Monday, February 20, 2012

On Giving Away Children in Marriage

I have five children. Three of them are now married.

The first marriage was that of my second child, my first daughter. She married rather young by today's standards. She married a great guy, and we had a reception in a large pavilion on his parents' acreage, in the foothills of the Rockies, and as the sun went down the pavilion glowed with the light of thousands of white Christmas lights. I am told that I danced with my daughter once during the night, but I don't remember that. I do remember that I ran around being a gracious host and enjoying the company of friends and family, and not eating or drinking much. At the end of the night, after the bride and groom had driven away and our helpers were starting to clean up, I sat down at a table all by myself in the semi-dark and quietly worked my way through one piece of chocolate cake.

People have told me that that was one of the saddest things they have ever seen. I believe them. She had been gone less than an hour, and my heart already hurt from missing her.

The second marriage was that of my oldest son, who had endured six miserable years and deserved some happiness. His bride had endured a miserable life and she deserved some happiness, too. Her family either couldn't afford or wouldn't pay for the reception, so we put it on ourselves and paid for the entire thing. I did the gracious host thing again, as did my sweet wife, my son and his bride. At the end of the night, after they left in a stretch limousine filled with pizza and root beer, and our helpers were starting to clean up, I took my sweet wife on the dance floor. The sound system was already packed up and put away. We slow-danced for a long time to the music in our minds, glad to have each other to cling to.

The third marriage, ironically, was once again that of my oldest son. The story is too long to tell here, but his first shot at "happily ever after" was neither "happily" nor "ever after," but after a couple of years he met another girl. He and she were both doing okay financially, so they put on their own party, on the shores of Pensacola Bay. We were their guests, for the most part, and they had a fun time hosting their families and their friends as we celebrated "happily ever after" again. I did my part by looking good in a tux and toasting the bride and groom with "scomps." I can't remember what we did after their party, but I think it involved more partying with family and relatives. We didn't have to clean up anything.

And that takes us to this weekend, when my third child, my middle daughter, married the love of her life, at age 28. As I watched her work the room on Saturday night, I admired the gracious and confident woman that she is. I broke down during the daddy-daughter dance, stopped dancing and just hugged her, whispering words of love in her ear and getting my tears in her hair. But we were surrounded with good friends and good family from Wednesday through Sunday. With the festivities came a distinct euphoria that I was not aware of until this morning, when I finally came down from it. I had been feeling great all weekend long, like everything was right in the world. This morning, on my way to work, I felt a heavy sadness. It was so bad that I had to stop at Dazbog Coffee to pick up a cup of comfort food: their amazing hot chocolate with a double shot of cinnamon, and cream on the top.

We have two more to go: one, our fourth child and youngest daughter in less than three months, and number five, our youngest son. He's off the market for two years, and I won't try to predict what happens after that.

(Parenthetical note: We have dozens of adopted children. One of them is a girl who became as close to us as one of our real daughters. In fact, she came this close to becoming a daughter-in-law. That got short-circuited, though, as she met the real love of her life. Her love for us, and our place in her life, were made clear when she invited us to participate in all of her wedding festivities alongside her real parents. I won't pretend to be equal to her real father, who is a close friend of mine, but I will admit to having felt the same strange emotions that I have felt as I have given my other children away.)


Terri said...

Can I tell you your words made me cry. I cried because I know, or think I know, exactly how you feel. I cried because even though I want the best for my children and I want them to grow into beautiful wonderful people there is a part of me that wants them to stay small. Time slips away and I want it to stop. And yet the joy can be so great and such good things are in store I want time to continue on. I cried because I wish I could have been there to share in your joy. I love watching happy people. Tears speak when words can't. Love you!

Zyzmog said...

Thanks, Terri. You know I love you too, in spite of miles and years. My daughter will always be a confident and powerful woman, and yet she will always be the little girl marching around the house with a Fisher-Price play figure stuck on each index finger.