How Momma G Let Go at the Perfect Wedding

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.

Saying Yes to the Dress- A Mother’s Perspective on Wedding Gowns

I have an old video of my daughter Abby dancing in our living room.  She was in kindergarten at the time, and her one dream was to be a ballerina.  We were unable to afford dance lessons, but I was able to save enough money to buy her a pair of delicate pink ballet slippers, and one afternoon while Gabriel and Elizabeth napped, she donned a pink circle skirt and her ballet slippers and performed a solo dance performance in front of a borrowed video recorder.

I taped in silent wonder as she twirled and leapt, limited only by her own imagination.  Her waist-length hair lilted behind her like a blond chiffon scarf and she grinned in unbridled delight.  It was a song of life, choreographed for one- a magical moment that I will cherish long after the video crumbles from old age.

I thought of that day last week while she tried on wedding gowns.  The two of us went to a bridal salon with plush carpets and thick drapery, excited for a day of trying frothy white dresses for her upcoming nuptials.  This was new ground for us. When I married thirty-three years ago, I was a VISTA in Idaho.  We phoned my measurements to my mother who was in Massachusetts, and she bought fabric and a pattern, and sewed my gown while I was away.  I returned home four days before my wedding and she did the final fitting and finished the dress the day before the ceremony.  I fashioned my own veil and splurged on a pair of white shoes that still rest with the gown in the bottom of my cedar trunk.

Although I sew, I have neither the talent or inclination to attempt a wedding gown, so on a Saturday morning, we found ourselves in a small private room while a beaming young sales associate brought gown after gown for Abby to try.  I had expected there to be several that we didn’t like, but each garment looked amazing on her.  There was one in particular that stood out from the rest, and the sales woman suggested that she wear it to a larger room in the salon where large mirrors reflect the future bride from every angle.

Abby made her way to the three-way mirror and stepped up on the pedestal.  Her long hair was held back by a jeweled headband and after I straightened the gown’s train, I stepped back to survey my daughter.  There she was, tall and slender, elegant in ivory lace.  She turned to me, clapped her hands, and joyfully exclaimed, “I’m getting married!”

She had the same expression as that little girl who danced for me.  Her huge green eyes were full of excitement and anticipation.  Her smile was brilliant, and her cheeks were flushed the same delicate pink as her ballet slippers.  She was beautiful then.  She is more beautiful now.

And I did what every good mother does.  I cried.  Then I wiped my tears and laughed.

In the end, she didn’t end up buying that particular dress.  She found another that made her feel even more like the exquisite young bride she will be on Christmas Eve.  But she would look stunning in a paper bag, and although I know that television and bridal magazines would tell us that it is all about the dress, I know it is not.  It is about the heart.  It is about two hearts- Abby’s and Johnny’s, who will face life with free, unbridled delight, full of excitement and anticipation.  I will watch in silent wonder as they twirl and leap, limited only by their imaginations, as they interpret a new song.  It is the song of life, choreographed for two.

The Wedding Dance

I realize that just a couple of posts ago, I blogged about my inability to dance. But yesterday, my nephew Ben got married, and as everyone knows, if you love someone, you have to dance at his wedding.

When Ben was growing up, he lived in Michigan, so I saw him rarely.  I knew little about him except that he was a cute little boy who once threatened his younger cousin (my son) with his nunchucks in my mother’s backyard.

Several years later, Ben moved to New England, a handsome and soft-spoken young man with sparkling sapphire eyes, a quick smile and not a menacing bone in his body.  He forged a life for himself in New Hampshire, and a few years later, began bringing a beautiful special friend- Heather- to family parties.  And yesterday, despite an oncoming hurricane, Heather and Ben stood at the edge of the sea and exchanged marriage vows.

As soon as the ceremony ended, the rain began and a short while later, we found ourselves sitting at round tables under a large tent.  Despite drips and drops from the sky, the atmosphere was festive.  The tables were covered with bright yellow and blue, the sunflower centerpieces a jubilant fanfare of summer’s end.   Heather and Ben danced as husband and wife, joined by their parents and the wedding party.  More people joined in and I watched from my seat, as I usually do when there is dancing.  Despite my years of swaying and swinging with my babies, I am still awkward and unsure when it comes to moving to music.  Besides, in a world comprised of duos, I am painfully aware that I am no longer part of a pair.

The song ended and the dance floor cleared, but the DJ played on.  I chatted with my brother and then hearing applause, turned to see my nephew Joshua alone on the dance floor.

Joshua has Down Syndrome.   He is short and stout with big brown eyes that squint to see through thick glasses.  He is guiless and sweet spirited, and because he likes everyone, thinks everyone will like him.  Unabashed, Joshua launched into a freestyle interpretation of the music, moving to the beat, empowered by the cheers and clapping that ensued from the on looking crowd.

Within a moment, Heather joined Josh, and soon after, Ben.  Before the song was through, the dance floor was packed.  I watched my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews bobbing in cadence and wished I was free like Joshua.

The song ended, and immediately another one began.  My brother Kevin grabbed my hand and pulled me to the dance floor.  Reluctant at first, I hesitated.  And then I realized that I could sit on the sidelines and watch other people revel, or I could take a chance. Take a chance like Heather and Ben who have no guarantees that they will be able to withstand the hurricanes that will surely come into their lives.  Take a chance like Joshua, whose desire to celebrate life outweighs his disabilities.

So I danced. Badly.  But I danced.  And it was fun- more than fun.  It was elating.  Because life is about taking chances.  Taking chances on young love, taking chances on acceptance and taking chances at looking foolish.

So congratulations, Ben and Heather.  Thank you for allowing me to dance at your wedding.  I love you.

Circles of Love

My daughter Abby got engaged last week.  The day before he proposed, her fiancé, Johnny, showed me a picture of the ring and told me of his plans to propose.  The picture did not do the ring justice. It is breathtakingly beautiful and is outshined only by the smile on my beautiful daughter’s face.  It is a series of circles, the symbol of love itself.  The center is a round aquamarine, and around it are two halos of tiny diamonds.  The two halos are like Johnny and Abby- two separate individuals, the aquamarine the blending of two colors- green and blue, like the melding of two lives to become one.

I never had an engagement ring.  We were VISTA volunteers in Idaho in the late seventies, and were paid $240 a month, plus food stamps.  Diamonds were not in the budget.  But for our wedding, my intended and I bought matching gold bands, engraved with floral filigree.  We began our search for rings in Boise, Idaho, where we were stationed, and found the set on display at the first jeweler we visited.  Immediately, we fell in love with the rings, but decided to continue our search, in case we found something we liked better.  After several more shopping trips, we decided to return to the original jewelry store.

My children’s father was a farm boy, with large hands and meaty fingers.  My hands are not small either, so when we asked to see the rings, we expected to find them both too small.  To our surprise, both rings fit our fingers perfectly.  We decided it was kismet and bought them on the spot.  When we exchanged them at our August wedding, we promised to wear them always, blissfully ignorant of the storms that awaited us.

For the next twenty-eight years we wore these golden vows, until Paul had a minor accident which flattened his ring.  His finger swelled painfully and it was obvious that the warped and twisted ring had to be cut off.  By this time our marriage was as troubled as his finger and as I wedged a ring cutter under the gold band, I noticed that the filigree had disappeared, worn smooth over the years.  It did not resemble the ring we bought at that little jewelry store in Idaho, any more than our marriage resembled the two young lovers who had purchased it.  As I gripped the cutter and snapped the ring in two, my eyes filled with silent tears, knowing that breaking the band that symbolized our union was a foreshadowing of the lonely nights ahead.

When we divorced I removed my wedding band and placed it in the padded protection of my jewelry box.  Occasionally I pick it up for a short moment, and then return it to the velvet lined case.  Like my marriage, I can no longer wear it, and yet I cannot bear to turn my back on it.  I tried a few days ago, when the rising price of gold enticed me to a jewelry store that purchases precious metal.  I thought I would sell the ring and use the cash to help out with Abby’s wedding expenses, and drove to a local jewelry store while trying to convince myself that it was only a useless circle of ore.  But the lump in my throat wouldn’t go away and when the jeweler told me that it was worth only a fraction of what we paid for it, I took it back home to lie in wait with the earrings and brooches that fill my jewelry box.

People often say that a wedding ring symbolizes the never-ending love of a husband and wife, but I believe it symbolizes the continuity of love itself.  The love symbolized in that gold band produced three beautiful children who will love three beautiful children who were produced by the love symbolized in a little gold wedding band.    Abby and John will love each other in a way that is as unique as the aquamarine ring that signifies their promise, but as traditional and continual as the love that produced their very existence.  It is the circle of love.  It is the circle of life.

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