Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bride envy, preschool edition

As Rachelle and I were gearing up for our wedding, I did my best to observe a policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." I didn't ask "Why?" or "How much?" and I tried not to tell her my opinion of her wedding ideas. Let her create it however she wants. After all, I figured, women have been planning their weddings since age 3.

Today, of course, I realize that I was completely wrong about this. They actually begin planning before age 2.

Since they could talk, my girls have been talking about weddings. Though she could barely walk, by 13 months Brielle had already stumbled down the aisle twice as a flower girl. In her first four years of life Brielle watched three uncles marry: Matt in '04, Scott in '05 and Marcus in '07. It was downhill from there.

DANGER: Repeated exposure may lead to addiction in small children. This warning label was conspicuously absent from every one of the umpteen invitations we received to weddings for uncles, students, cousins and friends. As new parents, how were we to know any better? We took the impressionable young minds, and now we reap the consequences.

They are hooked on getting hitched.

Today's highlight was stumbling upon a wedding in session, there under a gazebo along the cliffs of Laguna Beach. All three girls gawked and fluttered nearly into it, like moths into the flame, shameless in their awe at the sight of the bride in her strapless white gown, the groom impeccable in his penguin suit. As the pictures finished, two flower girls walked up and shared their silk flowers with our gleesome threesome. My girls were dumbfounded, aglow with vicarious matrimonial bliss.

"Wedding" is their favorite game. And once they're over the squabble about who's stuck playing groom, it's a pretty cute sight. One popular casting features Ashlyn as groom marrying bride Melía with wedding singer and flower girl Brielle scattering petals on the way to officiant Daddy.

You never know when a wedding will break out in our house. Ashlyn will turn an ordinary Sunday morning dance session into a proposal and wedding ceremony. "Let's marry, Daddy," which is my cue to start dodging her insistent smackers, because she is not giving up till she's planted a wedding kiss on my lips. Ashlyn puts to shame any redneck jokes about family trees with no branches, having married most of the men in her family at least once.

My parents didn't help either, giving all three girls their own wedding outfits for Christmas, which they would wear every day and every night if we let them.

A decade ago, before having daughters, I remember choking up at that "Butterfly Kisses" song, where a father, having watched his little girl grow up, now must give her that last kiss before she walks down the aisle into the arms of another man. It's an unreal thought. But my girls are helping out, getting me so used to the idea of them as brides, the song leaves me dry-eyed. Well, almost.

The thing is, I don't remember a single time when my brothers and I played wedding. As much as we dog each other about dubious sexual orientation, there wasn't a time when anyone asked anyone to play bride. Maybe they were too ugly to imagine as marriage prospects. Or maybe boys just have their minds elsewhere. Little ones have Big Wheels and Tonka trucks to think of, and big boys are fixated on the honeymoon.

What I think about these days is the sort of model I'm being for the groom they will one day seek, already are seeking. When I give those final butterfly kisses at the top of the aisle, will the man at the altar reflect what they loved most about their father, or their reactionary desire for what I was not? Will I have showed them the kind of love they deserve? Will it have been enough to fill their little love tanks and fuel a forever marriage?

And what about "the other man"? Will he see the princess in Brielle? Will he recognize the angel in Melía? Will he cherish the image of God in Ashlyn?

Have mercy, Lord. My girls are going to get hitched one day, and it's going to be for real. God, make Your love what they see and feel and hear and know and love in me. Somehow. Please.

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