The wedding was bliss. My daughter Sharon was beautiful, smiling radiantly throughout the ceremony, and my new son Anthony was strikingly handsome in his navy suit and light blue tie. The bridesmaids and the groomsmen were all in a row, childhood friends and college buds who came from all over to stand up for these two. The music was thrilling. They were married by a clergy couple, Bill and Maria, who should be—if I had any say in the matter—co-Popes of the Presbyterian Church. They were that splendid. The reception was a feast for the palate and for the soul, with the great food and wine we all expected at the wedding of one of the threemanycooks.com, but with masterful speeches by the Best Man and the Matron of Honor, with touching words from the Father of the Groom and the Mother of the Bride, and—in a lovely touch—a thank-you from the Bride and Groom to all the people who made this night shine.
That was the before, and there’s hardly any place to go from there but down. This morning the bride’s gorgeous dress is lying in a pile at the bottom of the stairs. On Sunday morning, Sharon brought it to our hotel room and we hung it in the big white garment bag it came in from the bridal shop. But our car was too packed to hang it anywhere, so we took if off the hanger and simply wrapped it in the garment bag, then tucked it into a corner of the trunk. It felt sacrilegious to do it. The bridal gown is the holy grail of weddings. It is bought and fitted three times. It comes from the shop hung on a cardboard bodice and fluffed with tissue paper. You want to wash your hands before you touch it. Just before the wedding, Pam used a crochet hook to fasten the long line of tiny satin buttons that run down the back.
But after the reception and the dancing, with the long dress bustled but still trailing the floor, her sister noted that this was the most expensive mop she had ever seen. It was dirty. It would need to be cleaned, treated with a preservative and put in a white box (we have one such relic already in the back closet). So it’s all right to toss it in a bag.
But every time I go up and down the stairs I see that balled up dress bag. I am incredibly happy, but that doesn’t stop me from also feeling sad. That the event we planned and worked on and spent more money on, and talked about at family dinners for a year is over. That I have no more daughters to marry. That I must go back to work today and plan a funeral at 10 o’clock.
I am learning to let my feelings be, to notice them, to let them in when they knock on my heart’s door. I am learning to trust that all my feelings can live within me and live in peace, that I don’t have to keep some locked out, or invite others to leave so that I can welcome someone new. Whoever said you cannot be both in bliss and sadness never descended the staircase after his daughter’s glorious wedding and saw her white dress lying in a heap.