Last week, the kid was the ring bearer in my best friend’s wedding. She lives abroad, so a few months back, in order to ask him as close to in-person as possible, she and her fiancé sent the kid a personalized superhero card asking him if he was up to the task. Overnight, that card became a prized possession in our house, with a place of honor and everything.
And so it came to pass that, seduced by the vision of a powerful and strong man in a cape, the kid readily accepted his first official duties in life. Of course, he had no idea what such duties usually entail- clothes, for example. Fancy clothes. Blech.
Anticipating a few such pitfalls, my husband and I did a lot of prep work with the kid before we flew to New Mexico (where our friend and her Spaniard were tying the knot). Much of what this boiled down to was naked ring bearing: the kid proudly marching through the apartment, clutching the ring pillow, in his birthday suit. We took every chance we got to remind him he’d be wearing clothes. Fine, he hedged, as long as they’re Superman themed. We broke it to him that he’d be wearing a seersucker suit. “You’re the suckers,” he seemed to say, with a glint in his eye, the day we tried to wrestle him into the aforementioned fancy clothes, “if you think I’m wearing that.”
Now, my friend and her (now) husband are extremely laid back and brilliant with kids (as evidenced by the superhero-themed will-you-be-our-ring-bearer card), and the wedding was happening outdoors on many acres of land (I figured my husband could just haul him over his shoulder and run far, far away, if need be), so it wasn’t as though our kid could actually ruin the event. But I must admit I felt some trepidation going into the rehearsal, as the kid hadn’t worn a non-superhero-themed piece of clothing in months (and none of that “you look like Clark Kent so just wear a Superman shirt underneath your buttondown” crap. Does the kid look like some kind of idiot? Sheesh.)
Rehearsal was many adults discussing many adulty things. The lawn was blazing with sun. It was lunch time. Squirming, and whining, and just about anything not having to do with a wedding rehearsal took over the kid’s small and wild body. The immediate bright spot (and my only appeal to the calm force of humanity deep within him) was the flower girl, everything one dreamed a flower girl could be: at five-and-a-half (who doesn't love an older woman?), she was gorgeous and knowledgeable about Wonder Woman ("Well that's good," the kid blurted to me in relief as the wedding planner asked everyone for their attention, "at least we've got Wonder Woman on our team"). The only hitch was that said flower girl, at her advanced age, was actually *gasp* interested in the rehearsal.
This was a challenging turn of events. The kid became even scampier and more feral in the face of the flower girl’s refusal to go play in the bushes. We ran through the aisle walk, and it became apparent that he had a really long way to go- like, a really long way to go- a path to walk down (alone) followed by a left turn (alone) onto a long lawn, at the far end of which would sit the congregation. I smiled at the wedding planner politely and thought to myself, “This should be interesting.”
The big day came. That morning, we strolled around Albuquerque and the kid announced to every shopkeeper and vendor that he was the ring bearer. I took this as a good sign—at least he had some understanding he’d be acting in an official capacity—and, even better, after lunch, he took a nap—not a guarantee anymore. Come three, in the bridal suite, my friend gifted him with a beautiful buffalo nickel necklace, imbuing him with what he called Nickel Power (I don’t know what that is either). And the flower girl! The flower girl! She was even more beautiful in her purple dress and her French braids, and her obedience and calm were deliciously infectious.
I kept the kid out of the seersucker and the flower crown and the special shoes imported from Spain and the boutonnière as long as I possibly could. Then, just before we headed to the wedding site, I put him in the whole costume, a sneak attack of sorts, figuring we had about five minutes before it dawned on him that the only piece of superhero clothing he was wearing was his underpants.
We lined up. The bride was in place. The wedding was upon us. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I was really worried about nothing! This is going so well.”
And then the kid declared: “I have to poop!”
Someday, years from now, he’ll be lying on his analyst’s couch saying, “I have this really strong memory of my mother wagging her finger over me in a bathroom, and she’s saying, ‘Fastest poop of your life, kid, fastest poop of your life,’” because, yes, honestly, that’s what I said.
He pooped, I wiped, we raced back out, and the first strains of music began.
I straightened his tie.
I placed the crown on his head.
I handed him the ring pillow.
“Do you want me to come with you?” I asked, as we started toward the first, long aisle. Surely he would. Surely he needed me.
“No, Mama,” he smiled up at me, “I’m gonna do it myself.”
That’s really what he said.
So I stopped walking.
I watched him go.
The whole congregation made that gasping ooooh sound adults make when they see something unbelievably, irresistably adorable, as my son strode down the aisle all by himself, bearing witness for our two amazing friends.
I sobbed, of course. He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Proud, brave, calm. Mine. But not only mine. Not anymore.