Monday, June 20, 2011

Roses and Weddings and a Mother's Rambling Thoughts

Bride-to-be picked up the succulents for her floral/table arrangements yesterday and she and her future mom-in-law and a girlfriend, I think, put them together in the vases her guy had scrounged up. I wish I'd been there, but we do have to spend some time at home on the island so the garden doesn't go completely wild. I'm so looking forward to seeing what the budding florist has come up with -- she's had a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve on the small wedding budget we've carved out. Already, all who received one have been very impressed by the homemade invitations the couple put together (well, Meg conceived, Rob seems to have chosen and purchased various-weight papers, stamped and gilded, ordered printing, picked up printed, cut and glued and addressed and mailed . . . ).

We had originally hoped, quite honestly, to host another beachside wedding -- Eldest daughter's was a huge success here seven, almost eight years ago. But Meg and Rob had other plans, the very traditional private club he works at (as did she for a year or so) offered to put on the wedding for them at a very generous rate (and we kept it small enough that they were even more generous than anyone could have hoped).

I've left most of the planning to Meg and Rob, although we've been available for consultation and cheque-booking along the way. Apparently, says the manager at The Club, bride and groom often show up only at the first meeting with him and the following three, four, or five meetings are with the parents only. By that measure, we're worse than lax, but, quite honestly, I find much about weddings and the "handing-on" of daughters disturbing. Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that Megan and Rob are committing to a life together in front of friends and family, but I don't want to own that celebration.

Someone asked me the other day if I were "thrilled" that my daughter was getting married. I admit I paused for a second, and then smiled and said I was very happy.  My interlocutor, to his credit, got the distinction immediately. I don't know if I can explain it clearly enough so that you will understand as well, but I was already thrilled with Megan and the life she's creating each and every day. With each of my adult children, in fact, those who will marry and those who may not. I worry sometimes about our perpetuation of some dangerous fantasies, the worth we ascribe to white satin dresses and cunningly-decorated cakes.
I began this post with the photographs but realized I wanted to say something about the approaching wedding and the distance I've maintained from it, on this blog, so far. As I finished the last paragraph, I began wondering how I could tie photographs and my wedding thoughts together. I even considered an over-laboured metaphor by which the (wild) Nootka roses shining in the sun against a beautiful seascape paralleled Megan and Rob shining in their wedding gear on Sunday.  That metaphor got horribly awkward when the bee got into the rose, even more so with the dead petals in a pile of organic detritus.

But I can say that this natural beauty, in its many stages, came free of expense or labour, other than vigilant pruning. The Nootka roses grow wild -- and they thrill me.  They come back year after year after year, going through the cycles of blooming and dying back, blooming and dying back. Perhaps I'd do better to compare them to marriage rather than to the wedding. Perhaps simply to life itself, whose cycles we all work our way through. Still, the roses in full bloom, in full glorious promise on a summer's day -- that's a wedding, that insistent celebration, wrapped in all the beauty one can create and afford. It's not an ignorance of its own ephemeral nature, of the difficult times to come, it's a brave and beautiful and optimistic act of grace -- in its fullest spiritual sense -- a creation and storing-up of resources all at once.

And I suppose I should find that thrilling, shouldn't I?


  1. I supposed one is only thrilled by something one suspected might never occur. Perhaps your own long marriage made you feel that this was inevitable, and lovely, but not something to engender roller-coaster feelings.

    Lovely post, mater. One that brings its gifts like a rosebush, in little waves.

  2. I loved reading this. You are wise to be happy for the wedding and thrilled by the roses.

    My favorite article ever on the topic of weddings is this one published in the Atlantic by Caitlin Flanagan:

  3. I think I understand the distinction you make and I think it is an important one. I imagine being 'thrilled' at a daughter's wedding to be a very Mrs Bennet thing - finally, to have achieved the main goal of mothering daughters, a wedding ...

  4. It was such a relief to read about your approach to this wedding. We have one impending in September and thus far, I have primarily been the check-writer...and I have worried that I wasn't doing enough. This calms my worry.

  5. You've written a thoughtful and nuanced distinction. I am so enjoying your notes about the the choices and your role. What a deep and ancestral rite a wedding is, when approached with consideration and personal choice. Sunday! Can't wait to "see" it all!

  6. So beautifully written...
    I feel that there is a bittersweet thread running through this post.
    I felt as the cheque writer I would have had more input but I had to step back...which I did, with mixed feelings. and was honoured when asked to be able to arrange all the flowers from the brides bouquet to the bowers.

    I know that you will look lovely in your dress and Fluevogs.

  7. LPC: Even more, I think, my own long marriage makes me aware how much the success of a marriage depends on something close to luck. I worry about the way it's still fetishized as an institution, the way a woman's success is still in some ways assessed by her having achieved it or not. Although I'm also, perhaps hypocritically or contradictorily, very happy in the love and partnership my daughter has found. And there's a big difference between a wedding and a marriage. . . .
    Susan: Thank you so much for that link -- it expresses and analyses so many of my misgivings.
    Tiffany: Exactly! Janeites to the rescue again . . .
    Terri: Oh, I'm so glad -- this is precisely what I hope we can do for each other by discussing such issues. I'd been putting off such a post because I don't want to seem critical of those who choose to get caught up in wedding prep. I do think the other side needs airing though -- well worth taking a peek at the article Susan points to, above.
    Duchesse: Ancestral, yes, it really is, with many, many resonances. I'm quite conscious of not only my own, but my parents' wedding and marriage before, and curious now about my grandparents, wishing I'd asked more questions when I could have got answers. . .
    Hostess: If a bittersweet or regretful note crept in, it's because I haven't chosen my words or phrases carefully enough. I've been quite honestly relieved to be able to play a backseat role and very happy to see my daughter getting to know her mother-in-law, working together with her on the last of the preparations. If anything, I feel a teeny bit guilty about not doing more. But Mrs. Bennett (see Tiffany's comment above) didn't work full-time outside the home . . .

  8. I must confess to being one of those nightmare brides who saw my parents as the walking chequebook and failed at any point to understand that wedding = marriage. Hence my 18 month tenure! I enjoyed planning it so much though I did not really want or need much help and I would expect Daisy & Kitty to be the same if they ever succumb.
    There is a very melancholic thread through this post but what’s wrong with that? Her capability is a job well done by you!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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