Raising Wives

by Marijean Oldham

These are my good napkins for Easter. Here are my Christmas ones. Here are the Sunday napkins. We will need five of them. Would you like to polish the silver? We can do that, next. Yes. It’s important to have your table looking its best.

Your father had a conference in Chicago once, and while the men attended their meetings, the wives went to classes. One was flower arranging and another was napkin folding. I enjoyed the napkin folding. One year, there was a woman lawyer at the conference, and her husband joined the wives for the classes. It was so funny.

I’m lucky that I have gotten to do travel so much with your father. He’s always been such a good provider.

There. Nice job on the napkins. Nice and smooth. A cotton-poly blend is best, and a heavyweight fabric with plenty of starch is what you want for folding.

Your father’s work friend, Mr. Martin, he’s coming for dinner. His wife’s name is Barbara. She is a lawyer too, and Mr. Martin’s second wife. I don’t remember what happened to the first one. Barbara’s a real career woman. Some are. I think men like to be the breadwinners, though. It makes them feel good about themselves. It’s the woman’s job to ease the burden for the man.

Check the cabinet. Mr. Martin is a drinker. Martinis. Yes. Is there gin? Good. Always offer your guests a drink soon after they arrive.

Now we have a choice to make. We can do the Silverware Pouch, the Flower, or the Bishop’s Hat. Do you remember how I showed you? Yes, I like the Bishop’s Hat, too. Very fancy. Our guests will be impressed. First, make a rectangle by folding the napkin in half, the opening at the bottom. Now fold the top right corner down to the bottom edge. Fold the bottom left corner up to the top edge. Now, flip! Bring the bottom edge up to the top, leaving the bottom layer where it is (the pointy part of the Bishop’s Hat!). Reach under the right side and unfold the flap. Now, fold the left triangle in half. Yes. Lift up the top layer of the right-side triangle, fold the left corner of the left-side triangle under it. Good. Then lay the top layer of the right-side triangle back in place.

I watched a special on TV last week about the hostages in Iran. There was an interview with the wife of a hostage. Can you believe that? You should try to be on top of current events when guests come to dinner, so you always have something to contribute. I think the hostage situation is worth discussing, and I’ll try to bring it up to see if the Martins are paying attention, too. Remember if your guests ever seem uncomfortable with the topic at hand, you can always change the subject. Are you still praying for the hostages at school?

Flip the napkin over and tuck the right edge into the left flap. Once you flip the napkin, you’ll see a diagonal slit on the left side—grab the far-right edge of the napkin and slip it into this flap. See how it looks like a flattened crown? Exactly. Lift it up, spread the bottom and set it on the plate. Yes. We’re using the good China tonight.

Your father will be home at six. Dash upstairs now and put a good dress on while I check the roast.

Marijean Oldham is a public relations consultant and writer. Marijean has written three editions of the guidebook 100 Things to Do in Charlottesville Before You Die (Third Edition, 2022, Reedy Press) and Secret Charlottesville, a Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure (2021, Reedy Press.) Her work has appeared in The Maine Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Burningword Literary Journal, On the Run Literary, The Lindenwood Journal, Sad Girls Club Literary Blog, and the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, and is forthcoming in Delmarva Review and 101 Word Story. The Virginia Center for Creative Arts recognized Marijean for her writing with a fellowship in 2022. In 2003, Marijean set a Guinness Book World Record for creating the largest bouquet of flowers. 

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