I got the phone call a few seconds after my son read me the text, so it wasn’t a complete surprise.
“Roe and I are engaged and we’re so happy.”
I still save the message on my phone.
It was the voice of a woman, that voice, not of a young girl or a giddy 20-something. The voice was of my 35 year-old daughter who had been through hard times, health crises and bitter disappointments before moving 4,000 miles away for a fresh start. Four thousand miles from Portland, Maine to San Diego, California.
She couldn’t get further away from me and our persistent disapproval of each other and still be in the continental United States.
I was so happy and relieved that my daughter would have a partner who loved her and could help her through life – a soulmate, as it turned out. From what I could tell about my future son-in-law he was smart, caring, kind and deeply loved my daughter. Deeply loved.
But then I also went into a period of grieving. My daughter would have a husband while I did not. They would walk hand in hand on the beach, visit museums, explore restaurants and cities and each other. Places that I now awkwardly go alone, self-conscious and a little afraid. My time as a wife and mother is over. But I wrestled that self-pity monster to the ground fairly quickly.
Instead I went into a whirlwind of Mother of the Bride activities as much as possible when email and Facebook and texting were the common form of communication. An occasional phone call. I was tasked with making napkin rings and plunged into my task with fervor. I bought a beautiful dress and then bought her a gorgeous gown. All the rest, décor, favors, food, music, was a mystery to me. Boundaries were clearly set by this woman, my daughter. She unfriended me on Facebook.
“Don’t you think it’s kind of weird to have your mother as your Facebook friend?”
As luck or fate or a loving God would have it, I inherited a little money and was able to fly myself and her little sister to Bath, Maine, rent a cottage and be ground zero for finalizing favors, making nametags, baking a wedding cake and put the finishing touches on her excellent vision for the day. Aunts and Uncles, her Brother from Atlanta all joined in to make her special day come off beautifully. She was a beautiful bride, poised and capable, and enjoyed every minute of the ceremony and reception as a new Mrs.
The day before, just she and I took a trip to the WalMart in New Brunswick for a last-minute list. We went through those aisles like it was Christmas.
“Let’s get this!”
“Oh, I want one of those!”
We filled the cart with practical things like flashlights, and frivolous things like ribbon and bought the most beautiful blue fabric to make a Bride and Groom table. As we piled the cart high, I felt like I had my little girl back, one last time. It was the most fun we had together in years and years. And it was all mine.
When my daughter was young, maybe six or seven, she had her first piano recital after only a few lessons. We sat in the audience; nervous and trembling She came on stage, hair in ribbons and a starchy new dress, and sat down on the bench. She placed her piano music above the keyboard. And…
And stared at it. It was the wrong music.
Then, slowly, she took the book off of the music stand. Folded it next to her on the bench, then positioned her hands and played the simple tune anyway. By heart.
It was a defining moment that took me years to absorb. She was capable. She could meet challenges on her own terms. She could overcome them with poise and grace.
And she still does. And she is still mine in my heart.
Just not mine alone.