Stabbing pain, just above my elbow. I cursed my 50 year old body and its degenerating joints. Oh, but this stabbing was specific and new. Why, at my sister’s house, pre-dawn, was I having a health related episode? This ache would not be ignored. But when I rolled over, to the other side of my nephew’s bed, I found I was being poked, quite forcefully, by a small, blue, hard plastic shark—the outline of it, dorsal fin and pointy snout and tail, imprinted on my skin. I laughed as quietly as I could. My sister and my brother-in-law snored in the next room.
A few hours later I was awoken by a spell. Well, maybe not a spell per se, but by a pink and purple beribboned wand. My niece, three-turning-four-in-two weeks, asked me if she thought her wand was beautiful.
“Yes,” I said. “Are you a fairy princess?”
“Yes,” she said, “but I can’t find my crown.” She looked sad, the wand and its ribbons grazed the floor. “I can’t be a fairy princess without my crown.”
“I’m sure you will find it,” I said. But I wasn’t convinced. I have brothers, and memories of lost toys and damaged dolls. For all I knew, she left her crown at a friend’s house. Or maybe she never actually had one (or one that wasn’t made of cardboard and disposable). Before I had a chance to assure her that fairy princess-hood did not require a crown—
“But I have things, Auntie!” she suddenly remembered.
“Things?” I asked. And she used the wand to point to her back, wriggling her shoulders, trying to find the word. “Things!”
“Wings?” I suggested.
“Yes! I show you!” I don’t remember what distracted her—or me—but I never saw the wings.
* * *
“She tried on five dresses,” my sister explained as she was toying with styles for daughter’s glorious curls. “She wanted to make sure she could twirl.”
And twirl, she did, over and over. I worried she was getting dizzy showing off the winning flower girl dress, an ivory-colored empire waist, ankle-length with fabric flowers around the neck, a satin ribbon that tied in a simple bow in back, and a poofy skirt that sported a mean twirl. When she wasn’t spinning and falling to the kitchen floor (heart clench, for there was chocolate cake in the vicinity!), she looked like a miniature bride.
This dress looked like the dresses I drew over and over when I was nine. When I expected I would be married by 25 and have several babies before I was 30.
When I got older, the dress I drew, in my notebook and in my mind, got longer and classier. It had a plunging neckline and an endless train. The veil would be dramatic and fluffy, and my father would flip it over my head when he handed my off to my dashing intended. My new last name, penned elaborately on brown paper bag book covers and back pages of five-subject notebooks, evolved from Smith to Rapsomanikis to Pietrantoni. I would have waffles at my reception. Or crepes. Or chicken divan. I would have carrot cake for a wedding cake. Or chocolate and raspberry. And ginger ale would be served alongside the requisite Champagne. I wasn’t sure about any of those dances, but I knew I would be so happy I didn’t care.
Later, my father and I stopped talking to each other. The reason is cloudy, but I think it had much to do with him forbidding me to move out when I turned 18, and me going ahead and doing that very thing while the rest of the family was on vacation in Hampton Beach. (Not me. I was working at the bank.) I would reluctantly return to the family home for holidays and birthdays, all the while complaining of the noise and the rude manners of my siblings. When my father would comment on my rude behavior (which, of course, I failed to see), I would charge back with flip remarks, the cruelest of which was, “And you will never give me away at my wedding.” (Oh, yes, I was a horror show.)
Watch what you toss into the universe. My father died before he gave any daughters away. I was 27. My sisters were 20 and 16. I don’t believe my curse manifested the heart disease that killed him at 57, but in fact, for me, there has been no wedding—no occasion to ponder upholding tradition or flying in the face of it. No veil or train or twirling flower girl. No new name. No husband. (Despite this, I have long ago decided who would be giving me away…)
Why does a wedding shower and a flower girl fashion make me think back to my dad, or my early fashion designer renderings? Why, because this vision of a little girl—most definitely a fairy princess, one who woke me up with a wand made of plastic and wired tulle, some glitter and glue—stirs up all these happy/sad, celebratory/melancholy, freeing/longing feelings. A terrible soup of smiles and tears. A recognition that this is my brother’s second wedding. Not fair! I haven’t had my first.
Later, when asked if I actually wanted a wedding, I said “apparently not.” This was a cop out, if not a downright lie. But the question is twofold: Would I want a wedding—YES! Though, more than the wedding, the planning insanity of it and the big old party, I’d love the occasion for a wedding—that desire for a marriage, its celebration and ceremony, to honor a relationship so deep there is no choice but to publicly acknowledge it. But do I envision a wedding? I hate to put this out into the universe…but I have to be honest…I’m thinking no. Today. Right this minute. At the present time there is no partnership to honor.
However, I also want to say that I don’t want to rule it out.
If there ever is a wedding, there would be twirly dresses. Perhaps even wands, and a flower girl with a crown. No—a flower girl with wings!
(And mark my words—there WILL be waffles! And raspberries. And real whipped cream.)
In the middle garden is the secret wedding,
that hides always under the other one
and under the shiny things of the other one. Under a tree
one hand reaches through the grainy dusk toward another.
Two right hands. The ring is a weed that will surely die.
There is no one else for miles,
and even those people far away are deaf and blind.
There is no one to bless this.
There are the dark trees, and just beyond the trees.