I have been asked "why" a lot since I started planning this wedding for my kid and her fiancee, the Gerbil who came to my front door one day and never went away. Oh, we tried to send him packing. The first time we met him was at my first book launch. I thought he was there with her friend Katie, and that was ok by me. Go ahead, Gerbil-boy. Date Katie. Stay away from my kid. Turns out he was holding Girl's hand behind her friend's backs in the photo of the four of them taken that day. The next time I saw him was when Girl tried to kill him with her car by driving it into the side of an SUV. Gerbil brought her home in his car after the accident. He opened the door for her, and followed her in. I took one look at his young face and thought to myself "We are doomed. He's in love." Mr. Wonderful knew it too, in his gut, but I don't think he yet had words for it. He became instantly nervous, jittery, and cracked rude jokes. We even sent her to Indiana for a year to see if that would end it, but still they stayed together.
One day he showed up here and said he needed to talk to Mr. Wonderful and I alone. He asked for our blessing - not permission, but blessing - in asking our daughter to marry him. We said yes. They didn't really give us a choice.
Girl recently sent me this essay, one she wrote and submitted somewhere and had rejected (FOOLS!! Reject MY kid?). It answers the "Why?" question perfectly. Why am I planning (and paying for) this wedding? Why am I not discouraging my daughter from marrying her first love? Why am I not 'making' her play the field a little more, to see what's out there? Why would I sell an arm to make sure she has fairy land trees on her reception tables? This is why:
If you're the sarcastic type of person I used to be, you'll go to that big old dusty book that sits neglected on the shelf and find the handy definition of love. You may even go so far as to memorize it in case any friends sigh into the air, "What is the meaning of love anyway?" According to good ol' Merriam Webster love is, "strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties" and "attraction based on sexual desire" as well as "affection and tenderness felt by lovers; affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests" So love is easily summed up in a few sentences? Of course. Any feeling can be tied up in such a tidy bow. But on the cutting room floor lay the extra bits of love, the real meat behind the fluff, if you will. Shall we take a look at it together?
Until about four years ago my whole life was filled with watching. I watched other hearts soar and invariably crash a few months later as attraction faded. I heard the word love bandied about by anyone from toddler to teen to adult and always with the same bitter end. Of course I had my examples of undying love too. My parents met and seem to still be falling in love with each other. But their love didn't interest me the same way the sporadic infatuations of my peers did. I wanted to know what the big deal was, why the burning indulgent flames that consumed them were so worth the hurt when they were properly doused by reality. So, when a sullen-looking young man with dancing green eyes started following me around I let him. When he started looking less sullen and more charming I decided to see if I could like him. When his eyes said he loved me I decided to see if I could love him back. Little did I suspect I already did.
What started as an experiment has turned into a way of life. Suddenly the ups and downs of friends don't seem so exciting. In fact the quiet - steady love of my parents has become far more intriguing to me. Their love and mutual respect has been around since I can remember. I never really gave it any thought because to me it seemed as normal as the sun rising. Of course my parents had water-fights in the kitchen. Of course they giggled like children playing. It wouldn't be home if they didn't play tug-o-war over a dishcloth or a package of chocolates.
While I could never find the words to tell the meaning of love I have learned a lot about its nature from watching my parents and from trial and error with my own love. It isn't a solid feeling. It doesn't run away or lose interest. Attractions and lusts can sometimes feel like love but they disappear at the first sign of effort. Love takes a lot of work which wasn't something I knew before I met this man of mine. It seems so effortless in movies, the bad guys are always proven to be bad, and the good guys always catch the train just before the girl leaves. But love itself isn't two actors reading from a proofread script. It's two people looking into each other and wanting to be around everything the other is. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both draw breath from this earth.
My favorite thing about love is how it grows infinitely. From the corny jokes to the long silences, I never would have thought I could be entirely myself with another person and actually gain their love and respect by doing it. Inspired by love I've learned the importance of absolute honesty not only with him but with myself. I've learned that patience is more valuable than being right. And that picking your battles is less about battling and more about realizing whatever the fight would have been about just wasn't worth it. You cannot build love together without building a life to support and nurture it, and let me say, it is a beautiful life to have.
I can plan this wedding with soaring joy in my heart, I can stand by and watch my husband "give" my only daughter away to a man I have come to love as one of my own easily and with very little concern for the future of who they will become together. Oh, sure, they'll have their issues as we all do, but at the end of the day, what we were trying to teach them? Apparently, they got it. And they are going to be just fine.