Little girls grow up, marry and change their names. It was one of those Beverly Hills weddings — the groom sneaked unnoticed at the ultra-conservative church of The Good Shepherd but the bride emerged from a lily-white stretch limousine, hitched up her hand-woven French lace wedding gown and treaded her way through a swarm of relatives and friends.
It was a beautiful day for a wedding, crisp cool under the bluest, most brilliant California sky. Since the bride no longer has a father who could come running with a shotgun pointing dutifully at everything that frightens her, the mother of the bride, presumed familiar with the frontiers and dimensions of love’s bliss and rapture, the various levels of pain and heartbreaks, the true heights of joy and depths of sadness, and acknowledged be the repository of secret reserves of courage, patience, discipline and grit, now assumed the monumental duty of taking charge and giving the bride away.
You held her hand firmly and you walked the aisle together because there was no way of knowing that once she has entered this costly bondage, that she will not shed it off lightly.
How much will be taken away? What values will she shed in her pursuit of happiness?
Marriage was an invisible bond of commitment where acts, not words, are things that really count.
When did she stop being a child and began to be a young woman? One remembers her arrival after five long years of waiting—that still produced grave guilt in one’s motherhood remembering what heartbreak she and the next three girls (that I had helped to make mine) what heartbreaks she and the next three girls carried because we had ached for sons instead.
Who could forget night vigils deprived of sleep, waistline and fun, as she was ceaselessly patted and burped, and when she fell angelically asleep, limp in your arms, her helplessness her only security and protection, she would exact a whisper of that wordless, vow and promise, “I will love this baby as long as I live.”
You recall her fourteenth year when she had ideas that shocked you, just as I had standards obnoxious and appalling to her. There was also screaming arguments with my unmotherly shrills, why she should keep her room clean, study her Filipino, not snap at the maids, and as our eyes locked in combat, I searched for the baby and I panicked and wept for countless dawns ago. I couldn’t fathom what she was looking for in my face but whatever it was, she found it there because she would burst into laughter. That would vanish the anger between us without resolving what we were fighting about.
She continued to leave a wide trail of disorder in the house with Math lessons unsolved, books strewn in the study, bathroom messed up, and her younger sisters all weeping as I become the true and real adversary with my rules and impositions, the merry widow secretly called, Medusa.
I was not always right about her but I knew I was (almost) perfect about the things I wanted for her and the other three daughters. I wanted them to imbibe all the virtues, whether still in fashion or out, like honesty, compassion, respect for the law, and the constant knowledge that life is not one long joy ride but if you make the necessary adjustments, everything will fall into place.
A few years back, I watched her, already a grown-up adult locked in combat with a particular blood thirst beast, notorious for its unsportsmanlike conduct — the bar exams — when life around the house couldn’t be more stressful. If her father was still around, perhaps he could have dealt with the brooding, moody, volatile exhausted person at our address.
“I’m okay, Mother” she would screech, turning fierce when I reminded her of time, meals, vitamins and sleep when I was off in a rant.
Honks of vehicles, clapping of hands, greeted the newlyweds, as they emerged from the limousine’s bubble top, and posed for the wedding pictures by the steps of the church.
In the joyous reception at the Polo Lounge, one discovered, if a bit late, that even champagne named Dom Perignon and high heels did not get along.