Please indulge a father of the bride. My first-born daughter married her college sweetheart early this fall, on a sparkling Saturday, sandwiched between two dreary days. Because the event was to be outdoors, we watched the weather devotedly, and for the week before the ceremony the graphic image of a sun persisted in the Saturday place on the television screen, while fronts descended from Canada and ascended from the Carolinas, promising rain for Friday and Sunday. Astonishing, I thought. How often have a series of weather fronts spread themselves across New England and traveled up the coast, precisely on the schedule predicted for them a week in advance, leaving your cherished day unmolested? Like clockwork.
Indeed, everything went like clockwork. Well, almost. Truth to tell, the wedding itself was a half-hour late, the result of some last-minute crises in the hair-makeup-fashion departments. Of course, it didn't matter. Once Emily and her Matthew stood before the Rev. Dr. John Schule, ready to say they would, everyone realized that here was one of life's continental divides, when everything that has gone before is now archival, and everything that is important lies ahead.
As Em and I walked across the field south of the Allen Farm toward the guests assembled above the pond, we could see the surf striking the beach east of Lucy Vincent, where the volleyball net waited for summer to return. One could imagine the thud of the roller and the splash and the hiss as it receded. But, at this distance, it was a soundless explosion of spume above the low bluff.
It is a long walk, following an old path, curving over the high, mildly rolling landscape through the grass that Clarissa's and Mitchell's sheep have trimmed. The question for Em and me was whether we should shake a leg to make up for the lost time. I thought no, this isn't a moment to hurry through. The afternoon is too lovely, the occasion too one-of-a-kind, too savory. Even if the wind pressed her veil against my daughter's face, even if the ring bearer was outdistancing us, even if Dr. Schule had other, similar moments over which he would preside later in the afternoon (something that, in this exquisite moment, had escaped us), this stroll, which would conclude nearly three decades of our lives as father and daughter and end in the beginning of the bright, unknowable next episode, called for a measured, appreciative progress. The music floated toward us. We missed the processional cues we had learned at the rehearsal the afternoon before. The patient guests were obviously relieved that the moment had come. But, after all, everything was fine. Everything was just right.
During the ceremony, the southerly wind had come on, and my daughter's veil now headed north. The bridesmaids' dresses swirled around their legs. Their carefully dressed hair swirled around their heads. The hair on some of the grooms' men swirled also. We could see Sunday's weather approaching on the southwest horizon, right on schedule. The bride and her bridesmaids wore sleeveless gowns, with occasional goose bumps. The ancient grandparents and aunts, some of them, wore long wool coats. It was nearly October, after all. High pressure was over here and low pressure was over there, and the pressure gradient was steep in between, where we were having a wedding. Across the pond, someone walked on the bluff above the beach, where he would have attracted disciplinary attention a month earlier.
I delivered my daughter to her betrothed, joined their hands, kissed the bride to be, and my job was done. Dr. Schule was the commencement speaker, the guide, the teacher, the advisor. He swore them into office as partners and mutual supports. He consecrated their partnership and set them on their way toward, well, toward whatever lies ahead. We cheered and made ready to celebrate.
And, when Dr. Schule had done everything he could to launch this new married team, my daughter and her husband walked through their guests with the wind fair at their backs.