Every mother-of-the-bride that I spoke to before my daughter’s wedding said it would happen. Each one told me that the events of our momentous day would pass by in a flash.
I was determined it would not happen to me. I’d find a way to make the evening last—to drink it all in. I concentrated. I tried to be mindful of every image, every word, every smile, every conversation; but it happened anyway.
Seven hours went by like seven minutes.
One minute my family and my soon-to-be family were lining up, preparing for the procession into the ceremony, and six minutes later we were saying our goodbyes, urging guests to take home floral arrangements and little boxes of wedding cake slices.
It was over. I was left with snippets of memories—and a simmering panic that large portions of the night would be lost to me forever. So much had gone into preparing for this; how could it have gone by so quickly?
There was so much anxiety leading up to that night. My daughter Alexis—the bride to be—carried most of it, as she planned the entire event herself; but there was plenty of additional stress to go around. I’m embarrassed to say, much of mine was concerning clothing. I began looking at dresses a year before the event. As the months went by, I looked everywhere I could think to look. I went to store after store and I looked on-line almost daily—but found nothing I liked.
The problem for me was that every dress either looked boring (typical mother-of-the-bride styles that were appropriate but not special) or they were too glamorous (glitzy, sequined numbers that would have made me look like a lounge singer—lounge singer was not the look I was going for).
I wasn’t sure exactly what I was searching for—but it wasn’t these.
Finally, in desperation, I left the house one morning just 6 weeks before the wedding, determined to come home with a dress. The next 12 hours were filled with frustration that culminated in a minor fender-bender, which I took as a divine nudge to calm down and regain focus before getting on the expressway to drive home. I acknowledged the nudge and made my way home in defeat.
An hour later, safely at home with a hot cup of tea in hand, I looked on the internet one more time. And there it was! On a site I’d looked at over-and-over, suddenly there was the dress I’d been waiting for! Blue and silver and black brocade, with a full skirt and an off-the-shoulder, portrait collar: it was perfect. I ordered it and slept well for the first time in weeks.
But I also had to figure out what my daughter Alison, the maid-of-honor, would wear. My challenges with her dress were two-fold: Alison is six feet tall, and she has tattoos—quite a few of them. If she wants to show her tattoos at her own wedding someday, that will be her business, but for her sister’s wedding, we all agreed they should be covered. So we needed a very long dress with very long sleeves. Apparently, such a dress did not exist, so just five weeks before the big day, I reluctantly bought fabric (taffeta in a deep, dark eggplant color and matching lace for the sleeves) and began making one.
I can follow a pattern just fine; but I couldn’t find a pattern that would work. So I used a pattern for a sleeveless dress, then I had to figure out how to add sleeves—and the sleeves had to be lined with something that matched Alison’s skin tone so her tattoos wouldn’t show through the lace. As I fitted the dress to her body, I realized I’d need to add darts to the back to fit her shoulders. I didn’t get the darts placed properly on the first try and when I took them out to try again, I ruined the delicate fabric. It looked horrible! I kept imagining her walking down the aisle with the eyes of all our guests glued to the ugly mess on her back. Night after night I tossed and turned, trying to figure out how to hide my mistake. After much brainstorming and many prayers for wisdom, the idea popped into my head to make a lace panel to cover the ruined fabric. It worked and it actually looked great!
Without reservation, I can say this was the single most difficult garment I’ve ever made. The challenges just kept coming. But in the end it was also the most beautiful garment I’ve ever made. I can honestly say there were moments when I wanted to throw the whole thing in the trash, but I knew that wasn’t an option, so I kept going. (Perhaps I should hang a photo of that dress on my refrigerator to motivate me and give me courage the next time life hands me something that seems impossible.) The joy I felt when I saw Alison walk down the aisle wearing a dress I made with my own hands was a pleasure I would not have wanted to miss.
For me, the wedding and everything leading up to it was a microcosm of life itself. I worry about the details of every little thing. Will it be nice enough? Will people approve? Will everything turn out okay? Will my best be good enough? So much worry! But in the end, things are usually fine—and if they aren’t, I recover.
And, though nothing in this life is ever perfect—at least not in my life, sometimes things turn out to be lovely and magical and thoroughly wonderful: like my daughter’s wedding was.
My endeavor now is to push aside the memories of the anxiety of preparing for the wedding and, instead, latch onto the memories of the beauty of the day: the love, the warmth, the sweetness and the hope.
(Why wasn’t I joyfully anticipating those things to begin with? Why was I focusing on fear instead?)
Just like Alexis’ wedding, I’m finding that life passes quickly. The older I get, the quicker it seems to go. I imagine that if I have time to reflect back on my life as I’m preparing to leave this one and enter the next, it may seem as though it, too, all passed in just seven minutes.
And I imagine that as those seven minutes flash before my eyes, it won’t be my fears or my perceived failures I’ll be remembering—it will be the moments of joy, the moments of triumph (when I wanted to give up, but didn’t!), the kindnesses of others, the blessings of God, and the unbreakable thread of love winding its way through every single minute.
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