Late Friday afternoon, by way of a second-hand message in email (sent to my husband and conveyed to me by him) I received news that startled me into silence for the past few days.
Two weeks ago, my daughter and her fiancé decided to drive twenty miles to the nearest Justice of the Peace and get married.
This is no small thing.
Not just because, well, they got married, especially so young (they are both nineteen) but the fact that they backed out on having a big wedding at her church; that they didn’t even arrange to be married at home or in a park or some other location by one of her ministers.
They just went ahead, had a civil ceremony on a Friday, and got it over with so their lives together could start.
At first I stood up and cheered, and I mean that literally.
In an instant, all the months ahead of me stretching on of their engagement, leading to a big wedding she had said I would only be invited to if my ‘status with the organization changed’ (meaning I wouldn’t be invited because there is no way I could go back to it, and she knows that) were erased.
All the waiting, instantly over.
No more having to imagine her step-mother taking my place at gown fittings and the bridal shower, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself. No more imagining the smug expression on my eldest sister’s face as she sat there in the front row as if SHE were mother of the bride (long history there) and no more emotional baggage to do with an event so far in the future but so much on my mind every day.
In a split second, it was all just done.
For whatever reason my daughter decided that it was begin married, and not the wedding itself, that mattered.
“We have to get them a card,” I said, even though she hasn’t given my husband her new address yet to send anything to.
In as much shock as I, as we, were in, the only thing my husband and I could think of doing was going out to the Hallmark store (where we had, coincidentally, been planning to go to Friday anyway) and buying her the perfect card.
I want to send them some money, of course. But we wanted to pick out something small and sentimental, too. I’m hoping if he sends it, she won’t immediately throw it away: you see, she wouldn’t want to (according to her faith) keep anything from me/by me/to do with me in her apartment, or it would be an invitation for evil to follow, because I do not believe as she does. The way I was raised to believe, the way my ex raised my daughter to believe, and the way I believed, once, too, when I was a newlywed at the age of nineteen.
Soon I stood in the middle of the card shop, stunned into blindness of a sort I remember from years ago when I was physically sightless. It was as if the whole world blurred into nothing, and I actually couldn't read a word I saw.
I was lost in a sea of glitter glued to cardboard.
My baby is a married woman, I kept thinking, and she did it her way.
The much larger part of me is proud of the decision she made, since they were determined to go through with getting married (there was no convincing them to wait, apparently it was tried.)
She didn’t end up caught in the wheels of the huge religious machine, and these two young people made the wedding what it should be. They made it about the two of them, and not what anyone else may have wanted.
I may never know if the idea she “couldn’t” invite me, and by extension my husband (though there was technically no reason she couldn’t invite him as far as her church was concerned, she still wouldn’t do it) had anything to do with her decision to elope.
My mother, who spoke to my daughter on the phone and found all of this out the night before I did, feels it was a factor. She doesn’t think my daughter wanted to have the whole big wedding without me there. “Her heart wasn’t in it,” my mother insisted. But that's pure supposition.
I don’t think I had anything to do with my daughter’s decision in the end. I’m not that egocentric.
No, I think it had to do with exactly one thing: two young people in love who just wanted to be married, now, and not wait to begin their lives another day longer.
As it happens, my daughter was also in quite a serious car accident the week after she got married. It wasn’t her fault, but her car was totaled. She managed to escape with only a sprained foot. For that, my gratitude knows no bounds.
I’d been having horrible nightmares about her for the past week that I couldn’t explain. I swear, now I have my answer. It must have been mother’s intuition.
I like to think of her as being out from under my ex’s roof.
I like to think of her waking up smiling in the morning, like she did every day when she was a child, instead of depressed and waiting for her life to begin.
I like to think she’ll be happy. That is, after all, the wish of every mother for her child, that they will find true happiness.
I hope he’ll be good to her.
Myself, I’ve run the gamut of emotions from elation to an emotion that left a bitter taste in my throat— a resentment born of the fact she seems capable of going around the rules of her church when it suits her, but still wouldn’t even do so to call her own mother to tell her she got married.
I am fighting those negative emotions, though, mightily. I am better than that. This is not about me, and I am trying not to let my initial reaction to this news be soured by thoughts of myself in this at all.
Now, I just feel numb.
It’s so complicated, but in the end I guess it is all very simple.
Whether she's married or not she still won't talk to me, and that is the part that I struggle with every day of my life.
But I’m her mother. Her happiness is what matters. No matter how it hurts me, if she's happy on her own, so be it.
She’s made the separation complete now from all of her parents; the ones who brought her into the world, and the ones who helped raise her from a very young age.
I am grateful that the wait I dreaded for the wedding next spring is over now, and all I can do is wish her well.
We bought my daughter wedding gifts, but I don’t know if I’ll get to send them.
The package sits here, just as I wrapped it, holding the things her step-father and I selected for her; one of which I will post a photo of. It’s just a small, sentimental thing, but in that it is a sentimental thing maybe it’s not quite so small after all. I hope it conveys my sweetest, truest wish for her life.
If I could tell her anything to her face right now, it would just be that I am so happy for her happiness, and I wish her nothing but joy, whatever her future may bring her now.
I just can’t help but wonder, still, if there will ever again be some small place in her life for me.