THE FAMILY WEDDING was set to be an exquisite occasion. Our wedding outfits were carefully chosen weeks before the event. My two sons would be handsome and smart in their crisp white shirts and neatly pressed black pants, all bought especially for the nuptials of their precious aunt.
As a sensible mother, and realising that children’s wedding outfits were generally one-off affairs, never to be worn again, I’d applauded my recession-savvy ways of borrowing shoes for my youngest son. Black and seemingly perfect leather shoes were duly polished and packed away for the impending occasion. He was to stand proudly at the entrance of the chapel with his older brother, handing out song sheets and looking decidedly dashing.
The wedding was to take place at a resort, complete with its own pristine white chapel with polished porcelain tiles, high ceilings and walls of glass allowing for breath-taking views of a lake and manicured golf course.
My outfit had been chosen with care too – a frothy crushed mulberry creation that made me feel a bit like a present, with its sumptuous satin bow finishing off a lacy bodice. My husband would be fittingly dapper in a brand new suit and my daughter exquisite in her sage green satin and chiffon dress – a picture perfect flower girl.
The stage was set. The day arrived.
“You go on ahead,” I told my husband, once we were all dressed and ready in our hotel room. At the last minute, my sister in law had requested that I pin her dress. No problem, I produced safety pins and we duly fixed her flaw and prepared to make our grand entrance as sister in laws of the bride. Very Important People, we joked in our finery.
Pinned and preened, the two of us tottered down in uncharacteristically high heels to the chapel, and caught sight of my two sons at the entrance with my husband looking rather concerned.
“Evan’s shoes have fallen apart,” he announced soberly.
There was a moment of confusion. What did he mean? The sheer magnitude of the problem emerged as I saw the horror unfold. The soles of my son’s apparently sound shoes had begun to disintegrate the minute he arrived at the church entrance. The short walk to the chapel had caused the sole to part company with the shoe, bit by bit, leaving a trail of rubber in his wake. These were shoes that had been worn twice by their owner, my friend had assured me. But by child number four, the rubber had begun its insidious decline and perished unnoticed. A deceivingly new pair of shoes was thus ready for total decimation the minute the wearer began to walk.
My first response was laughing disbelief. Then came sheer panic.
As a mother, there was always a solution to a child’s wardrobe malfunction. There have been pinned hems, socks found on cue under a car seat, shoes fished out of a boot when all seemed lost. Tuckshop money found lodged between seats and drink bottles retrieved from underneath them. I am the queen of improvisation.
I have made dinosaur outfits out of egg boxes and stockings. At a minute’s notice, I have created Easter bonnets, breathlessly and expertly blowing out the egg innards and decorated the hat with real eggs. I have never panicked; have always managed a practical solution to any last minute request. I have prided myself on my motherly ingenuity.
For the first time ever, I humbly drew an absolute blank. I could not think of a single solution.
At this point, we could have either left quietly or soldiered on and seen the mirth in it all. We chose the latter. We ambled up the pristine aisle, with my son gamely handing me clumps of rubber that I duly squashed into my little black beaded handbag.
We took our family front row seat and the ceremony began. I applauded his resilience as through all those beautiful hymns, the touching exchange of vows, he quietly handed me bits of his shoe as I kicked the remainder under my seat. Please forgive me, Jan, but it took all my willpower not to explode in hysterical laughter when you finally said “I do” – not because of the hilarity of the moment but because my son had handed me the last of his sole – we were down to metal. I still have it as a keepsake.
And then, when I thought I had my laughter under control, my eight-year old son, nudged his sister, in all her finery as an esteemed member of the bridal party, lifted up his ravaged shoe and showed her what remained of the under sole.
“Look at my shoe, Lara,” he whispered loudly.
And then it was all over. The beautiful bride, oblivious to any drama, to any clumps of sole glaringly obvious on the spotless white tiles, made her exit with the love of her life. She didn’t notice a thing.
Love, really is, as it turns out, absolutely blind.
PS. The silent prayers of this mum were answered and we made it to the reception with a borrowed pair of shoes from an angel in the church. He drove all the way home to retrieve his son’s school shoes. I am forever indebted to you, Uncle Gary.
Copyright © 2008 by Lois Nicholls