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The Wedding Shoes

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Sally Friedman
Sally Friedman

In a recent epic cleaning purge, I came upon them.

Fashioned of satin and lace, kissed with rosettes, they were once the purest of pure white, and just about the loveliest shoes I'd ever seen.

But resting in the back of Nancy's former bedroom closet, our daughter's wedding slippers now bore the unmistakable marks of an outdoor wedding on a summer day. Grass stains on one heel -- smudges and splotches on a toe -- attested to that wonderful June day that now seemed so long ago.

"But they won't even show, mom," Nancy had insisted, ready to opt for a far less lavish pair when we went out shopping for the shoes that she would wear as a bride. As I recall, Nancy had on disreputable sneakers on that long-ago shopping day, one wedged between all the endless details of bride-dom.

The contrast between those grungy sneakers -- and these magnificent princess dream slippers -- surely had an impact on me. Even the way they had glided onto her feet seemed an omen. No adjusting. No pinching. Just that Cinderella-and-the-prince glass slipper fit.

So despite my own practical side, I had just about bludgeoned Nancy into buying the extravagant ones, using the old "once-in-a-lifetime" rationale to which mothers-of-the-bride are entitled.

Initially, I resisted putting away those singular slippers once the wedding was over. It was not so surprising that I left them on the floor of Nancy's old bedroom, resting side-by-side, and that I occasionally tiptoed into that room just to look at them.

Long after the wedding was over -- that long, lovely day of dreams and yearnings and tears and great and sweeping joy -- I would look at those beautiful satin shoes and remember.

One never forgets a daughter's wedding, of course. Not even when so many other memories dim or disappear.

And Nancy was a beautiful, radiant bride, which I can say with unabashed mother-pride because all brides, after all, are beautiful.

But the shock of seeing this daughter on the morning of her June wedding transformed from an unadorned graduate student with masses of untamed hair into a creature shimmering in white silk and bouffant veil -- well, that image lingers.

The sight of her walking down our front steps in her wedding gown and those magnificent satin wedding slippers to meet her Michael moments later under the wedding canopy reminded me of why we'd chosen to have a home wedding, despite all its incredible stresses and strains.

That decision allowed Nancy to celebrate one of the great milestones of her life in the place of remembered childhood, and allowed her parents to rejoice, once again, in the deep and delicious meaning of home. It softened the bittersweet reality that as our youngest child, Nancy had shared it with us the longest -- and had still left it much too soon.

There are dozens of wedding images that linger, some more vivid than others:

The moments just before the ceremony when Nancy was surrounded by her sisters, her grandmother, her aunt and her closest friends -- a world of women.

The stillness in the air as Nancy and Michael recited their vows to one another and were, for that blink of time, the only two people in the universe.

The moment when Michael shattered the glass that symbolizes, in Judaism, the fragility of marriage and the sorrow that is always part of joy.

It had all ended too soon, as these events always do.

It had been vaguely depressing to undo all the fixings and resume real life after that memorable week in June.

But seeing Nancy's satin wedding slippers during that recent straightening somehow temporarily defied endings. Not even the grass stains could diminish their loveliness.

Which is why a foolish mother of a long-ago bride paused recently to touch those shoes once again, then to gently stuff the toes with tissue paper and push them again to the back of a closet.

But not without a sigh.

Below, the bride on her wedding day.

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