One of the less convenient facts about grief is that it shows up whether it’s an appropriate time to be sad and nostalgic, or not. For me, it usually is not. Last weekend, we went to the wedding of two dear friends. My husband was a groomsman and my daughter, the flower girl. The weddings of good friends are always fun because even the people you haven’t met are friends by the very fact that they are special to such special people.
As we sat in a beautiful late spring Connecticut garden, I watched long afternoon sunbeams light the perfect bride and her father walking up a small aisle constructed of white folding chairs. She smiled. He beamed. I walked up the aisle at my wedding with a family friend.
Luckily, I was too busy watching to make sure my five-year-old flower girl wasn’t causing havoc during the ceremony to actually feel how I feel about that.
At some point during most weddings, the bride dances with her father. It nearly kills me. Every. Single. Time. Before it does, and some kind person at my table makes the "I feel so sorry for you" face, I spare us both and sneak off to the guestbook or the bar. Most torture and martyrdom carry no reward for the bravest face. This time, Ellie followed me. “Mommy you look sad.” She hugged me and I changed my face as I’ve done so many times.
I remember dancing with Daddy. We danced on Saturday nights at the New York Athletic Club, in the eleventh floor dining room. The ceiling-high windows look out over Central Park and the rest of New York City glows around the darkened rectangle where during the day, the children of the city climb rocks, slide down them on their backsides, occasionally discover New York wildlife (rats with feet and rats with wings – pigeons), and race our horses on the carousel.
One night, I wore a red taffeta dress with a white lace collar, white lace anklets, and black patent leather shoes without a strap. In an act of sheer lunacy over the love of his tiny daughter (or total ignorance of what children's shoes should cost), he special-ordered those shoes from Italy because my feet were too small to wear strapless shoes like my friends. My mother could do nothing but roll her eyes and click her tongue. Even I know to pick my battles, most of the time.
The band played some big band hit that I can’t remember. He took me by the hand onto the dance floor. Once on the shimmery dance floor, he held each of my hands in his with my arms reaching up high and long towards him. First we swung our arms back and forth. Then he spun me around and around again. Everything else in the room blurred together. His blonde-red hair, knowing eyes and gigantic grin sharpened so much that I can still see them now if I close my eyes. Finally, he reached under my arms and lifted me up. As he spun around, my feet flew out into a wide arc much to my delight and much to the horror of the older couple perfunctorily fox trotting next us.
Later at the wedding, I stood at our table, gulping water before chasing down a sugar-shocked flower girl once again. Holding my breath, I watched my husband take my daughter by the hand and lead her to the dance floor. He held both her hands and swung them back and forth. He picked her up and dipped her so her hands touched the floor. She squealed with delight-bordering-on-terror, came up and leaned back again for another dip. What a lucky girl! He'll never have then chance to...