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Mother of the Bride

A little comfort from the hereafter gives one mom the faith she needed to be a great mother of the bride.

Mother of the Bride

Our daughter is engaged!

My joy bubbled over like a freshly poured glass of champagne, and I got on Facebook right away to tell my friends about Katy’s engagement. But then in an instant my excitement fizzled when one responded, “Congratulations, Kitty. You’re going to be a wonderful mother of the bride.”

Mother of the bride? The phrase filled me with anxiety and a wistful sadness. What did I know about being a mother of the bride?

The first wedding I had ever been to was my older sister’s back in high school. Mom knew all the traditions and was the consummate mother of the bride. “We’ll need ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,’” she recited the age-old poem, including the last line, “‘and a silver sixpence in her shoe.’”

She helped my sister pick out her gown, the invitations, the bridesmaid dress­es, the photographer and the flowers for the reception. Everything. Mom even found an authentic English sixpence for my sister’s shoe.

Several years later when I got engaged to Tom in Minnesota, it was a different story. My father was terminally ill and because of it Tom and I decided to forgo a big traditional wedding. My parents were in Florida, but Dad was too sick to come to the ceremony even if we’d had it there, and I knew Mom didn’t want to leave his side. So Tom and I chose to get married as simply as possible in Minnesota.

We didn’t have to come up with a guest list or send out invitations. There were no bridesmaids, no white dress with a veil and no silver sixpence in my open-toed shoes. Tom’s big brother gave me away. We didn’t have a big reception, and our honeymoon was one night at the Stillwater Inn with free fireworks thrown in because it happened to be the Fourth of July.

One week later my dad died. Somehow, despite her grief, Mom still managed to order and send out engraved wedding announcements to our family and friends. “I can’t believe you went to all that effort,” I told her, “with all you’ve been through these last few days.” But then, that was Mom. She loved a good wedding. How she would have celebrated her only granddaughter’s! But now Mom was gone too.

She had spent her last years living in the apartment attached to our house, and she and Katy were close. “Mama B!” Katy always called her, dropping in to visit.

It would have been such fun for the three of us to go shopping for dresses and plan a wedding. Now the thought of it made me tense up. The more I learned from friends and books and wedding websites, the more overwhelmed and inadequate I felt. What did I know about invitations, flowers, photography, music, menus? If only Mom were still here, she would have known what to do. Lord, I said, you’re going to have to step in here.

One afternoon I was rummaging around in the bottom drawer of my jewelry box for a lost earring when my fingers touched something soft and silky. I pulled out a tiny zippered coin purse that had belonged to my mother. I hadn’t seen it in years. I didn’t even know how it had ended up in my jewelry box. With its delicate Asian-patterned fabric and dainty silver zipper, the purse looked perfect for Katy. Her birthday was just around the corner. I could give it to her then.

I was about to put it back in my jewelry box when I felt a small bump in the fabric. I tugged at the zipper. To my surprise, tucked inside was a folded piece of paper, yellow with age. Slowly, carefully, I unfolded it. Mom’s stationery, with her name engraved at the top, Elizabeth Brinckerhoff. The handwriting was her elegant script. I could almost hear her lilting voice as I read the words:

Dear Katy,
This is a 6 pence! Save it! With a 6 pence in her shoe!
Ask Mother!
Love, Mama B

Taped to the note was a small silver coin, a real English sixpence.

Tears filled my eyes. I knew exactly what to do. I would give Katy the purse at her engagement party and on her wedding day she would walk down the aisle with the sixpence tucked in her shoe.

I refolded the note, tucked it back in the purse and gently pulled the zipper shut. My worries subsided. Joy and excitement bubbled over again.

The note had said, “Ask Mother!” The mother of the bride.

That would be me.

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