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Kristin's Wedding

by Julia Sneden

As the mother of three sons but no daughters, I am not really up on all the prep work that goes into making a lovely wedding. But I know quality when I see it, and my niece Kristin's wedding was one of the best. Even the weather cooperated: Despite predictions of rain, the day turned out to be sunny and 67, with a breeze that floated her veil like the sail of a boat headed for home port.

She and her fianc, Doug, had worked on wedding plans for well over a year. These youngsters give new meaning to the word organized. They spent endless hours working out each thoughtful detail of their wedding. At the wedding supper, for instance, there was a special table with crayons and toys and paper, where children could play before they joined their parents for dinner. There was also a baby sitter in an upstairs room, with more activities and kid-friendly videos, so that the children could be entertained while their parents enjoyed dancing.

There was no maid of honor. That position was held open in honor of a beloved friend who was killed by a drunken driver shortly after graduation from college. At the reception dinner, each guest found a small card announcing that a contribution to a scholarship fund in her memory had been made in the guest's name.

Each guest also received a CD of songs that are special to the bride and groom, with notes of explanation in the liner.

They met in 7th grade, when their science teacher made them lab partners. Doug had broken his arm, and Kristin offered to take notes for him. In no time at all, he was announcing to the world that someday he would marry her, even though they remained just good friends through high school.

Something happened after they reached adulthood, however. Despite going to different colleges and dating others, the two of them wound up together at the altar after all.

As I said, I was blessed with sons, but my two nieces helped to keep me from feeling too girl-deprived. I have been particularly close to Kristin, because each summer the family gathered at a lovely New Hampshire lake and spent a couple of weeks together. My first memory of her is as a dewy-eyed baby in a pink sleeper. The first girl grandchild after four boys, she was dressed in a blizzard of triumphant pink. Her grandparents doted; her cousins doted; and certainly her Aunt Julia doted every bit as crazily as the rest.

When she was about four, I recall swimming out to some rocks while pushing her along in an inner tube, so that we could have a pretend tea party on our "tea table rock," a flat piece of granite submerged about six inches beneath the surface.

I remember, a few years later, teaching her how to make dinner rolls, which she proceeded to do so well that her grandfather declared they were better than mine.

I remember the first year she quietly got up from the table and loaded the dishwasher unasked. She was quite a girl, that one. But then, her brother and cousins were pretty good kids, too, and at the wedding I found myself looking at each of them with a rather ridiculous sense of wonder that they have come through the growing-up process and emerged as full-fledged adults.

Our progeny move quickly through the first years. The stages progress rapidly from total dependence (not helplessness; babies who can move the world with their lusty cry really AREN'T helpless) to the charming first steps and words.

Next come the challenging and annoying years (think temper tantrums and whining) and the amazing years when they go off to school and come back knowing stuff that you didn't teach them. I remember being astonished that my five-year-old knew more about the Pilgrims than I ever did.

Then comes the time when they're just good company. I recall thinking that 10 was the perfect age for a boy, and I didn't think it just once: it held true for all three of my sons.

The rebellious preteen years aren't much fun, but the raging hormones of adolescence are worse. The kids become disillusioned (one wit said: "When my son hit 16, my IQ dropped thirty points.") and condescending.

Just when they're starting to come out of it, you send them off to college. They return independent (well, not financially) and sometimes even seeking your advice. It's a wonder.

By the time they are well and truly launched, they have become affectionate again, and even appreciative. Those are the rewards of having adult children.

There are also surprises as we discover who they have become during the first years of their absence from the nest. One of my sons whose closet could have qualified for a federal clean-up grant, is described by his new wife as a neatness freak. Another son whose acquaintance with the homely arts extended to carrying out the garbage on demand (and demand and demand) is discovered sewing a button on his overcoat, matchstick firmly in place beneath it to "allow the proper amount of give for the thick fabric, of course." He makes a mean chili, too.

Once there are grandchildren, it's instructive to observe the likenesses and differences between your grown children's parenting styles and your own. I'm sure that there are many things my children have vowed never to do, just as we vowed never to repeat our parents' mistakes.

I think that there are generational swings in families. My mother once quoted her grandmother as saying to her daughter (Mother's mother): "O Abbie, don't see too much!" My grandmother was quite demanding of my mother. My mother, in turn, was fairly permissive with me. I think that I have been stricter with my sons, and the father of my grandchildren is now less strict with his children (but he dresses them better than I dressed mine, and is more involved with them than his father was with him and his brothers).

There is a central core of parenting, however, that remains steady. In our family, as in most, it's a matter of respect for responsibilities, and a pure love for your children, all mixed in with family traits like a sense of humor, and a love of music and the outdoors and good food.

Somehow those qualities survive the strictness/permissiveness generational yoyo-ing, and keep us appreciative of one another despite all the vagaries of family life. Even when we're rolling our eyes and biting our tongues, we know how lucky we are to be linked to each other. There are those high moments of family excitement like graduations and weddings and births and christenings when it all comes clear. In these times when so many people seem to be filled with anger and hatred and vengeful thoughts, some lucky few of us can find moments that are full of joy and love.

God bless you, Kristin and Doug. May your children grow up to love and appreciate you as much as you love and appreciate your families.



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