Saturday was a significant day for our small group (see yesterday’s post). We celebrated the first wedding of one of our children.
No, not a graduation (we’re starting to have one or two of those a year now—old hat, graduations) . . . a WEDDING. With bridesmaids and boutonnieres and bells ringing joyfully. A white dress and a blushing bride and a grinning groom. And even a red Mustang convertible to take them away after the ceremony.
It was glorious.
The day was perfect, too. Not too hot. Low humidity (which, around here, is fairly unusual for July). Beautiful blue skies. The couple couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.
I spent a lot of time leading up to the wedding thinking about my friend, Julie, and her daughter, Amanda. So much excitement leading into this new stage of life. What it was like to plan a wedding together? Was it actually fun to shop for wedding dresses and to plan the ceremony? And how does one go about choosing a menu for the reception? Sure, there was a lot to do, but through it all there must be underlying emotions and I wondered about them.
Did all this planning and anticipation make Julie happy or sad or something entirely different?
I couldn’t get my brain around it; I couldn’t fully relate. That may be because my oldest daughter is 16, and if I got my brain around it it wouldn’t be a good thing at all. Aside from that, it just seems strange to think about the day my girls are whisked away by some “guy” they had only known for a couple of years.
I remember thinking about that when I got married. How could my parents send me off with a guy I had only known for three years when they had known me all my life? It just seemed odd to me. Especially when I was only 22 years old which, today, seems pretty darn young!
A long while ago, I asked my mom how she could let me get married when I was so very young. She just shrugged her shoulders and said, “We just knew you were ready. We knew B, and we trusted him. You were both just ready.”
I guess that happens—the couple just becomes “ready.” But do the parents?
Saturday was the first time I experienced a wedding from the parents’ perspective, and I have to admit it was just plain weird. Watching my own friend walk down the aisle as the mother of the bride, and my other friend, her husband, kiss his daughter goodbye startled me in a way.
I suddenly saw my own daughters (all three of them) in the bride’s eyes, some future groom looking at her as she walks slowly down the aisle. I pictured B kissing her cheek as he hands her over to another man to love and to cherish, yielding his place as first in her heart.
After the ceremony, on our way to the reception, I told B something I had never told him before. It kind of surprised him to learn that at every wedding we attend, I think about the parents. About how, at the end of all the festivities, they go back to their home and climb into bed, exhausted after a day of celebration and smiling and keeping things in order. I always wonder about just that precise moment. Just before sleep. Lying together in the dark. Reflecting on the day. What do they say to one another? What are they thinking?
Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they just relieved that it’s over?
What happens in that very private moment?
I can already picture myself in that moment. Lying in bed, holding my husband’s hand as I so often do just before I drift off to sleep, and slow, silent tears will be streaming down the sides of my face. They may be tears of happiness, but I imagine they will be mixed with sad tears. Because as much as I love my daughters and want them to be happy, I know I will miss them every day of the rest of my life.
We talked about this for a while as we drove, and I think B was surprised at my emotion. I guess I am too, because from the moment each of them was born we have raised them to be independent of us. This has been an important part of the way we parent our daughters, and now, suddenly, I wanted to throw my arms around them and never let them go.
As we talked, B summed it up like this: “I think I’ll be happy that night. It’s what we’ve raised them for—to go out on their own. To not need us anymore. Yes, it will be a happy time.”
And so, Julie, now that the months of planning are over, I hope you can see that this is what you’ve raised Amanda for. And you’ve done such a good job at it. Be happy—all of you.
[There’s a little P.S. to this post just to tell you that we counted up on Saturday and realized that there are 30 children in our small group. We have lots and lots of celebrations to share in the years to come. What a blessing!]