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Swift: Nostalgia blooms when only godchild says 'I do'

Tammy Swift

FARGO -- By the time you read this, my godchild will be married.

My beloved Kari — the little girl I nicknamed “Flower” because of her sunny disposition — will officially be a wife.

How did this happen? I now understand the disbelief that parents must feel when they see the baby they once snuggled walking down the aisle.

Flower has always occupied an unusually large space in my heart, partly because my role as godmother was the closest I’ve come to actual motherhood. I used to call her “Tammy 2.0” because we seemed so alike.

We both are last-born girls who like to laugh, buy cute clothes and have fun. When I was married, she would occasionally spend a week at a time with us, and it was always memorable. Flower had her own mother’s “go-go-go!” personality and love for adventure, so we enjoyed a whirlwind of shopping trips, marathon concerts on “Rock Band,” go-kart excursions and lake trips.

But time has that maddening habit of marching forward, and life changes. Flower still shared a special bond with me, but she was busy growing up. She had become her own person now — a registered nurse who is fearless, loves snowboarding and seems to know exactly what she wants.

At some point, completely without my permission, she changed from cute to beautiful, her face taking on womanly contours and her bright, wide smile growing radiant. She seemed to have so much confidence. Where did the confidence come from?

She couldn’t wait to get married. Many in my generation waited to get married until they had established a career. Today’s millennials seem much more open to saying “I do” — possibly because life has become so expensive that the vows could be rewritten as “I do promise to help pay off your student loans.”

Her wedding filled me with nostalgia, and I couldn’t help but compare it to my own wedding 17 years earlier. Of course, she had been the flower girl. She wore a custom-made, miniature white gown that mimicked my own, and photos showed her walking down the aisle with the assurance of a miniaturized Princess Kate.

I had been a frantic, worrying bride-to-be — ruminating over everything from how 9/11 (just 11 days earlier) would affect wedding attendance to whether the florist would try to replace the beloved lisianthus in my bouquet with cheaper carnations. We decorated the city hall with characteristic Swift-variety overachievement: running ourselves ragged to transform an old movie hall into a wedding wonderland of white lights and clouds of tulle.

Flower wisely left the wedding decor to a professional, and every detail seemed noted and kept in its proper place. She confessed that she’d had trouble sleeping the last few weeks, but her outward demeanor was serene. Several nights before the big day, she positioned herself on the couch behind me and repeatedly braided and unbraided my hair, reminding me of the days when she would want me to put makeup on her while we played “beauty shop.”

Although I know it’s selfish, I had longed to be in on every aspect of her wedding planning — even though we lived four hours apart and she had a mom, big sister and best friend close by to help with that. I hate that we don’t see each other as often, even though I understand that this is an inevitable part of life.

I became impatient with myself. “Seriously, Tammy? What role do you expect to play in the wedding? Maybe you could be the world’s oldest Divorced Matron of Honor — looking like Miss Havisham amidst the fresh-faced, 20-something bridal party? Wouldn’t that be special, watching the bridesmaids dash off to steal the groom while you hum along behind them in a Rascal?”

I had been given a good “godmother” role. I would help cut the cake. I knew I would get a corsage and a special hug from her. I made her a special gift, a hand-lettered illustration that outlines the lyrics to Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” which will be the first dance at their wedding.

I can share that here, because, by the time this runs, she will be married. Even before she has opened it, I know she will love it and — because she is Flower — she will make me feel wonderful for having given it. For that, I am thankful.

I am thankful for a sweet soul who helped me feel a little bit like a mom, who filled my life with laughter and adventure, who has made me so proud.

This Flower has made it to full bloom, and I was lucky enough to share the same garden. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.