The familiar music begins slowly and the air fills with anticipation. A low murmur rumbles through the crowd as all heads turn toward the main doorway. There is a quiet, but intense scramble as the patrons on both sides of the aisle fumble for their cameras.
There is a young man on the dais. He is handsome and kind and he looks at the doors in wonder, awaiting the love of his life. He reminds me a little of me, not surprising I suppose, she was always a Daddy's girl. He pulls on his jacket a little, nervous, hopeful, unsteady. He smiles uncontrollably and hopes her day went perfectly.
I can't see him just yet. I'm behind the door, holding her arm.
The door starts to open and the room falls silent, those in the front breathless. The music starts to swell as the bridesmaids and groomsmen pace their way to the stairs, nervous smiles on their faces. The girls have roses in their hair and, for once, love their dresses. The bride styled them individually, she's thoughtful that way. The boys have matching roses on their lapels and are whispering their steps to avoid losing count.
The Maid of Honor and Best Man make their way down the aisle. There is a familiarity and love uncommon in this pairing. She is beautiful and graceful, her dimpled smile lighting up the room. He has tamed his mop of blonde hair and gives a quick wink to the Groom. The Maid of Honor kisses the Best Man's forehead, as any mother would, and they take their places.
My turn. I'm not sure who's shaking more, me or her. I give her once last hug as my baby, she smiles at my tears and brushes one away. I support her arm as the music cues our walk down the aisle.
I think about her journey to this moment and am in awe of her strength, perseverance, and growth. Not just her growth into a woman, even though I still see red curls in pigtails, but her growth throughout her life. Every day flashes before my eyes. I feel her bring me back with a gentle squeeze of my arm.
Her bringing me back...I can't help but smile.
The young man on the dais finally sees her. He smiles. She smiles. I well up with tears.
This man will take care of her now. He will be her shoulder, her rock, her love. I have told myself it will be easy because he is everything I have hoped for in a son-in-law. I find myself wanting to walk slower, the stairs coming too quickly.
I am openly crying now.
I say some words, she looks me in the eyes...in the eyes...and smiles. I look at her one more time, bewilderment and joy blending with a sense of peace. She is simply stunning. Her eyes are shining and her hair in fiery curls down her back. She wears her gown as if born to it, and is unafraid and confident among the stares. She has always been unafraid. She is my little princess all grown up.
Her eyes stay a moment longer on mine and then turn towards the young man. I guide her hand to his. I suppose I have been working for this exchange her whole life. He takes her hand gently and leads her to the stage as I sit down.
My work is done.
As I watch them, I reflect on her life yet again. This time all of the successes, the small victories, the little smiles. She and I have been through a lot together, she is now ready to keep going. She has outgrown me and I am so incredibly proud of her that she did.
(This is my dream, my fondest wish. I hope for this every day and fight for this every night. I can't know if I will ever get here, but that I can dream it makes me keep trying. I will now cry a little more, as I have cried while writing this. Thank you for taking this journey with me, you make these dreams feel more attainable.)