Sunday, November 3, 2013

Snapshots from a Wedding

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the wedding of the 26-year-old daughter of one of my dearest friends. A wedding is such an old-fashioned event. Even the word “wedding” sounds to me like a word from the Old English language. This wedding was extra-special because the bride and groom have had a challenging journey. They were teen parents.

I remember when my friend called me to tell me that her teenage daughter was pregnant. We were so worried. She was so young to take on this responsibility. We both wished for an easier life for her than what we knew stretched out ahead. She had completed high school, but had barely taken any classes in college. My friend and I both have master’s degrees in English and we shared the hope that our daughters would also earn a college degree. My daughter was well on her way, but for her daughter the baby would present quite an obstacle to that plan. We also didn’t know how committed the baby’s father would be to remaining in the relationship and involved in the child’s life. My friend prepared to have the three of them live with her after the birth of the baby.

When her daughter went into labor, my friend called to let me know. Later, when I called to check up on them, I learned that the baby had been born less than an hour before. I spoke to the teen mom and I could hear the euphoria in her voice. “I’m exhausted,” she said, “but I can’t go to sleep because I can’t stop looking at my new daughter. She’s so incredibly beautiful.” I drove the two hours to their home to see the new arrival a couple of weeks later. After my visit, my friend walked me to the car. “She’s going to be OK,” I told her. “Now that I see her with that baby, I have to say that she has found herself in parenting. Becoming a mother has centered her. That baby has called out her truest and finest self.” My friend agreed. We both saw it. Motherhood was just right for this particular young woman.

Those teen parents weathered some difficult times together and went through a lot of changes and a lot of struggles to form the mature relationship that took them down the aisle last weekend. They had another little girl (a planned pregnancy) two-and-a-half years ago. Both of their daughters are thriving. The older one is a wise old soul, remarkably intuitive and sensitive. She is one of those rare children who regularly says astonishingly insightful things that leave the grown-ups speechless.

If ever the bride and groom wonder if they made the right decision in getting married at this time in the family’s life, the reaction of their 7-year-old daughter to the ceremony will remind them that the wedding was a great idea. The two daughters were the flower girls, of course. As the ceremony progressed, their father stood at the “altar” (the wedding was outdoors in a Redwood grove, not in a church) and the wedding party preceded the bride down the aisle to stand in their positions. The bride stood waiting to walk down the aisle on her father’s arm. The two little girls were supposed to strew flowers before the bride as she walked down the aisle, the older daughter presumably helping the little one figure out what to do. Their cousin, the ring bearer, was to walk with them. But when the time came for the flower girls to walk, the 7-year-old dissolved in tears. Overcome with emotion, she clung to her mom. So the bride walked down the aisle with her older daughter attached to her hip, her face buried in the folds of the wedding dress, sobbing, while the bride attempted to herd the 2-year-old and the ring bearer in front of her. No flowers were strewn. When they reached the “altar,” the bride managed to pass her weeping daughter off to the maid of honor so that her father could give her away to the groom.

That sensitive little girl cried through the entire ceremony (about ten minutes). She spent most of the time hiding in mortified embarrassment behind the maid of honor. When the bride handed her bouquet to the maid of honor, their daughter strategically placed the bouquet in front of her face so that no one could see her bawling. Once the ceremony ended, the child recovered quickly and was soon tearing around the grounds with her cousins. I found her later and told her that I had cried the whole time too and that it was completely appropriate to cry at weddings, that I always did, and she needn’t feel embarrassed. My words made her start crying again and we had a moment together and a hug. Then she wiped her eyes and gave me a big smile before running off again to play.

As you can probably surmise, the most moving part of the wedding for me was seeing how happy that little girl was that her parents were getting married. Not many people can say they remember their parents’ wedding. What a special memory for this lucky and extraordinary child. This family, that started out as a teen romance, is beating the odds and is a reminder to “never say never.” I feel blessed to be such a special friend to them and to be a part of their lives.

Here is a photo of the trip down the aisle.

Here is a photo of my little friend hiding during the ceremony.

Here you can see her beautiful face.

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