Monday was a big day. It was Wedding Dress Shopping Day for my daughter and me. See what I did there? I included myself in that sentence. It’s a little problem I’ve had since her engagement, and she’s not amused. Every time I say “our wedding,” she hangs up the phone. Well, no one really “hangs up” anymore; she actually disconnects me — an appropriate commentary on our intertwined lives since she turned 13.
My daughter and I spent her early years connected like two halves of a clamshell. Think of those little Russian nesting dolls: I was the large one and she was each of the smaller ones at every age. Some may say we were too attached. But she began her life as a brutally colic-ridden infant and, as anyone who experiences this knows, you either hold those screaming infants tighter and love them more — or give them to the SPCA. I loved her more. Darius Rucker sings, “It won’t be like this for long,” and it truly wasn’t that way for long. Until she cut her first tooth. Sigh. It was a rough Year One.
My daughter was an only child for two years until one brother dropped by and then another. She was a spectacular sister and commandeer to them and an enormous help to me. When she started kindergarten, I felt like my au pair had returned to Sweden. But my daughter remained my right-hand man.
School didn’t always go swimmingly. She was shy and reserved, not silly or high strung (like you-know-who). She was serious and smart and that sometimes meant she was a square peg trying to fit into the universal round hole.
We moved here when she was a fifth-grader and, sadly, she was dropped into a swarm of the most catastrophic clique of Mean Girls ever to be formed in the tri-state area. It was heartbreaking and we cried in unison throughout her middle school years. She was bullied; I bled. My husband again kept assuring me it wouldn’t be like that for long, but all I could see were four long and torturous years of high school.
My daughter then, as she does now, kept her circle small and her loyalties large. She has an extremely high bar by which she measures relationships, and not everyone can reach it; not even me, most days. Together, we rode the peaks and valleys of high school and, while I didn’t know if we would make it, I knew it wouldn’t be that way for long.
College was her salvation. She met dear friends she will cherish into infinity. Life around her expanded outside the realm of our small town and she finally found her way. More importantly, she found the best friend she will have, forever and ever. And now, he is her right-hand man. He not only reached her bar, but surpassed it, and we are now in the chapter of her story called “marriage.”
Wedding dress shopping for our — oops — her wedding was one of the best days of my life as a mother. She threatened me with strangulation by veil if I sobbed, made inappropriate jokes or shrieked displeasure at any of her choices.
I behaved perfectly. Until she went into the dressing room after we, I mean she, chose her gown. I cried. And cried. Because it’s been a long journey; I knew this moment was golden and I’m trying to hold on. Because I know … it won’t be like this for long.
Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three, a librarian and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life.