fact that everyone is divorced. It put food on the table, it paid for our orthodonture, it sent us to college." Margot paused again, more wine. She was under the gun to get her point across. It was nearly seven o'clock and her children were in the apartment without a babysitter. At twelve years old, Drum Jr. was okay to be left in charge until it got dark, then he would panic and start blowing up Margot's phone. "Divorce, Jenna, is paying for your wedding."
Margot was referring to the fact that their father, Douglas Carmichael, was the managing partner at Garrett, Parker, and Spence, a very successful family law practice in midtown Manhattan. Technically, Margot knew, Jenna would have to agree with her: Divorce had always paid for everything.
"There is no man on earth better suited for me than Stuart," Jenna said. "He traded in his Range Rover for a hybrid for me. He and two of the guys on his trading desk showed up last weekend to fix a hole in the roof at Little Minds. He brings me coffee in bed every morning when he stays over. He goes with me to foreign films and talks with me about them afterwards at the fondue place. He likes the fondue place and doesn't mind that I always want to eat there after the movies. He doesn't complain when I listen to Taylor Swift at top volume. Sometimes, he even sings along."
This was a litany Margot had heard many times before. Famously, after only three dates, Stuart showed up at Jenna's apartment with a bouquet of yellow roses and a screwdriver, and he had fixed the towel bar in her bathroom, which had been broken since she'd moved in two years earlier.
"What I'm saying is that you and Stuart are tra-la-la now, everything is sunshine and lollipops, but it might still fail down the road."
"Shut up," Jenna said again. "Just shut the eff up. You're not going to talk me out of it. I love Stuart."
"Love dies," Margot said, and she snatched up the bill.
From Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand. Copyright 2013 by Elin Hilderbrand. Excerpted by permission of Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown and Company.