Because the Ghostbusters, Batman, and reptile lady I'd hired for our son's early birthday parties had been so well received, I'd expected I would be involved in the planning of his recent wedding. "I'd like you to play 'Sunrise, Sunset', " I told him on the phone. He didn't respond, which I attributed to their being busy with the caterer, florist, and photographer.
The following day he called to say, "We will play it. Come early." My request turned out to be the sound check.
It was their event and they were in charge. This I learned after alerting several out-of-town friends when it was happening, only to have my son tell me: "They're not on the guest list. We're inviting people we both feel close to."
"Do they make 'Don't save the date' cards?" I joked.
I started by calling Marilyn. "Turns out I don't have inviting privileges," I told her. "I felt horrible until it occurred to me you might prefer to visit when we're able to spend more time with you."
"Actually," she said, "we were planning to be there later in the year." She sounded relieved. The others were just as easy about it.
That evening my son's fiancee called and said, "I'm sorry we put you in an awkward position." I assured her it hadn't created any problems. She thanked me and added, "It means so much that I can be honest with you."
Her sensitivity was far more important than this issue . . . or any. My husband and I regularly acknowledged how lucky we were to be so enthused about our son's choice. On one occasion, hearing her express concern about an upcoming graduate school entrance exam, I'd told her, "You passed the hardest test you will ever take -- the one given by a prospective mother-in-law." She laughed, but I was serious.
My husband and I did get to participate in the ceremony. He was the officiant while I was asked to provide a blessing on humor and to make a speech.
The bride's mother, who'd become a dear friend, and I agreed to speak together, alternately recounting what we knew about their relationship. I began with the call I'd gotten from my son while he was in college, telling me, "Two girls from Paris asked me to share an apartment with them off campus next year."
"So, what are you doing to do?" I asked.
"What do you think I'm going to do?" he responded, the tone making it unnecessary for him to call me an idiot. None of us could know that 15 years later he and one of the roommates would exchange rings and vows.
I ended with a story: "When our son was applying to college, caught up in the frenzy of it, I was whining to Ann, then vice principal at his school, that I wished we could calm down."
Handing the mike to Ann, who was there, I asked, "Do you remember what you said?"
"Yes. 'Where they go to college doesn't matter.' "
"She'd been a college counselor," I explained, "so that shocked me."
"Then what does matter?" I'd asked her.
Ann repeated what she'd told me: "Whom they marry."
I went on to say, "People have been asking if I like the woman he's marrying," my face wrinkling up to suggest hesitation. I paused. "I can't say I like her. I love her. But where they went to school did matter. That's where they met."
Whether or not we got to invite guests didn't matter. The unconditional love I'd felt for our son had stretched to include this beautiful, yet modest, woman with a hearty laugh, who is totally genuine and asks the right questions. That matters a lot.