I have a friend who reminds me of the Meg Ryan‘s character in “When Harry Met Sally.” Every time I have ever dined with her at any restaurant she is the last to order because she has a difficult time making up her mind. I think she probably knows just what she wants from the beginning but it has become a habit with her and she hesitates then makes her decision. Perhaps it is because there are so few things in life we can really choose, and this being one of them, she makes the most of it. Perhaps all of us would like to buy more time when making decisions, it gives us more of the feeling that we are in control. But I will tell you, dear one, you are not in control of many things outside of yourself and only with great strength of will are you in control of yourself.
This weekend was a test of self-control for me. I had many many people tell me that my husband and I were in their thoughts and prayers. Since I believe that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and can be influenced I thank everyone who petitioned on our behalf. It worked.
The wedding week began early with the arrival of the bride and groom at our house late Tuesday night. It was not without a glitch. The groom had left his groomsman gifts and cell phone in Ohio. They had to overnight a key to a friend who was coming down for the wedding to bring the forgotten items to the wedding itself. Meanwhile, the groom took the bride’s phone, and the bride took mine. We were all now operating on caller ID under assumed identities – all but me that is – who had no phone at all.
Wednesday I was chauffeur to the couple. Errands, last minute details.
Thursday the groom left mid day to join his groomsman and friends for an early bachelor party. The bride watched her (my) phone waiting to hear from him, to no avail. We talked about why that was okay because she brooded a bit. She had been working on little cards to stack on the table for her guests to locate their table at the reception. I found her folded up in a kitchen chair staring blankly at one of the cards.
“Why am I doing this?” she asked. “Everyone will just take their card and just . . .” she flipped it into the air where it landed unceremoniously on the floor. “They can just look on the list!”
Friday the temperature dropped dramatically. Rainy and cold we woke to a dreary wet day. In the kitchen that morning we huddled over our coffee.
“I think you should call the girl at the country club.” I said.
By 1:00p.m. we were meeting the wedding planner and event coordinator at the country club. The reception was moved from the outdoor pavilion to the indoor restaurant/club area. It took less than 45 minutes. Yes the chairs had a fall covered chevron covering and the table numbers had to be reassigned but it still had panoramic views and was to say the least warm.
Five o’clock we were waiting at the church for the rehearsal. Everyone showed up in a timely fashion. The wedding director who worked for the church ticked off everything like clockwork. I was fine up until the groomsman came to the front of the church. I felt the tears welling up and a few escaped till I could choke them back. The boyfriend of one of my daughter’s bridesmaid was standing in as bride, which served to lighten up the evening. There he stood before the minister with my son-in-law daintily holding hands – both about 6’3″. There will be pictures.
Seven p.m. we are at the restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. No ceremony or fancy trimmings we chose a place that has specialized in down home family cooking for years. My friend that I mentioned at the beginning sat at our table with us. She again was the last to figure out which meat entree she would choose, as the rest of the meal was family style. I had to laugh, there were only 6 choices.
That night the men adjourned to their hotel room, the bride and bridesmaids to the house. I thought about how much Josh would have enjoyed being the only bachelor in the house full of girls. He might have gone to stay with the men, but somehow I doubt it, knowing him as I do. I went to bed and shed a few tears.
I shed some more the next morning, in the shower. Could not allow them to take over the day – better to release some of the pressure from the dam.
Two of our friends had brought food for us to share. Huge chocolate chip brownies had been the staple for Friday night and two breakfast casseroles were there for Saturday morning. I rose at 6:30 and put the casseroles in the oven, let the dogs out, started coffee. “The day” had started. We loaded the cars with all the “stuff’ and were off to the church by 10:30 a.m.
I thought we were arriving at the church too early – with the hair being done at 11:30 and the wedding not until 3:00 p.m. Little did I know! I could detail the frenzy, but It suffices to say I never sat down. I guess the funniest was spraying two of the bridesmaids legs with Sally Hanson Airbrush Tan makeup. There they stood, pants rolled up above their knees in the little garden with me, and then walking bowlegged holding their pants’s legs up down the hall back to the dressing area while it dried on their legs. I think there is a picture of that too somewhere.
The bridesmaids were given the choice of dress style. A number of dresses were available for them to choose from, and no one had to wear the same dress style- and as it turned out, no one did, though all were the same color. All but one of those had to be steamed.
The bride was having makeup applied when I realized she was under florescent light – bad idea – and wearing a pink tee-shirt with BRIDE across the chest. I found a chair by a window where natural light was streaming in, had the makeup artist move there and put a white cloth over the pink across the brides chest.
Our wedding planner kept popping in and out. I had thought I would go to the reception venue and help with the decorations. As it turned out there was no time for that, so she took care of it all and did so very well, I might add.
There was a moment when I was in the hall by myself when the thought hit again, that our son was not going to be here, but I brushed it aside, promising myself like Scarlett O’Hara, I would think about that later.
The groom and groomsman arrived. I hugged him. He had big tears in his eyes. “My heart is beating!” he said. I knew he meant that his heart was beating hard and fast.
” That’s a good thing! It will be okay.” I said. “Go eat something and take a deep breath.” We hugged again, and he went to follow my instructions.
I had steamed his shirt and the sleeves of his tux earlier.
Back to the girls -then bouncing back up to the guys room. The rented tuxedos were a hodgepodge of sizes. Pants were traded, shirts had 3/4 length sleeves, collars had to be left unbuttoned behind ties. After some adjustments everyone at least had pants that were long enough.
I changed into my clothes – finally, meaning to work on my makeup – but I had no time.
My husband arrived.
The immediate family was asked to gather and be seated last since there were no grandparents or family members for the the groom. As I walked back to where they had gathered I saw my nephew, our son’s cousin. He was in corduroy and a plaid shirt with the tail untucked. For the world it could have been my son. I hugged him and told him his (our son) cousin would have approved.
The bride was breathtaking. She has been strictly adhering to her dietary rules and exercising. Her hair and makeup done , the bridesmaids and I helped her into her dress. It settled around her slim frame like a whisper. She truly glowed. On her ears she wore my blue sapphires, around her neck the locket with her brother’s name within which is sealed a lock of his hair. She and I were careful not to stand too long or look into each other’s eyes. We were on a mission.
It was time for the wedding.
The family marched in.
I entered on my husband’s arm, both of us knowing it should have been our son’s.
The wedding party took their places. The sun lit the stained glass window from the west, spotlighting the place where I sat. My husband, his face already a storm about to break patted his daughters hand as they made their measured way down the isle. Tears came then, but only briefly. I felt my face contort and knew it would be bad if I let it all out then.
“Who gives this woman?” My husbands voice, softened by the tears spoke as firmly as he could. He lifted the veil – he gave the bride to her groom – kissed his daughter and came to sit with me.
I concentrated on the preacher and my daughter. I concentrated on my husband’s hands. I felt the sun on us from the window.
Now that I am away from all that I can picture our son’s face, his slightly lopsided smile, his eyes staring at times at some fixed point loosing focus for a moment as he considered the situation. He would be thinking about the philosophical ramifications of the tradition for just a moment – the beautiful absurdity. But he was not there in a rented tux. He had no choice, nor did we.
The reception followed as elegant and as opulent as we could afford. My husbands speech and toast brought many to tears, but again, I held it in. I held it in because of my daughter who did not chose this for her brother not to be there. I held it in because she deserved my undivided attention, and because her brother was a private man. He would not have attention drawn to him in this situation The spotlight was her’s and her grooms. They are a beautiful couple.
My advice then is to always take time to choose as best you can and when each opportunity affords itself. Choose to let anger go if at all possible. Choose to take a moment to hug those you love before you part with them for the day. Choose to celebrate with those who are willing to celebrate.
My husband used some quotes from “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” in his speech.
The best one being something you can choose to do:
“And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together. ”
My son may not have been there to hold my hand, but he still holds a huge part of my heart. Your sister was beautiful, son. You would have been proud of her and I know you would have been there had you had a choice.