We had a wedding this past weekend, the pictures of which I’ve plastered across Facebook because it is so rare for the four of us to be in the same place, dressed up, and clean. (We usually manage one out of three.) The bride was my oldest niece, who was five and my flower girl when I was her age. Like all milestones, this one was bittersweet: Watching her, I couldn’t help but remember the tow-headed baby girl who had brought her stuffed bunny to my house for sleepovers, who’d eaten her weight in fresh raspberries when we’d gone berry-picking, who’d let me carry her through Disney for her first time at the park, hot and sticky and smelling like suntan lotion. I watched her laugh with her mom, my sister-in-law, who was laughing at them both for crying as my niece walked down the aisle, and it made me laugh and cry too.
I’ve had a front row seat as my sister-in-law has raised her children, and I’ve been lucky to learn so much. Her babes are all much older than mine, and I may have been a bit smug at times as I watched her navigate the minefields of dating and dress codes, of driving and grades and college and all that comes with adolescence, but those times are far behind me. That future is bearing down too fast, and all I can do is buckle in and prepare for the ride.
I caught glimpses of that future at the wedding — my daughter, looking lovely, dancing with her dad, echoing the dance my brother-in-law had done with his own daughter just minutes before. My son, fueled by his first Coke, dancing to Shout, fist-bumping the groom’s frat boy friends. My brother and sister-in-law, exchanging glances throughout the night that said Look at our baby, look how beautiful she is, look at what we’ve done together.
It’s possible I might have gotten a bit teary myself, were it not for the following conversation held over much-anticipated slices of the wedding cake. (The wedding, like marriage, was not without its small disasters — the poor groom, done in by heat and nerves, fainted at the altar.)
Me: I’m so glad it worked out. For a minute there, I thought it was going to be worse.
Small boy: Worse? How could it have been worse?
Me: Well, he could have gotten sick.
Small boy: Really? Right up there on the altar and everything?
Small boy, slowly: That … that would have been awesome!