Down the aisle

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My younger cousin got married last weekend in one of the more elaborate weddings I’ve been to. This, of course, coming from someone who used a pair of tree pruners to cut branches off her favorite tree at the farm to create her wedding bouquet. So when my cousin, Joan, asked Caroline to be the flower girl I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive.
A lot of coaching and bribery goes into getting a three-year-old down the seemingly endless aisle of an enormous Catholic church. At the rehearsal, I picked a place to sit during the wedding and kept reminding Caroline that when she got to the alter, she needed to take a left, then another left, and I’d be sitting in the pew waiting for her. This is confusing for someone who doesn’t know left from right.
So, during rehearsal, I found a statue of a saint that she could identify, walk to, and there she would find me. It happened to be a Saint with a dog, cat, and mouse at its feet, which confused me greatly, but Caroline thought it was absolutely great. We decided that I’d sit next to St. Martin de Porres, patron saint of people of mixed race, barbers, veterinarians and more. I have a real knack for getting Caroline into situations where she only asks a lot of questions, and this saint selection was one of those situations. I instructed her not to worry about St. Martin de Porres’ physical appearance, just focus on the puppy and kitty and getting down the aisle.
The rehearsal itself gave me confidence that she knew what she needed to do, when and how. But could she walk a quarter mile down the aisle in a fluffy white dress with hundreds of strangers looking at her? Time would tell.
We arrived at the downtown Indianapolis church Saturday afternoon just in time to get dressed in a dark, quiet corner. Once the fluffy white dress was on, Caroline was a magnet for attention and that really bothered her. Every time someone would say hello or tell her she looked beautiful, she hid behind me. My confidence that she would make it down the aisle was waning.
We tried to stay out of the way as parents of the bride and groom welcomed guests. We sat by the Holy water font and Caroline asked why everyone was washing their face when they came in the church. Of course, we didn’t have time to go into a full explanation, so I quickly told her they probably had a snack on the way to the church and they needed to clean up. She begged me to carry one of her horses down the aisle with her. I figured that if it got her to her destination, we could do that. So with her petite rose bouquet, she also held a brown pulling horse figurine in her tiny hands.
The gorgeous bride arrived, and Caroline was quite intrigued that she had a group of princesses behind her holding up her train so it did not drag the ground. All of a sudden, mere minutes before she was supposed to walk down the aisle, Caroline had a mini-breakdown that her flower girl dress did not also have a train. She began walking around with her knees bent, looking behind herself, hoping it would make her dress drag on the marble floors. “Great,” I thought to myself. “She’s going to walk down this aisle appearing to be crippled just so her dress will drag the floor, and everyone is going to wonder why Joan asked a toddler with a mobility problem to be the flower girl.”
Some clenched-jaw instruction convinced Caroline to stand up straight and tall just in time for her debut.
The grand doors opened, and I whispered to Caroline that I’d meet her at the puppy and kitty.
Do you know when honey gets crystallized and thick and you can’t get it to drip out of the jar? That’s how slow Caroline walked down the aisle. Do you know when you’re late and a train stops over the tracks on St. Rd. 38, only inching along for twelve agonizing minutes? That’s how slow Caroline walked down the aisle. She actually walked so slowly, and carefully, down that endless aisle that the pianist had to play her song a second time.
But she made it down the aisle. No tears, no turn arounds or panicked yells for mommy. I became the proudest mother in the world, and I was sitting in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church!
In the thirty minutes that followed, Caroline asked a series of questions which included but was not limited to:
Why did the Priest show up in a white bathrobe?
Why did Uncle Rex, who was seated behind us, have his eyes shut when we weren’t saying a prayer?
Why didn’t I bring her cold milk for doing a good job?
Why couldn’t she lay down on the kneeler inside the pew?
I’m so thankful it wasn’t a full Catholic mass.
We made it through the rehearsal, wedding, and reception without any catastrophes, and when you’re dealing with a three-nager, that seems to be a major accomplishment. On the way home I looked in the rearview mirror to see a sleeping toddler in a puffy white dress with barbeque sauce down the front of it, holding her brown horse. I guess it is true: You can take the girl off the farm, but never the farm out of the girl.