Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Delusion of Grandeur

While Kathleen and Jeb were quietly planning their special day, Dixie was revelling in a spotlight that was apparent to only her. Ever since Kathleen was young, Dixie had dreamed of her role as Mother of the Bride. Now that she was officially sanctioned to the task, she was ecstatic. This was her chance to get social revenge on her friends who thought their daughters' had fairy tale weddings. The only person she had not considered in her plan was Kathleen.

Weddings are rarely an inexpensive venture. Especially those of the grand nature Dixie was determined to have. During the years she spent quietly planning the wedding, the cost was not lost on her. The beach house on the Florida panhandle that Harrell had so diligently saved for was not in the cards. Those funds would nicely pay the price of the wedding. 

Dixie had little doubt Harrell would capitulate. He was sure to realize that his dreams of a beach house were easily trumped by an outlandish wedding his daughter did not even ask for. More importantly, he would quickly realize that subjugation of his life long and hard earned savings was not nearly as the agonizing as the pain Dixie would wreak for being denied the delusion of grandeur this spectacle would beget.

Kathleen was smart and very attractive. She was well liked around town. Growing up, Kathleen had been able to deftly weave her way through the Cotillions, the balls, and her Debut without emerging permanently scarred. She was a young lady who appreciated the social formality of the Old South, but who was also determined not to be sucked into the quagmire of muck her mother and her socially obsessed friends wallowed in. The only concern she found in marrying Jeb was his family. 

Personally, she adored the Beauregards. They were an authentic southern family with a long running well to do reputation who wore it like a faded well worn chintz sofa. The Beauregards were the opposite of the nouveau social climbers, who tried to polish the reputation of a family's name by buying whatever social status they assumed was for sale. 

No matter how much one tried, truth was these traits were simply in their breeding. They handled whatever wealth they had over the years quietly. As a rule these families shied away from any publicity and most things new. The write-ups of their daughters'  debut and then marriage were the only times one read about them in papers. Their gentility keep most of them behind the walls of their family farms and estates. 

Now, the Quinton family was one of a good name, an old name that had endured without major scandal for centuries. However, Dixie was determined that it had been shorted its status. Ironically in the south, those with a place and heritage in society, could not care less about the trappings they were born to. The romantic ideals some of these sought, had been created out of a southern novel. 

Like many families, Dixie came from one with an old name, but nothing else. Most of the Gilberts were well thought of. They were known as a good southern family whose lot in life had been sullied by an unfortunate scandal of her great grandfather. Eleazar Gilbert had created a ponzi scheme in the aftermath of the South's 'most recent unpleasantness'. He preyed on the few families who emerged from the war with any wealth. By the time the whole game was over, Eleazar was sentenced to life in prison. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a sufficient dose of arsenic from an unknown source. It was a homicide that was never officially solved. However, most of the town people had little doubt who the culprit was.

Considering Dixie's determination to ride her daughter's wedding into the upper crust of society, no doubt this predication ran in the family. There was much speculation, and proven facts, that Eleazar had created his scheme to mollify his wife who was Hell bent on maintaining the family's status in the throws of reconstruction. Most families accepted their fate brought on by the post war scourge. They just held on to their pride and reputation, having the mantra of Margaret Mitchell - that part of their lives was Gone with the Wind. 

Eleazar also realized the reality of one's reputation (and mere survival) trumped any thought of the 'Old South'. His wife, however, failed to accept this reality. She assumed that the antebellum status quo of their lives had not been effected by the war. In order to keep his wife, whom he adored, in the comfort to which she was accustomed, Eleazar had concocted the plan to finance his wife's needs for fashions and a lifestyle that no one else cared about at that time. If she was humiliated by loss of the family's wealth, she was even more mortified when her husband was convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. Much of her despair was alleviated when Eleazar dropped dead at breakfast that faithful morning.

It never dawned on poor Harrell that he could be living Eleazar's Hell. Luckily there was one thing in his favor - he had made good money and investments over the years. The dream of their comfortable retirement on the Florida Panhandle was the guiding  light he had worked so hard for.

Dixie's grand plan (spectacle) of Kathleen's wedding to be the extravagant demonstration of her social status, was lost on Harrell. All he knew was that Dixie was ecstatic about the wedding and Kathleen was very much in love with Jeb. Little did he realize, when he walked the Bride down the aisle, not only was he giving away his beloved daughter in marriage but also (a good chance of) his dreamed retirement on the Florida Panhandle. 

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