I’m writing this in a Cretan hotel room early on the Friday morning before my daughter’s wedding. The wedding gown, hanging on the door, hides here from view until Sunday when I have the privilege of dressing the bride, my beautiful girl, probably for the last time.
When I would dress her as a child, I never stopped to think of the time I would be helping her into the most important dress of her life. I was instead negotiating an agreement on which outfit was most practical or appropriate before the last button was done up and she would slip from my grasp to change into something else, or even undress altogether on more than one occasion.
From a very young age, my daughter had her own ideas about what she wanted or didn’t want to wear, so it makes me smile when she looks at old photographs of herself and asks why I let her wear THAT? These days I find myself listening to her suggestions as to what I should wear and even gamely traipsed off to London with her before the wedding so that she could select my ‘Mother-of-the-Bride’ outfit, which turned out to be something completely different from what I had in mind. I won’t be wafting around like Meryl Streep in Mama Mia after all and hopefully will bear no resemblance to anyone from My Big Fat Greek Wedding either.
When she was about 7 years old, after a particularly cheeky and wilful episode, she calmly sat at the end of the table, half-listening to my exasperated ranting – all directed at her. She waited patiently until I had run out of steam, looked me up and down in my new outfit and asked: “So who told you orange goes with pink?” I suppose she had a point.
I wonder if choosing a hot country for her wedding has a subliminal connection to how she was swaddled as a winter newborn and left in her moses basket close to a radiator, so afraid was I that my first baby would freeze. She’s lucky I didn’t cook her! And as a toddler she would be wrapped in layers of woolies, gilets, padded coats, gloves, hats and scarves until she wobbled like a weeble – remember them?
I remember those moments when she would wait to be called with her dance classmates, all in pink leotards singing hand-clapping songs together:
“When Susie was a teenager/A teenager she was/And she’d say: ‘Oh, ah, I lost my bra/I left my knickers in my boyfriend’s car.'”
That line somehow found its way into the innocent version of When Susie Was she’d learned and when asked why Susie would’ve lost her underwear, she suggested Susie must have been changing for ballet. Clearly Susie had a busy after-school schedule of dancing, piano lessons, gym club and swimming too.
I have so many memories of vibrant dance wear and swift backstage struggles to switch between costumes before the next dance piece and her uncomplaining compliance as arms went up in the air to have one creation whipped off before the next was pulled on, balancing on one foot, then the next to change dance shoes beneath a wide width of tutu or diaphanous folds of flowing fabric.
I remember our battles over sensible school shoes, just as I had battled with my mother and later the urge to throw a cardigan around her when she and her friends would be getting ready in her room for a night out, wearing less than I would wear to bed.
And now as we all gather here in Greece to celebrate my daughter’s marriage, I remember what I have gained since she came into my life when protecting my fragile baby was uppermost in my mind, much like the delicate wedding dress and veil in my care now. As others gasp at the stunning bride, I will congratulate myself for creating someone as breathtaking as she is to look at, but the credit for her beauty is not mine as it radiates from within her and shows in her pretty face, her ready smile and her ever sparkling eyes. Mine, no doubt, will be brimming with tears.