Wednesday, March 18, 2009
My Son, The Ringbearer
My Dad called for my son’s eighth birthday. “I have his picture next to my bed,” he said. Every time I look at him, I think about him at Joanna’s wedding. I remember how he cried about the bubbles. That was great.”
“You know he wasn’t really crying about the bubbles, right Dad? He was just overwhelmed at everything at the moment.”
Really I think he was crying in reaction to seeing his grandfather in a wheelchair, but I didn’t say so.
I didn’t write much upon my return from the wedding because there was such a whirlwind of many mini-stories playing over in my mind. My Dad’s statement reminded me of one small part of the wedding worth dwelling on, if only because it will probably be one of those moments that are frozen into my son’s mind forever.
Going to a wedding is a far different experience than being in one. All the family dynamics come to play at a crescendo, for better or for worse (usually both). The adults are all caught up in their own personal dramas. I think we sometimes forget how it all must seem to a child.
In our case, we were traveling from New York to Tennessee and meeting the groom’s family for the first time at the wedding rehearsal. We arrived at 2:00 in the morning, the day of the rehearsal dinner. The children got their energies out at the pool, getting sunburned in the process, before the big pre-nuptial event. They did great, carrying out their instructions, and were made to feel welcome by all.
When my son came up the aisle, I replayed the memory, side by side with the present, of my little brother, at the age of 4, coming up the aisle with the ring for my own wedding. We had sewn the ring into the pillow so it wouldn’t get lost. When the best man tried to take it off, he had a nervous moment trying to get it detached!
Then my little sister came up the aisle, preceded by my two older daughters, and again I had a flashback to my own wedding, when she, at the age of 8, sweetly walked up the aisle in a lavender dress with a small bouquet. Not on purpose, I too was wearing a lavender dress at her rehearsal, and all these memories flooded back to me as she walked up the aisle. I couldn’t stop the tears from trickling down my face. When we were all together at the altar, the minister looked at my red nose and said, “I just love sisters.”
The next day was the wedding. We were all up early. The children showered and dressed, and we ladies and the children all traveled together, while my husband cared for our toddler. When we arrived, a hostess was ready to take my son over to the house where the groomsmen were getting ready. I insisted that I would take him myself. The poor little guy was in the company of a great many big guys. Fortunately, he knew both the groom and my brother. I gave my brother the charge of him and ran off to join the ladies.
Right before the wedding, my Dad came into the church, in his wheelchair. His health had been worrisome as of late, as he suffers from multiple sclerosis, and none of us were sure if he would be able to make it. I hadn’t seen him in five years. He was very thin and frail. I had tried to prepare my children for his appearance, but even I am never quite able to deal with the change that time brings upon him in my absence.
My sister came into the entryway and cried a little at seeing him. She was really happy that he had been able to make it.
The wedding went smoothly, beautifully, almost surreally (for me) and I was able to keep myself in control emotionally. The kids did a terrific job preparing the way for the beautiful bride.
At the end, we all came outside and waited for the couple to come out. Bridesmaids handed out bubbles to be blown for the pictures. The couple entered their vehicle and did a fake exit, driving around to the rear of the church for more pictures to be taken inside. I found my children and discovered that my son was quite upset. “I didn’t get any bubbles!” he said, his lower lip trembling.
“How could this have happened!” I exclaimed.
A bridesmaid came up to me, prodding me to come inside for the pictures. “I’ll be in in a minute, I said,” grabbing some bubbles from the basket that dangled from her arm.
Then my Dad rolled up to us. “This is your Grandpa,” I said to my son. And he burst into tears.
“What’s wrong?” asked my Dad.
“He didn’t get any bubbles,” I tried to explain.
I received another reminder that they were waiting for us inside. I’m afraid I might have glared at the messenger. Here was a moment that my son might never forget, and I wasn’t going to rush through it until he was okay with everything.
My husband found us, and brought me my toddler, who also was very upset at having been separated from her mama. Her comparative outrage did some good in settling my son. Finally, we all went inside, and all went fairly smoothly from there.
It may seem puzzling why this might be a positive memory for my Dad. On a happy day, why would one want to remember the tears that occurred for ten minutes of it?
“He was just being a boy,” says my Dad.
And I think that’s it. Boys keep it real. If they are in a mood, they pout. If they are happy, they smile from ear to ear. You never see a little boy with a fake smile on his face, and they are usually not able to stifle their giggles.
In the middle of a smiling crowd, where some adults might be smiling to hide personal sadness, or to be polite and sociable, he was able to express his true emotion. Later, he would be running around by the lake, laughing and dancing. Whatever his actions, they were true.
So when my Dad sees his school picture sitting on his side table, with the same smile that my little brother has always had, he can see it all: the tears, the laughter, the genuine boy-ness. That still shot, combined with the living memories, will sustain him until our next visit.