The following are the main excerpts from the speech Monte and I gave at our daughter’s wedding. Several friends have asked that we share it, and why not? I’m proud of it, because as any parent knows, there’s a poignant aspect even to a happy milestone like this, and I think we handled it with grace.
As the “Father of the Bride”, the patriarchal ritual of giving away my daughter seems so odd and anachronistic. It’s like that with my generation–the baby boomers. We made such a fuss of rejecting the status quo, and with it went some weird stuff, but also some of the rituals that mark important events. Anyway, with Miranda and Xander, there was no giving away. I mean, Xander asked, which at the time was sweet and charming. Of course we said yes. But our daughter’s heart had made the decision long before. She was already taken and our consent a foregone conclusion.
But still, the rituals matter. Especially our witness to and embrace of the marriage of these two young people whom we love and cherish. In a matter this important we must do everything in our power, no matter how small or symbolic, to ensure its durability and success.
Which brings us here from a cattle ranch in California where Miranda grew up–off the grid and in the raw, wild, wide open spaces and the ocean and the wind, so far from this university town, steeped in Old World culture and tradition. How unlikely it is that we should be here with all of you celebrating the marriage of this beautiful young woman to this fine young man.
Then again, maybe it’s not so unlikely after all. Miranda was always her own person, somewhat contrary and complicated, climbing into books, imagining other lives for herself. She rode her horse in the hills, slept on the deck sometimes beneath the Milky Way, and loved the ranch with all her heart but eventually saw it as the refuge of her boring old parents and set out in search of something else.
And why not England? This was a 12-year-old girl who devoured books by Agatha Christie, whose favorite novel was Brideshead Revisited, who immersed herself in a school report about World War II air raids over London and at one point had a poster of Winston Churchill on the wall of her room. I don’t know how to explain these things. Why not England? She may actually be more English than you.
But her getaway began so early. Here’s a story: When Miranda was two-and-a-half, on her very first day of preschool, I kissed her goodbye and then lingered pathetically at the playground gate watching her from a distance. She was wearing a little red sweater and a red and white skirt and she was clutching a big loose-leaf binder as though she were expecting to take voluminous notes in class…and she turned around, noticed me loitering, walked back to me, and said, “You can go now, Mommy.”
She’s been saying that to me ever since. What can I do? At some point you have to step gracefully out of the way. She has always had a certain bravery and spirit, our girl. Not in a stupid, reckless way, but she’s game, always willing to step on board that outbound dream, and she was very eager and efficient about getting started in life. She got her driver’s license on the day she turned 16, moved away to college in Boston at 17, went to England for a summer class when she was 20, and on her first evening in Oxford met a handsome British guy in a tweed blazer who could talk about books, and I guess that was the ending of something and the beginning of everything else.
And from far away, we could sense the change in our daughter. There was something different this time. Not like the crush on the young boy in the punk band, or the college boyfriend who was comfortable, safe, and convenient. No, this time it was love.
He likes books. He reads. His name is Xander. What kind of name is that? Oh, it’s short for Alexander. We finally see him on a janky skype call. He’s a man, not a boy. We finally meet him. He has opinions and expresses them loudly and vociferously. He has friends…no, they have friends. These are interesting, smart young people. Ben and Jules, George-the-Poet and Rachel, Alex (many Alexes, both male and female), Emily, James, Sophie…they are writing books and playing music and full of energy.We meet Xander’s family and find we have common values. (They are not Tories…that’s a relief.)
And we begin to observe how Xander treats Miranda. He respects and supports and defends her. He calms her down (and knows how to wind her up). He’s patient and empathetic and an incredibly good natural teacher. He is a diligent worker and loyal. They’re good together. And they’re in love.
With us, Xander patiently tries to explain the English. We learn that “sorry” can have deeply nuanced meanings to express any human emotion; that there is a world of dairy products previously unknown to us; that chatting it up on public transport is frowned upon. We try unsuccessfully to understand cricket, and with profound embarrassment observe the Americanization of your politics.
We begin to see that this relationship is the real thing. Miranda and Xander belong together. Our world must expand. It needs to encompass the ranch on the Gaviota coast and the Cowley Road in East Oxford, our California life and the life our daughter has chosen here, more than five thousand miles away.
Somewhere along the line we learn how little of this was ever ours to orchestrate. (Said the mother of the bride wistfully.)
So one day there’s a little girl clinging to your hip, and the next day there’s a young woman on the other side of a computer screen on the other side of an ocean. It’s the way of the world, I guess, though no one can prepare you for it.
What did I think would happen? What did I want? I wanted a daughter with a clear head and high ideals, one who could see that there is trouble in the world and work in her own way to make things better, but who could also see that there is beauty and joy and wonder in the world and would live in these and savor these and let herself be happy and maybe even write about it.
I wanted a daughter who would have the courage to leave, fortified by the knowledge that she is deeply loved and who in turn would love deeply.
So I guess I wanted this. Exactly this.
I finally understand that there is love that weighs you down and love that lightens, and I believe we gave her the lighter kind, the kind that lets you leave.
So please raise your glasses in a toast: To Miranda and Xander, may you laugh a lot, may you be kind to one another…
And may you feel the love of your family and friends encircling you always. Lightly. But unwavering.