Amid burns and toasts, my altar ego is dry-eyed

The Baltimore Sun

I am writing to report that I didn't cry.

I burned (more on that later). But I didn't cry at my son's wedding.

There was big money riding on me to disrupt the service with gasping sobs. But I showed everybody I am made of tougher stuff.

Joe and Brooke were married on the most beautiful October day in anyone's memory.

He looked like a recruiting poster in his Marine dress uniform. She looked like a raven-haired angel, wearing a wedding dress as stark white as his uniform pants and a smile that, hours later, still had not dimmed.

But enough about them. This is about me.

I don't want any mother-in-law problems right out of the gate, if you know what I mean, so I will just tell you how this wedding was for me.

It is tough to prepare for the wedding of one child when the other is determined that you take her advice and keeps sending you links to mother-of-the-groom fashion Web sites.

I refused to take my daughter Jessie's direction on what to wear - I had my own ideas about what would make me feel comfortable and confident - but when she told me to go tanning so I didn't look like a chunk of wallboard, I listened.

And I burned. Badly. Right across the middle.

"What were you thinking?" Jessie demanded. "That part of your body hasn't seen sunlight in 15 years. Are you planning to wear a two-piece bathing suit to this wedding?"

Fortunately, the pain, blistering and peeling subsided before the big day.

This tanning thing never works for me. Years ago, when I went with my mother in order to humor her, there was a power failure and I was trapped in the tanning bed as the lights went out. I'd locked the door to the tanning room, and no one could rescue me. I tried to relax by thinking of it as death practice.

This time, it was my nieces who had the problem with locked doors.

I'd rented the house next door to keep my husband's brother (the best man), his wife and his children (one ring-bearer, two altar servers) where I could keep an eye on them. You can't have a lot of loose ends at weddings.

Anyway, Kacey and Shannon breezed out the front door of my neighbor's house, looking gorgeous for the wedding rehearsal, and promptly shut the door behind them.

And it locked.

The best man, his wife and the ring-bearer were outside, and their rehearsal dinner finery was inside. You learn a lot about whom people leave their extra house keys with at a time like this, but not before you bang on the front door of every house on the street.

We were late for the rehearsal, but these things are kind of loose. As are the screws in my husband's head. He saw Jessie at the altar with all the other bridesmaids and turned to me to whisper, "Is she in this?"

Gives you an idea of how deeply he was involved in the planning.

But his toast at the rehearsal dinner was a masterpiece of brevity, optimism and love, and all was forgiven.

Until the next day.

When Connie and Nancy, my best friends since the seventh grade, showed up at the rehearsal dinner, we started hugging and squealing like the last three contestants in a beauty pageant.

At some point during the evening - it gets a little fuzzy here - I grabbed a pair of pajamas and a couple of bottles of wine and went off with them to spend the night before my son's wedding in their hotel room, talking until we finally slept.

About 8 the next morning, I arrived home in a cab just as Jessie came downstairs from her bedroom.

"Didn't you come home last night?" my husband asked, sounding confused and looking from Jessie to me and back again.

"Didn't you notice?" I asked.

Everybody scattered to get hair and nails done and to pick up last-minute military gloves and medals. (I didn't know you could buy those medals.) By the time I was dressed, handsome groomsmen began to arrive, some in black tuxedos and others in the white chokers of naval officers.

Against the backdrop of the garden that I planted when my son left for the Naval Academy, dozens of pictures were taken of Joe and the men who mean so much to him. The uncle he races bicycles with, the nephew who idolizes him, friends from preschool and friends from the crucible of the military. And his father.

There might be one of him and me, too.

The wedding itself had the charming informality that comes when so many members of the wedding party are under the age of 8. And, at the end, the priest called the children to sit around him and offer Brooke and Joe the blessing of their innocence.

The priest didn't know my nephew Rudy very well, or he might have asked for something more appropriate, like the gift of a high score in Wii bowling, or something.

The reception was stunning and elegant. While my husband worked the room, I danced. I danced with neighbors, nephews, old friends and young naval officers. And then I danced some more.

My husband does not have a jealous bone in his body, but he said at one point during yet another of my turns on the dance floor with a handsome young officer that he thought he might need to reclaim his property.

"Honey," I said. "I was sure this train had left the station. And I am having the time of my life."

He smiled and went off to smoke a cigar.

So there you have it.

I didn't cry at my son's wedding.

I beamed. I simply beamed.

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