A Wedding Toast for Bridgit and Charlie
On behalf of Brigit and Charlie, I want to welcome you again. And I want to thank you for making the journey here, and for being here to add your love for Bridgit and for Charlie to the love they have for each other.
On the way in from the airport this morning, when our driver found out that we were here for a wedding, he said, “congratulations.” When he also found out that I was the father of the bride, he said, “double congratulations to you!” In fact, everyone I’ve talked to over the last few months, when I’ve mentioned that my daughter was getting married said the same thing: “Congratulations.”
To which I’ve mostly responded, “Um, ok… thanks(?).” It didn’t make sense to me. It’s not like we were desperate to get Bridgit out of our house, and finally succeeded. It’s not like we negotiated some deal to trade her for a couple of blankets and a goat. We didn’t make this match. They did.
Then someone said to me, “you must be so proud.” And that made sense to me. Yes, we are proud. We are proud of our daughters. We are proud to see them grow into adult women who are strong and smart, and resourceful and resilient, and kind and beautiful, and loving and beloved. It is the kind of pride I imagine an airplane mechanic feels when watching a plane land: He didn’t fly the plane; He didn’t really even build the plane. What he did was help keep the plane in the air long enough for it to find a place to land safely.
And that’s not nothing.
To Michelle, and to everyone who contributed to helping Charlie land safely: thank you. Congratulations. You must be so proud.
There is a secret that those of you who are parents know, and I’ll share it with those of you who are not yet parents, and will be or plan to be or hope to be, and it’s this: no one is born knowing how to do this. You can read parenting manuals and go to parenting classes, or watch parenting videos, but there is only one person who can truly teach you how to be a parent, and that’s your first-born.
From the moment Bridgit entered the world I was learning from her. After she was born, a nurse handed me this 10lb.- 8oz. pink ball wrapped in a blanket and told me to hold her for a minute. So, I stood there, motionless, watching her breathe, watching her eyes flicker open and closed, watching her crinkle her nose (something she still does), afraid to move a muscle because I honestly didn’t know what would happen if I did.
That minute turned into 45 minutes or maybe an hour before the nurse came back for her and as I stretched out to hand Bridgit off, the most excruciating pain I can ever remember shot through my arms. Every muscle from my shoulders to my hands had locked in place and was screaming from the cramps. At that point my tears were not at all emotional and I was certain that I would never be able to straighten my arms again.
I got better. And from that took this lesson away: the longer you hold onto something, and the tighter you hold onto it, the more it hurts when you let it go.
So, we approached parenting with a loose grip.
Fast forward three or four years. Like most parents we had a bedtime ritual which mostly consisted of reading one or two, or three, or four bedtime stories. We didn’t insist on tucking into bed, or turning out the lights – she could stay up and read or play, as long as she stayed in her room. Sally and I would be downstairs enjoying a quiet evening. Without fail, about 15 minutes later, we would see Bridgit’s little round face peeking out at us from the bottom of the stairs. So that didn’t work.
As it happened, Bridgit’s room had a big wall-to-wall blue rug, and Bridgit did better with visual instruction, so we changed the rule so that she could still stay up and read and play, but she had to stay on the blue rug. After that, without fail, Sally and I would come up stairs at the end of the evening to find Bridgit sprawled out asleep in the middle of the hallway, surrounded by stuffed animals, toys and books, with her favorite companion, Puppy, tucked into the crook of one arm, and the other arm stretched out as far as it could go with her hand just touching the blue rug.
Sometimes it was a foot.
No matter what imagined conversations she had had with those stuffed friends all evening, or whatever adventures those books had taken her on, she always kept one paw on the blue rug.
There is a lesson in there for you, Charlie, and it’s this: you can’t win an argument with someone like that – someone who would rather sleep on the hard floor than on a soft rug just to make a point.
It’s easy to think of that blue rug as a tether, or a constraint, a limitation or a boundary, but for us I think it became something else. It was your own place; it was safety; it was security; it was the comfort of the familiar. It was Home.
So tonight, as I ask you all to join me in a toast to the happiness and prosperity of Bridgit and Charlie, it’s offered with this wish: that wherever this adventure takes you, no matter where or how far you go, may you always find yourself with a blue rug close at hand – close enough to reach out and touch with your hand, or with your foot, or with your heart. And it comes with this promise: you’ll always know where you can find one.
To your lifetime of happiness together.