Mabel Morley doesn’t remember when she started calling her
mother-in-law Emmie. Emily is such an Emily, it’s like calling a chestnut a
chessie, or a loaf of bread a loafie, an onion an unnie, a pan of giblets for
broth a pannie of jibbies for brothie.
Mabel cannot believe it’s up to her to make the stuffing and get
it inside the turkey.
Definitely, the Emmie-not-Emily started before Mabel moved into
the house, against a background of Morleys disapproving of her for stealing Roger Junior and being so much younger than him, she looks like she’s still in high school.
Having started it, having made the gaffe, having blurted it out
from nervousness, like, “I’m happy to finally meet you, Emmie,” or, “I do take
cream in my coffee, Emmie,” she couldn’t go back. It had to be Emmie for good.
She didn’t steal Roger Morley.
Moving into the house was supposed to be temporary, until they
saved up a down payment for a place of their own. But Mabel understands this is
it for her. Roger and the other wife, the mistake one, had lived in an
apartment in town. That marriage only lasted a few years. It came to a divorce
around the same time Roger’s younger sisters were setting off into lives of
Emily had wanted to flip a coin to determine which daughter of
hers would become the next Morley queen of the household. But they broke her
heart by “turning their backs on their heritage,” as Roger puts it. He doesn’t
get it that his sisters thought of the house as a nest to fly away from, like
any normal bird. And the mistake-wife? Well, she’d flown too.
When Roger says things like “heritage,” Mabel feels he’s asking
her to put a hand on her heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or get
ready for a quiz on who was who among the Morleys a hundred years ago, two
hundred years ago, even three, when the first of them wobbled off their English
boat, and the men who put themselves in charge of everything wore wigs in
church like English judges, and if you weren’t religious like they were, they