The white of her dress flows down past her smooth ankles, covering most of her feet but for the tips of her fancy ballet shoes; a hint of sparkle and shine peek out from the hem, leading you to believe they would dazzle in the sunlight. She taps a toe of one of these magnificent shoes on the carpeted floor, fast and rhythmic.
She is nervous, and she wonders why.
This is her big day! She should be full of elation and excitement, yet it all feels...wrong. She is somehow melancholy and nostalgic, sad for what she is leaving behind. Homesickness, she realizes, comes close to what she feels, and what an odd emotion for the day. Covered in sequins and tulle, organza and beads, this ought to be a cause for celebration, for one does not don a fifty pound dress for just any old day.
The driver turns into the church parking lot and pulls to the door of the vestibule. This is it. The bustle of the bridesmaids is hurried and chattery. They are all late and there will be a hustle to organize from this moment on. There is an air of rushed expectancy.
Yet she feels glued to her seat. Her well-dressed father is perched next to her, a large grin on his face. He is looking intently at her, ready to go, yet she can’t get up. She wants this day, she loves this man, but she knows that once she leaves the shelter of this vehicle, she will become another person, her heritage lost…she will have in essence entered the witness protection program, changing her name, her address, her complete identity. What she is now, she will never be again…and the thought overwhelms her. Her past transforms to present and future here today, and her tears are barely contained over the revelation of all that will be over. Her family is changing.
Her father, recognizing that she will not stand up, covers her hand with his. He gently squeezes it for reassurance, for he knows that this is a penultimate moment in her life, being one in his, too. He is giving up his “baby”, his first-born, entrusting her to another caretaker. He will be giving her away in minutes, in a simple ceremonial gesture, symbolically handing her over to her love, to her new family.
Her beautiful veil flows down around her left shoulder, and flowers sit idle, gracing her lap. The light twinkles off her every bead and sequin, shining so bright, that there appears an aura around her frame. She is a vision in white, and he has never been more proud of her than today. She has found a steady, smart and truly good man to share her life with and that is every father’s wish come true.
Her mind is also on what she is losing, but also what she has done that she can no longer take back.
Her family could be called dysfunctional, but most could fit that description. Dysfunctional is the new Normal. She admits to matching the terrorizing description of “terrible teenager,” ungrateful and lazy. She has never really known how good she had it, until this moment. Her parents gave her everything, and she gave back nothing in return. She was a dreadful daughter to them, and now she was moving on past them, never to have the opportunity to redeem her actions.
She was torn, knowing she had a tentative relationship with her father, whom she was more like than she would ever admit. Toward one another, they remained emotionally closed off and hard-headed, stubborn and stoic, angry and cold. Better apart, they enjoyed a more mature relationship with others. Though, her and her mother had problems as well, anger welling up consistently and hurt feelings abound. The household was usually a screaming, emotional and grudge-holding mess. Yet, leaving it all behind, the comfort and the safety net of their home and love felt so difficult today. She enjoyed their company, being part of the family and sharing in their experiences, however disjoined. Tomorrow morning she would wake up in the company of her husband…and no one else.
She had no idea why this saddened her so, and why it was all hitting her now…moments before she was to walk down the aisle. She was barely holding on to her composure, staring down at the flowers in her lap, seeking control in the arrangement of peach colored roses. This was baffling! More than anything, she wanted to leave, to start on her own, to have her own space to organize and enjoy. She was chasing down real freedom! And she was afraid to let it capture her.
The car was empty, except for the two of them. He watched her studying the bouquet, trying to understand her melancholy mood. This was not usually a pose you would ever find them in, mostly concerned about their own selves. But he stayed quiet and looked at her until he realized she was not going to glance up.
He then took her face in both hands, and she looked up at him staring at her so directly she thought she would burst from the intensity, and before she could look away or feel awkward from the attention, he said, “This is the last time I can ever call you Cheryle Collins.” He faltered toward the end of his declaration, tears slowly rolling down his face. He looked as sad as she felt. Him using their family name, her soon to be maiden name, was far too much for her fragile state and she dissolved into tears, her lower lip trembling. In his last act as direct father, he kissed her on the forehead and pulled her up to stand with him. She was moved in his endeavor to make this moment so special. He couldn’t have known it would have this effect on her, and it seemed to make him even more emotional. Overcome, he started to lead her out to the waiting ceremony, but she grabbed at his hand, at that moment wishing she could take back all the grief, all the difficulty and hurt feelings she had ever caused him, caused them all, and said, “I love you, Daddy.”
She cried all the way down the aisle, most people assuming her demeanor as the usual tears of happiness and overwhelming emotion. In truth, it was for those reasons, but also nostalgia, love, and the sorrow of loss…the loss of her childhood, fading with every step closer to her love.
Her father quietly crying in tune beside her, walking his daughter home, every person they walked by succumbed to their own level of emotion, as if a magical spell settled over the crowd with their passage. By the time they reached the altar, the whole church was sniffling, brushing away tears – even the stoic priest.
He took his daughter’s hand and faced her, for the last time as her provider and guardian, and kissed her cheek. He squeezed her hand, full of emotion and told her he loved her. Her response was renewed sobbing, and a choked iteration of the same sentiment as he physically placed her hand in her fiancé’s own.
Transfer complete, this moment slipped away so quickly. She was now part of another immediate family, and it all happened with the simple passage of her hand. The ceremony underway, she glanced over her shoulder at her father, taking solace in her mother’s embrace and smiled at him. She was filling up with love and warmth, beside her soul mate, surrounded by her extended family and friends, feeling as if this was where she truly belonged. It all began to feel so right. Trading one phase for another, this was the beginning of a new relationship, a new emotional bond; a friendship, with her parents, and it all starts here, today.