Love Actually, For Reals And Keeps
When she was born I couldn’t quite believe it. That she was real, that she was here, that the contractions heralding her arrival were actually over. That she was, after all that impossible agony, intact. Even though I’d been through it all before with her older sister—the incoherent pain, the sensation of delivery, the overwhelming wonder and joy as a gentle new soul (my baby!) was placed warm and naked on my chest. Love, actually.
Strange how we are so surprised when actual experience displaces our carefully constructed theories. When fact eclipses the anticipated. You’d think we could handle it better…after all, sometimes we wait a long time, rehearsing possibilities, planning, anticipating. This is a recurring theme for me, the clumsy exchange of expectations for the reality they can’t possibly approximate. Reality is so…wide and deep. And rich. I am convinced you cannot know it until you experience it, and accept it.
Like when Maurya decided This Was Love, Actually, and Got Married.
I may have wanted, on some level, The Perfect Match for Maurya (“To Infinity, And Beyond!”), but still. Believing I was too smart now (after all I’ve been through) to be disconcerted by the expectation/reality schism, I was open and welcome to a multitude of possibilities as Maurya dated. And there were many possibilities…she dated a lot. Broke a few hearts, which was hard to witness; was broken hearted herself, which was unbearable. A few months before she met Dennison, she dreamt that I begged her not to give out her name, number, and address. So of course (dreams being the logical phenomenon that they are), she had pizza delivered to the house. “What Have You Done?” I cried as we ran for the door. “Now You Will Never, Ever Be Safe!” Despite my protests, she opened the door, and there, on the front porch, stood all the boys she’d ever dated. One was shirtless, flexing muscles. Another tried to shoulder him off the porch. They had formed a support group, had come to air their grievances, or enact an intervention. The dream goes on (the boys argue over who will be the spokesman, for instance); the details I’ve shared might be slightly squiggly. The point is: Maurya had lots of options, and was apprehensive about the eventual outcome. So was I, though I tried hard not to be (mothers should always be fearless and confident in their children’s future, right? This is about as easy for me as not getting scared when a dog is about to bite, or a bee to sting, because the fear smell will only make them sting or bite more).
And then she chose someone. Out of all the possibilities (chance encounters in airports, along mountain trails, on a large island), she chose.
You Must Choose…Wisely!
I have liked Dennison from the first, I really have. He is kind, smart, wry. I like him but I didn’t think he’d last (no one else had); there was still a world of possibilities for Maurya to consider. She didn’t think he’d last either, really; they hadn’t been dating long when she sort of broke his heart for a minute (translation: week) while she contemplated never seeing him again. I was privately ok with this; after all, Dennison was nice, but he wasn’t Abraham Lincoln or Atticus Finch or even Superman, all of whom seemed like better options to me (though I wasn’t counting on them). Ultimately Maurya decided she wanted Dennison in her life…indefinitely. The thought of permanent severances made her squeamish. Being together seemed to make both of them very happy. This had to be good (Maybe Dennison would grow up to be a little like Atticus Finch).
So that when Maurya told us they were discussing marriage, I was both relieved, and…well. It’s not that I was disappointed. I was just…rattled. What do you do when reality looks nothing like what you were trying really hard not to hope for? When Superman and Lincoln send their regrets, and you’re in the Cheesecake Factory watching your daughter snuggle with a nice fellow who reminds you vaguely of a very young, slightly hipster Hugh Grant?
Dennison, old fashioned and gentlemanly as it turns out, had arranged the Cheesecake Factory meeting so he could respectfully state his intentions to the parents (apparently, since “Fiddler On The Roof”, no one asks permission anymore). Maurya was there because she didn’t want to miss the show and had invited herself; Frank was there because he totally approved and was, after all, the Daddy.
And I was there because I couldn’t, in good conscience, be anywhere else. I fumbled for words, tongue tied with totally inane advice and the best intentions. “Scotty, beam me up”, echoed ridiculously in my head.
To Be The Mother of the Bride, Actually…Or Not To Be. Maybe Not the Right Question…
Through most of Maurya’s brief engagement, I found myself yearning again and again for a transporter, for a way back to the familiar. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t take in reality’s enormity. And it is enormous…all the years of responsibility, of being smitten again and again by that wonder and joy I felt the morning she was born (like when she interviewed the chickens about animal rights, played “Pie Jesu” on the piano with those beautiful, long fingers, or sang “Skinny Love” into a microphone at the mouth of a canyon in Provo at sunset). All the long, breath-held moments of investing in and protecting her happiness, only to finally actually realize something that I’d accepted in theory but hadn’t really—her fate isn’t in my hands after all. It’s in hers—and Dennison’s. I can only watch.
And keep on loving.
I tried to enjoy the moments as they came (strange, too, how we can be filled with love and awe, but enjoyment still evades us).
There were truly wonderful moments to be savored.
Like Maurya trying on wedding dresses. She was so, so beautiful in everything she tried on. I could hardly take it in. Or Dennison trying on suits, clicking his heels when he found the right combination of suit and shoes—or was it that a suit was further proof to him that she really would be his? His vulnerability and delight in Maurya are his most endearing qualities to me.
Or taking engagement photos…such lovely moments, such a lovely couple—but what on earth? What are they doing? Who is that boy? Will she really be happy?
I was still off kilter the morning of the wedding. Maurya, eager to get going, was distracted in her heels and white dress, her graceful beauty reminiscent of the tiny baby, wriggling warm and fragile and wonderful in my arms. Both real and ephemeral, a gentle soul I could hold but couldn’t, after all, keep.
Frank and I arrived a little late at the temple. Maurya was already inside, waiting for me to bring things she’d forgotten (this is traditional, the forgetting things). I was struggling not to be grumpy because we were late and it was our daughter’s wedding and I was off kilter. The first person I recognized inside was my mother in law. Overwhelmed, I hugged her like she was my Scotty, there to personally beam me back to somewhere more familiar and comfortable. Eventually, after a bit of confusion over lost and still forgotten items (another family tradition, the comedy of errors), and a quick, sweet moment in the bride’s dressing room with my daughter, I was led to the sealing room where Maurya and Dennison would be married. For awhile I was completely alone; I had the room all to myself. Struggling against tears, I was totally ok with that. I breathed in. Breathed out (and in, and out…). Looked around the room. The altar, covered with a dainty doily probably crocheted by someone’s sweet grandmother. I miss both of mine. Looked up at the ceiling. Scrolled, diaphanous gold leaf and pale florals— One of my favorite blues. The chandelier, a thousand crystal twinkles, a quiet wink, a nod. I’d been in this room, or rooms like it, so many times before. Peace enveloped and embraced me. I knew this place; all was well.
I do believe in love.
During the ceremony, my mother sat next to me, and in a rare move, reached over and took my hand, and held it. I remembered her crying at my wedding, a couple and a half decades ago. She was crying again. My heart went out to her in that moment past, facing a reality I’d had no idea of till now. I was so grateful she was with me, again. Still.
And I felt truly hopeful and happy for my daughter and her new husband. All is well. No matter how it goes, it will be all right.
This reminds me of our family mantra, a Legendary Frank/Daddy quote:
“Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it isn’t the end yet.”
Watching them now, Maurya and Dennison… knowing a little of what lies ahead because I’ve been there, I think of John Lennon’s “Grow Old Along With Me”….”
“Grow old along with me,
the best is yet to be.
When our time has come
We will be as one
—God bless our love, God bless our love”
God Bless Their Love
By The Way:
All of these photos, speaking of love actually, were taken and edited by my brother in law, David Stark. Hours of work. My sister Mara Lee Stark helped choreograph—which basically means that she and David made Maurya and Dennison comfortable enough to be themselves. Amazing photos, wonderful people. Thank you David and Mara Lee. And Maurya and Dennison. I love you.