In all my fantasies, I had always envisioned my daughter Abby to have the perfect wedding. She, who lives by her check lists, didn’t miss a detail; a small intimate setting, muted colors of grey, mocha and ivory, hundreds of mason jars filled with candles. She and her betrothed painstakingly chose music, lighting, and food for the brunch reception. Everything was precisely planned. No component was overlooked.
And then the bride got sick. The day before the wedding Abby became violently ill. Too ill to attend the rehearsal. Too ill to get out of bed. She lay pale and shivering under her blankets, and I brought her medicine and ginger ale. I tucked her in to keep her warm and several hours later, when she felt well enough to shower but was too weak to dry her hair, I did that for her too.
As Abby sat on her bed, I ruffled her long tresses and held the dryer, just as I had done a hundred times when she was a little girl. Her hair is brown now, but when she was little, it was golden blond and hung to her waist. It feels the same as it did then- soft and fine like a baby’s. I closed my eyes and remembered the little girl with huge green eyes whose hair I washed and dried and braided to keep out of her face. It seems as if I had shut my eyes for only a second and the little girl became a woman. How I cherished the child she was and how I cherish the woman she has become. I drank in the moment, glad to have one more opportunity to care for my firstborn.
As the dryer hummed, I remembered the days of Abby’s first summer. How on a sweltering July afternoon when she and I both were irritable from the heat, I filled the tub with tepid water to cool us down. She fussed and rooted and as we sat in the tub, I nursed her and marveled that our wet skin still smelled the same, even though her body was no longer connected to mine. I swore that I would protect her forever and never let her go.
I remembered leaving my little girl in the arms of a kindergarten teacher, and how she cried when I left the classroom. She never knew that I cried too- that I felt as if she was being yanked from my very heart by the passing years. I remembered the day she moved into her college dorm, how her eyes filled with tears as I drove away, and the sobs that choked me as I drove back to New Hampshire. And I remembered the mature young woman who left for India a few years ago, unafraid and determined to fight the trafficking of young children in a foreign land. Since the moment she was born, the days were marked by separations, and yet we still were as one.
A couple of hours after her shower, still feverish, my daughter declared herself well enough to go to the hotel where she and her sister would stay the night before the wedding. And the next day, I rose early so I could go back to the hotel and help her get ready for her morning nuptials.
The hair dresser had already come and gone, her makeup was done and her veil in place. She looked exquisite. An hour later she floated down the aisle on her brother’s arm to marry her beloved Johnny. The music was perfect. The lighting was perfect. Every detail was in place. And once again, unable to hide the tears, I let her go.