Eyes on the aisle
A mother sees more than her daughter, the bride
The wedding was thirteen months in the making. Finding the dress alone took two months. I made roughly a trip a quarter to Richmond from Atlanta to do everything from meet the prospective in-laws to attending the studio photo shoot that was part of the wedding photographer's package.
It all came down to the moment the wedding coordinator opened the Cannon Memorial Chapel doors at the University of Richmond, and my daughter stood with her father at her side to begin her walk down the aisle to her new husband, her new home, her new life. I was becoming more and more a part of her old life with each passing moment. As I stood and turned to watch her make her entrance at her own wedding, the sight of her in her gown and veil brought a flood of tears to my eyes. Everyone assumed the tears were for the fact that she was breath-takingly beautiful, composed, confident, steadier on her feet than her father in the full dress uniform of an Infantry officer. The man needed a drink. Who could blame him?
But my tears weren't for the gorgeous, young woman resplendent in Catherine St. Vincent by way of Weddings by Laura. A reasonably priced bridal ensemble in 2001 was equivalent to the cost of my entire wedding in 1976. No. My tears were brought on by the sight of the two-week old baby girl who almost slipped from my grasp when I was giving her one of her first baths in the kitchen sink at my first home at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as a relatively new bride myself. I'd shifted my weight reaching to get some additional baby soap on my duck-shaped sponge and my daughter had gotten a little jolt in the process - her first feeling of falling. Her reaction, even at 14 days old, was to instinctively grap hold of my arm with her two minisule hands.
I remember being shocked at her ability to hold on to me. Then I was heartbroken that in her tiny mind she might think I'd let her slip into the water, that I'd let her get beyond my grasp. But in her first sense of fear, she reached for me. And I was there. I won't be the one there for her now and in the years to come. Not every day. Not every minute, like I was in the beginning.
My tears were brought on by the 10-year old girl who wanted to play softball with the girls at Ft. Lewis, Washington. But Ft. Lewis didn't have girls softball. They only had co-ed baseball. To our surprise, that's what she chose to play. She hadn't chosen to play a sport since soccer in Kindergarten. She hadn't liked the competition. But that summer, at under four feet tall, right along with the boys, she played outfield where nothing ever got hit, and got walked on balls most at-bats because her strike zone was so small the coach told her not to swing at anything until she had two strikes on her.
The last game of the season, she walked her final at-bat, and ended up being the winning run of the game when the two boys after her swung for the fences and struck out. Then the last boy hit a triple to put their only win of the season into the record books. I still have her picture in that baggy orange uniform holding a glove bigger than her.
The tears were brought on by the sight of the 15-year old standing over me in the den of our retirement home, crying and shaking, and telling me the president of the senior class who had been her first real boyfriend had just broken up with her over the telephone. Over the telephone! He and his buddies had gone camping the past weekend and made a pact to dump all their girlfriends and be "free agents" until graduation.
I wanted to kill him - or me, I wasn't sure which. Especially since I was the one who had talked her Daddy into breaking his rule that his daughter wouldn't date until she was 16 - a month from that very day. If I'd kept my mouth shut, she wouldn't be crying now. She was such a good kid. And he was president of the senior class! What was the harm in skipping that last month? What could it hurt? Well, now I knew, and I cried right along with her.
The tears were brought on by knowing she had become the best of me. She had flaws, but they were of her own making, and were somehow charming in her instead of irritating like mine were in me. And her strengths were her own also, beyond anything I could ever have imagined for her.
She was beautiful. So her Mama cried.
And the dress was nice too.