Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Becoming a Mother-in-Law

If you are the mother of a son, maybe you can relate to this posting today.

Last week, my only child, my son, was married to a beautiful woman. They met several years ago during their years as Grad students at the University of North Carolina, just 35 miles away from our home.

He announced his marriage plans to us over the phone fifteen months ago, and the anticipation of the wedding, and all that comes with such a grand event, began.  Ever since, I've been looking inside at how I felt and what I thought as the wedding day approached. I wanted to talk to her alone. I wanted to talk to him alone. There were things I wanted to say. Why was it so hard for me to say it?

They have lived and worked nearly 300 miles from our home for the past few years. The opportunities to talk... the timing, never clicked for me. The words that came to mind often choked me up. Could I even speak them aloud? 

My feelings flip-flopped several times over the course of the year... between feeling embarrassed for acting like my son was only 18 and leaving home for the first time, to feeling joyful that he'd found his soul-mate.... from thinking unrealistically that I'd never see him again, as if he wasn't going to be part of my life after he took to him a wife, to dreaming of a future with grand-children. I talked to my husband about it ... I talked to my best friend. But I couldn't talk to my son or his fiancee. Time and distance did not work in our favor.

I continued avoiding attempts to put my thoughts and feelings into words on paper. I knew I shouldn't wait until the day of the wedding to do it... but everytime I sat down to write, the words would not come. I was avoiding it. Trying to write without having my son and his future wife near me, where I could see them and know them, further blocked the words. I felt a little anxious driving to Maryland without knowing what I was going to say.

I needed to reach inside... to find the words that would make sense to not only my son and his wife, but also to the people who would be hearing the message. I finally decided to let my heart speak for me. I would know the time and place to write them down. I let it go so I could enjoy each perfect, present moment as the day of the wedding approached.

It was a beautiful day for a wedding on March 31, 2012 at the Vandiver Inn in Havre de Grace, Maryland... their marriage only hours away. All the motel guest bags I'd prepared earlier had been delivered the day before, thanks to the Groom, his Best Man, and the wedding planner. Clothing and shoes and accessories were ready to don. Mother and Mother-in-law were safe and resting in their rooms. Guests were all in their rooms getting ready, eating brunch/lunch, or relaxing in some way. The Bride and her entourage were getting ready, the Groom with his best friend at another location, also getting ready.

There was a mid-morning walk with my husband. I just wanted to be alone with him for awhile, before we became part of the crowd of wedding celebrants. The sun was shining. We strolled past shops selling souvenirs and art, past restaurants, past an old stone United Methodist Church ... where an inside yard sale was taking place, so we walked in to browse. It helped to clear my mind to do something that wasn't wedding-related.

Back at our room, there was peace and quiet. I told my husband I needed to write. He knows how I am about journaling... he said he would walk down to where his brothers were staying and visit with them.

Finally, I was alone. Peace and quiet. I stretched across the bed in the Victorian room of the Vandiver Inn... with journal and pen, I started writing. There was no order to what I wrote, I just wanted to get the words down. I could sort through it later and pull out the most important words. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I don't know how long I lay there thinking and writing. At some point, my husband walked in, saw the journal before me, and said, "Are you writing a book?" Yes, it appeared I had. I closed my journal. "Yeah, but I'm going to sum it up," I replied.

I went back over the pages I had written, and pulled out what I thought were most appropriate for a short Mother's Wedding Day speech... it had to be short as there would be three other speeches/toasts given before mine: one from my son's best friend, Mike; one from Anna, Matron of Honor and one from Jaimie, Bridesmaid, both best friends of the Bride.

The 5"x7" paper was folded and tucked away into my clutch. Just in case I forgot what I wanted to say. Holding a mic and standing before a crowd is not something I'm comfortable doing.

While we were all dressed and waiting for the wedding procession to begin, my son's future MIL and I were talking. I told her about my speech, and she said "Don't forget to tell them we want grandchildren!" I told her to give me a signal to remind me, and cradled my arms, rocking them sideways, like I was holding a baby. We both laughed. She and her sister said they would give me the signal.

The wedding was beautiful... our pastor from home was there to marry them... in full ministerial robes. His words were personal, there was a sermon, a blessing, the promises... the kiss. They were married before us and before God.

There were the formal family photos in the yard of the Vandiver Inn... and then the reception began in the Pavilion. The toasts were given by Mike, Anna, and Jaimie... then it was my turn.
I held my folded paper torn from the notebook I'd written on earlier in the day. The mic was in my other hand. Yes, I knew what I wanted to say ... the words were on paper so I wouldn't forget.

As I stood before them, emotions overwhelmed me quite suddenly. I looked at them both, he so handsome, she so beautiful... and they took my breath away. These were our children, grown as they were, both professionals, both independent... beginning a new life together as a married couple. How was I going to put all these feelings into words? How could I even speak... I was standing there in the awe of the moment. Momentarily speechless.
My voice did return at last ... after another deep breath.

Following are the words I had written on the paper ... what I actually said, I don't remember... I don't remember what I read from the paper, and what I ad libbed. But I'm pretty sure this is what I said ... slowly... between deep breaths, breaking voice, and being on the verge of tears with every sentence. I don't know how much they heard...

There is much for a mother to say to her son on his wedding day... more than I can say in just a few precious minutes standing before his friends and family, ... and his wife. So I have chosen my words and speak from my heart... thank you all for joining us in this great celebration.

A mother knows... when her son is born... that she can only keep him... until he learns how to drive a car. Long story short... that car took him away to UNC where he met Vi, and now, here they are... married.

I can see it in your eyes ... how much you love each other.

Vi ... you are so beautiful today! ... he's yours now, my dear. I am not sad to know that you have his heart, as he has yours. I am happy... these are happy tears in my eyes. Steven has gained a brother, another mother, a grandmother, aunts and uncles. And, you are part of our family now, too ... with many aunts and uncles and cousins that you haven't even met yet! Welcome to our family, Vi... we love you and adore you.

Steven... though your future will take both of you ...to places and times.... where we will not, and perhaps, we should not... go with you, I want you to know that your father and I are happy for everything that is to come from this union today. You honor us... our family...  with your marriage to Vi. We love you, Steven.

I thank God for bringing the two of you together!

Suddenly, Vi's mother ran up to me and hugged me. She said, "Your speech was beautiful, Bea, but you forgot to tell them about the grandchildren!"

"Oh, I forgot to look at you for the signal!" I tried to speak into the mic, but it had been turned off.

Vi and Steven stood up.

"There's only one thing that could make us happier," I said as the three of us hugged... "and that's when you give us grandchildren." They laughed... no one heard it except them.

They are married, and well on their honeymoon travels.

The following week, my husband drove his mother home to Jonesville. I drove my mother home to Georgia.  Easter week followed... it's been a week of looking at all the photos we took, printing them, putting some in frames, some in a book, sending some to family.

A wedding/celebration shower will follow next week when they fly home to get Daisy, their dog... we are dog-sitting, of course!