Thoughts on My Daughter's Wedding Day

"Etheir souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,

not even in your dreams."

-- Kahlil Gibran

I owe some of you an apology. At my daughter's wedding in June, I failed to thank each of our guests for helping us to celebrate; in fact, I didn't even talk much to my three best friends. Forgive me -- I was in a daze.

Jennifer and I, with my mother, had spent months anticipating and planning every detail -- aisle and altar decorations, programs, candles, music, arbor flowers, bridesmaids' dresses and bouquets, flower girl dresses and baskets, dinner menus, Italian favors, slide show photographs, cake fillings, table decorations, gazebo garlands, flowers and more flowers -- you get the idea.

I thought we had nailed every detail. I even cried so much at rehearsal the night before that I felt confident I could remain dry-eyed at the wedding. What I didn't expect was the awesome confluence of past and present that suddenly engulfed me as I watched Jenny, radiant in her wedding gown, and my husband, handsome and dignified in his tuxedo, step out of the horse-drawn carriage.

In my mind's eye I saw Jenny as a child, sitting on my lap as we read "Cinderella," delighting in the magical transformation of common pumpkin to gilded carriage. How did so many years slip by?

Then one of my friends whispered, "Look at Joel," and I was back in the present. There he stood, the love of Jenny's life, her prince, waiting for her at the altar. I could see that she literally took his breath away. At that moment I came as close to having an out-of-body experience as I probably ever will.

I sat in the first row, exquisitely living each moment of my first child's wedding ceremony. Ron, solemn and holding back tears, walked Jenny up the grassy aisle strewn with rose petals of every color. The arbor, covered with white hydrangea and stephanotis garlands that my mother brought from California, framed the mountains beyond, golden now in the soft light of evening.

In answer to Pastor Locke's question, Ron pronounced the words, "Her mother and I do," as he placed Jenny's hand in Joel's and kissed her for the last time before she became a wife. Ned, who came all the way from New York to sing Elton John's "Your Song" to his lifelong friends, smiled the most loving smile I have ever seen.

I listened to Andy's wise reading and to Janelle's and Mike's funny, heartfelt testimonial. When the musical trio played "Ave Maria," and Jenny and Joel bowed their heads to pray, I imagined each note from the flute and violin wafting toward Heaven. A breeze moved Jenny's veil -- just God blowing kisses, my granddaughter would say later.

But at the same time, I saw a shadow child -- Jenny as a baby, newly born, nestled in my arms and looking deep, deep into my eyes as we recognized each other. The shadow child became a toddler, all curls and smiles, pointing to everything, asking, "Why?" There she was at Wee Express, proudly displaying her diploma as she graduated from preschool. And there she was at 9, standing tall at the helm of Grandpa's boat, undaunted by the surging 50-foot deck and billowing sails, perfectly content with the vast Pacific before her and Grandpa's steady hand on her shoulder.

I could see her at Mass, standing with the other teens behind Father Jerry as he prepared communion in dear old St. Teresa Church. And there she was with Ron, hiking to Marlette Lake, the aspen brilliant around them, and then I saw her digging snow tunnels with Stephanie and John after a spectacular snowfall. I saw her in high school, quietly putting down the telephone, then jumping up and down with joy because Joel had asked her to walk with him at homecoming.

Now Joel was speaking his vows to her and she to him. But in her voice I also heard the echoes of the shadow child. "Mommy, who will I marry?" she asked me when she was 10. "Your best friend," I answered.

I sensed the shadow child once more that enchanted evening, when Ron escorted Jenny to the dance floor. Jenny thanked Ron for giving her a lifelong gift -- his admonition every morning to embrace each new day. "I'll carry that with me forever," she told him. She had selected Louie Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World" for their dance, and then I saw the shadow child, little toes on Ron's stocking feet, holding tight to his hands as they danced, turning round and round, in the kitchen.

-- It's been one week -- to the hour -- since the wedding, as I write this. I feel, more acutely than ever, the inexorable passage of time. I can't even imagine the future, so full of possibilities, which lies ahead for Jenny and Joel. I hope it will be a fairy tale that Jenny will remember on her own daughter's wedding day. And I hope I will be there to thank each and every guest for sharing in our happiness.

Marilee Swirczek lives and works in Carson City. She and Ron welcome their newest son-in-law to the family.


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