A father is always making his baby into a little woman. And when she is a woman he turns her back again.
It snowed like crazy on our wedding day. Not a piling up, traffic-paralyzing kind of snow, but the kind that leaves the trees sparkling and the streets looking like a river of licorice slush.
My mother closed all the drapes as if blocking the view would somehow force an end to it. But it didn't work. By the time my father and I were ready to leave for the church, the driveway and street were slathered with a generous portion of semi-frozen grayish sludge.
My father had cleared a path in front of the house but when it was time to go, Mom still insisted I wear plastic bags over my shoes to protect them "just in case." As luck would have it, the only two plastic bags in the house were empty bread bags.
Somehow my little-girl dreams of this day never included parading to the church with bread bags peaking out beneath the hem of the gown I'd waited my whole life to wear. Still, snowflakes continued swirling down and no alternate plan prevailed. So, on went the bread bags over my shoes, and off we went.
Carefully we made our way out the front door and to the rented silver Mercedes waiting to take us to the church. Ed, the driver, never said a word, but the look on his face was priceless as he watched me approach with blue-and-yellow-plastic-polka-dot clown feet.
As we started out of the driveway, I realized that never before in my life had I taken a ride with my dad without him driving. Gripped by this moment of truth, I turned my head to look through the back window and watched our house -- and my childhood -- shrink slowly out of sight.
One lone tear trickled down my cheek while Dad sat quietly beside me. Then I felt him reach over and take my hand. This small, quiet gesture spoke volumes of what he, too, must have been feeling -- but never said.
The freshly fallen snow transformed a relatively short ride into a slow and cautious journey through the landmarks of my youth. As we passed the playground, the schoolyard and even the corner candy store, each seemed to call my name and whisper goodbye.
As much as I looked forward to all the future held for my husband and me, this intense feeling of ending my girlhood pierced my heart. Sensing this, my father squeezed my hand and drew me close to his side. His warm embrace assured me everything would be all right.
While Ed parked the car at the church, Dad and I simultaneously looked at each other, then cast our eyes down to the polka-dot Wonder Bread "booties," which by now had taken on a role of their own and seemed to be staring back at us.
My father turned to me and said, "Do you really want to step out of this car with clown feet?"
"Well, not really, but what else can I do?"
The street and sidewalk surrounding the church had been on the receiving end of a barrage of galoshes, snow tires and shovels since early that morning. What started as a pristine blanket of white now appeared to be nothing more than a dirty mess that threatened to ruin my shoes, as well as whatever part of the dress and train that would end up getting dragged through it.
"Lose the boots," Dad said. With those words he got out of the car and walked around to the door on my side.
I leaned forward and slipped the bags off my feet to reveal lovely white satin ballet slippers with the pale pink satin ribbons that twirled about my ankles and came to rest in a delicate bow. I dreaded the thought of how they would look by the time I reached the church steps.
I methodically gathered up as much of the dress and train as I could, and stepped out of the car trying to keep it all from touching the ground. As I turned toward Dad, suddenly I felt my feet lift off the ground and in an instant I was swept into his arms. Just that quickly my dress and shoes were safely out of harm's way and my heart had wings to fly.
How many years had it been since Dad had carried me in his arms? How much like a princess I felt, and how appropriate it seemed to close the door on my childhood in such a poignant way.
Dad carried me from the sidewalk all the way up the steps and into the vestibule of the church where my mother and bridesmaids awaited our arrival. Setting me down in front of my mother, he kissed me on the cheek and said, "Now that was fun. Wasn't it?" To which I replied, "Let's do it again!" We all laughed and a few moments later he walked me down the aisle where I joyfully stepped forward into the future.
Dad faced his own moment of truth that day. My husband and I were married on my parents' thirty-sixth wedding anniversary. I imagine walking his last baby down the aisle on this day surely brought home to his heart that life was moving on; no turning back the clock.
My husband and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary this year. Life moved on for us as it did for Dad -- who now smiles on us from heaven.
The warm memories of our wedding day remain with me, but few are as tender as that precious moment when Daddy's little girl was swept off her feet one last time.
This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dads & Daughters: Stories about the Special Relationship between Fathers and Daughters © 2011 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.