I Walked My Daughter Down the Aisle

On a blazingly beautiful July afternoon in 2003, I walked my daughter down the aisle. Well, actually, it was a hill since the ceremony was on the grounds of a lodge in Montana’s Glacier National Park. The point, though, is that she was on my arm and not her father’s. After a particularly fractious divorce, he had gone his own way and he wasn’t on the wedding guest list. When Stacey first asked me to do the honors, I flinched. I felt as though I’d be broadcasting the fact that my marriage had failed and that I was the wallflower at the wedding. I thought I had long since evolved beyond the emotional self-centerdness of, say, an eighth grader but apparently I had not. I also thought I was a staunch feminist who didn’t care about gender roles, but that didn’t seem to hold true in this case either. Blinking back embarrassed tears, I managed to ask Stacey if her future father-in-law, Chuck, wouldn’t be a better choice. He’d be in a tux whereas I’d be in a purple gown. He’s taller than she is and I’m shorter. Most important, he’s a guy and I’m not.
Stacey was shocked. “Mom,” she said. “The whole point is that you should be the parent who gives me to Mark. You brought me up. You did everything.” By then we were both crying. I hugged her fiercely and said I’d do it.
Stacey and Mark left New York for Montana the day before I did. Alone during my flight, I tried not to dwell on the fact that I wasn’t yet entirely comfortable being cast in a role traditionally reserved for dads. How did I end up in this situation? Nobody gets married expecting to get divorced. Remembering the wonderful early years of my marriage, I was still stunned at the way things had turned out. To steady myself, I kept silently repeating a little mantra about how Stacey thought I had done a good job as a mom.
My son had driven to Montana with his girlfriend from his home in Olympia, Washington. They met me at the airport. Seeing them together, I had a flash of the wallflower feeling but I tamped it down. The four days ahead of us, complete with a cowboy cookout for the rehearsal dinner and some whitewater rafting, promised to be glorious. I had to get into a festive mood and fast.
That proved to be easy. Stacey and Mark’s joy was infectious from the moment I saw them at the lodge. The setting was fairytale beautiful, the arriving guests were all smiles, and before long I was caught up in the excitement. When the time finally came to hook Stacey’s arm in mine, our eyes locked and we both smiled through happy tears. I couldn’t remember why I had ever wanted to miss this moment. As the familiar strains of the wedding march began, my precious daughter and I made our way in sure and strong lock step toward the altar where Mark was waiting for me to be the parent who would give him his bride.
Sondra Forsyth, Senior Editor at ThirdAge, is a National Magazine Award winner. She writes for major magazines and is the author or co-author of eleven books. She was Executive Editor at “Ladies’ Home Journal,” Features Editor at “Cosmopolitan,” and Articles Editor at “Bride’s.” A former ballerina, she is the Artistic Director of Ballet Ambassadors, an arts-in-education company in New York City. 

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