Early on, while the sun was high, my youngest son and his high-school sweetheart had married in a lovely church with soaring arches and stained glass windows that fractured the sunlight like prisms. The bridesmaids wore sundresses of butter yellow and carried bouquets of soft pastels, and gaiety and joy and congratulations swelled from our hearts in abundance as we spilled out of the church into the warm afternoon after the vows were pledged.
I was also feeling darned triumphant and happy in a far more superficial way as well. The reason? I had managed to diet away a full dress size for my solo, all-eyes-on-her walk down the church aisle as the mother of the groom. Yes, a wedding is usually referred to as “the bride’s big day.”
But there was an incredibly complicated family dynamic to tread that day as well. My ex-husband was planning to marry the mother of the bride just a week after the ceremony. Nearly all the wedding guests were from our small town. And so it became temporarily important for me to walk down that aisle both with my dignity serenely high…and with a trim silhouette and a waistline. What else can I say? It seemed to matter at the time!
The formal wedding picture-taking rolled on outside the church, and the guests finally began to drive off to the reception. I silently gave thanks again and again, for many things, high among them the opportunity to see all four of my far-flung adult children together for a short while. As a parent, you hold your breath while they’re growing up, hoping that you’ve prepared your fledglings to successfully spread their wings and fly from the nest. And then when they do…you spend the rest of your life missing them.
The reception was held at a beautiful botanical garden, giving guests and the wedding party ample opportunities to stroll through acres of flowers and foliage, roses and wisteria and grape arbors and sunflowers. The tables were decorated with framed photos of my son and his wife in various stages of their childhoods, from baby pictures to vacation photos, reminders that life is a rich, deep flowing river, and not just a series of events or moments.
I danced with all of my children and the man in my life as the night went on. And as I danced with my newlywed son to the Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide,” I told him how within five minutes of seeing them together as teenagers—at what amounted to just their second date—it was as if a small, clear bell had sounded in the back of my head announcing “he could marry her.”
It was a sound not of alarm, and not of excitement either, but simply the recognition that something true and important had arrived in the world. And I wanted him to know that. He gave me a good strong hug when the song ended.
The reception eventually drew down to a close. The lights went on and the room cleared out, and we busied ourselves with folding up the tablecloths and packing the decorations and gifts before heading out. My younger daughter and I finally made our way back to the home of my older daughter and her husband, where we were staying for the night.
By the time we had changed out of our fancy outfits and shoes and gathered at the kitchen table to relax over cups of tea, it was closing in on midnight. The kitchen was quiet, except for the sounds of teaspoons clinking against cups, and our soft sighs of contentment and reverie for the day behind us.
And then my daughter and her husband looked at each other and then at us, their eyes bright with excitement and emotion, with a secret they were just bursting to tell. They were expecting! We hugged, and smiled, and hugged some more, and then we all went to bed exhausted and overjoyed, all in one.
In the space of only ten hours in a single, glorious day, I had said goodbye to my youngest son’s childhood, and then unexpectedly received a brand new beginning, with a grandmother’s ring-side seat. Eight months later, as I held my grandson in my arms on the day he arrived, I could feel the joys of the past spreading through me again as I savored his “new baby” smell and cheeks as soft as down.
Nearly a year has past since then. I am loving every day of this “new grandma” status, even though distance makes our visits fewer than I’d like. There are new milestones to celebrate as his own adventure unfolds.
But once in a while I still think back gratefully to that warm summer wedding day, when my son began a new life chapter of his own with his lovely bride, and my daughter revealed a new life beginning inside her. And I still can’t imagine how a single day could hold more joy than that.