Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Garland

"You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love."
-Henry Drummond

Last year Spouse and I had our second wedding ceremony. Some friends that could not make it to our wedding in Ireland the previous year wished to mark the occasion, and to do so in a manner reminiscent of Spouse's culture of origin.
We drove to friends in Virginia in July; right away they began to cook sumptuous food and prepare the various rituals.
Our friends' daughter, who was nine, helped to make the garlands that Spouse and I would put around one another's necks in a symbol of marriage.
She and her mother created them by threading whole fresh flowers together, painstakingly and with delicate care.
The nine year old worked especially hard on my own garland; it looked slightly different from Spouse's. She could not wait to have her work of art put to use as part of a special ceremony.
During the event Spouse and I held a garland each; we were to step forward and give them to each other.
At the last moment, when we were in the midst of a solemn ceremony and it was too late to do a thing about it, I suddenly realised that my personal garland was in my own hands, and that I would have to give it to Spouse.
I looked at the child. She understood too and I watched as tears began to stream silently down her cheeks.
Due to the nature of the ceremony there was simply no way to exchange the garlands. I was forced to continue and I put the garland made purposely for me over Spouse's head. I felt dreadful; not one of us had considered that the exchange would mean I needed to have Spouse's, and he mine.
The most awful part was the muted crying that begged for no pity at all. The water flowed endlessly and kept doing so as we carried on with the wedding.
She stood off to the side, all her hopes and dreams for the day dashed and her work- with no disrespect to Spouse- fallen into the wrong hands.
I think that I succeeded in consoling her at last by explaining that the garlands would be hanging up in our home, side by side forever and that, in the end, it would not matter at all whose was whose.
What might appear trivial to the grown-ups is the entire world to a child. Life moves so much more slowly and as such it is harder to heal a sorrow with the promise of time.


polona said...

that is a lovely bitter-sweet story.
we are so often inconsiderate to the children's sensibilities...

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, I felt so bad. She wasn't even trying to get attention.
Children and adults see situations very differently and that's why we're not considerate, I suppose. But we should be.

tangobaby said...

Poor little sweetheart. I feel her sadness. But your explanation was the nicest, truest thing you could have said to her.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tangobaby, thanks. That makes me feel better :)

Barb said...

What a lovely bittersweet story. Your response to her acknowledged her as a person and not a child whose feelings don't count. A very good reaction to develop mutual respect between each of you. Too often when raising my children, I saw their friends parents treat their children and mine as an inconvenience. "Kids are people too!!!!"

Pappy said...

I cried at my wedding when I realized that my wife was getting the ring with the diamond in it and I was getting the plain gold band. It is funny how children look at things isn't it. :)

Jaime said...

Aww..such a tender heart she has.

It's so true. Children have such a limited life experience, so time doesn't pass quite the same way it does for adults.

The love you two shared amongst the pain of the situation was so tender.


Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Barb, life is a learning experience, isn't it? I always try to talk to children like real people...
Texican, that's a tragic story of vast proportions... ;)
Jaime, thanks- if we try to remember being children then we might recall how time passes for them!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

ahhhh...what a sweet story. blessed is the memory of children. although bereft at the time, with you wonderful reframing the whole situation was undoubtedly put to rights!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Kimy- I surely hope so! I'd like to think I said the right thing.

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