Something old. Something new, Something borrowed, Something blue…
And a silver six pence in her shoe
Engaged! Our daughter Katy was engaged! My initial reaction was an irrepressible bubbling up of so many happy emotions, like a freshly uncorked bottle of champagne… Joy! Excitement! Anticipation!
But my happiness fizzled when I shared the news with a well-meaning friend who said, “Oh, Kitty, congratulations! You’re going to be a wonderful mother of the bride!”
Mother of the bride?
I’d heard of “Father of the Bride.” But mother of the bride? For some reason, the phrase filled my heart with a vague anxiety—and wistful sadness.
What did I know about being a mother of the bride?
I remembered my big sister’s wedding back when I was in high school, and how my mother had so enjoyed participating in all the plans and preparations leading up to her daughter’s big day. Together, following the age-old bridal tradition, they shopped and searched for “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.” Mom even found an authentic silver English six pence coin for my sister to tuck in her shoe.
But years later when I got engaged it was, as Charles Dickens might say, “the best of times and the worst of times” for our family. It was the best of times because my husband-to-be was a wonderful man. It was the worst of times because my beloved father was dying. Because of Dad’s illness, Tom and I decided to forgo a traditional wedding and get married as simply and quickly as possible. This was fine by me. Thankfully, a storybook wedding had never been one of my dreams.
We didn’t exactly elope. We simply informed our families when and where the service would take place, and explained that if they could join us, that would be great, but if they couldn’t, we’d understand. There was no guest list to prepare. No invitations to mail. No bridesmaids. No reception. No long white dress with a veil. No silver six pence in my shoe.
Indeed, as it turned out, no one from my family was able to attend. But several members of Tom’s family showed up, including his big brother who kindly offered to stand in for my father, walk me down the aisle and “give me away.”
We were married just over a week, when my mother telephoned with the sad news that Dad had died. Even so, in the midst of her heartache and loss, she had taken the time to send out engraved wedding announcements to family and friends.
“Oh, Mom,” I said to her at the funeral, “I can’t believe you went to all that effort, especially after all you’ve been through. It’s too much.”
“Don’t be silly,” she replied. “It was the right thing to do. Plus, it made me happy.” She smiled. “You know how much I love weddings.” Her eyes misted up as she reached for my hand and squeezed it tightly. “I only wish I could have been at yours.”
Mom was gone now, too. Having spent the final 12 years of her life living in the in-law apartment attached to our house, she had grown very close to Katy, her only granddaughter, who called her “Mama B.” Now, all I could think of was how much Mom would have enjoyed helping Katy with her wedding preparations, and seeing her walk down the aisle.
With each passing day, my worries about being an adequate mother of the bride mounted. The more I learned from friends and books about all that was involved in planning a wedding, the more overwhelmed I felt. What did I know about invitations? Flowers? Photographers? Music? Menus? Bottom line: I simply felt ill-equipped for the task.
If only Mom was still alive, I thought. She would have all sorts of good ideas. She would know what to do.She would help me.
One afternoon, while rummaging in the bottom drawer of my jewelry box for a lost earring, my fingers touched something soft and silken–a tiny zippered coin purse. It had belonged to my mother. I hadn’t seen it in years.
How had it gotten in my jewelry box? I wondered.
I examined the purse closely. With its delicate oriental fabric and tiny silver zipper, it was perfect for Katy. She would love it. Her birthday was just around the corner. I would set it aside and give it to her then.
I was about to put the purse back in my jewelry box, when I felt a small coin-shaped bump in the fabric. Curious, I gently tugged at the tiny zipper, which slid open with ease. To my surprise, tucked inside the purse was a carefully folded piece of paper, yellowed with age. A note.
Hands trembling, I unfolded the delicate page. Across the top, the note was personalized with my mother’s name: Elizabeth Brinckerhoff. For a moment I couldn’t breathe as I recognized her distinctive elegant script. The note was to Katy. As I read Mom’s message, I could almost hear her lilting, encouraging voice:
This is a 6 pence! Save it!
With a 6 pence in her shoe!
Taped to the note was a small silver coin. An actual English six pence.
Tears filled my eyes. I could hardly wait to give Katy the purse with the note from her grandmother. On her wedding day, Katy would slip the silver six pence in her shoe, and Mom would be with her—and with us all—in spirit. Although my mother couldn’t live to see her granddaughter’s wedding, this was God’s way of having her participate in such a special, meaningful way!
And then a funny thing happened. As I carefully re-folded the note, tucked it back in the silken purse, and gently pulled the zipper shut, I noticed that all my worries about being a mother of the bride had vanished. Just like that. Once again my heart overflowed with effervescent bubbles of happiness. And something new: Confidence.
What was it Mom had written in her note to Katy?
Oh, yes: “Ask Mother!”
That would be me. The mother of the bride.
Thanks to Mom’s encouraging word from heaven, I was ready and eager to help my daughter plan what promised to be a beautiful wedding.
Kathryn Slattery is a long-time contributing editor for Guideposts magazine, and the author of several books including If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids (Thomas Nelson) and her memoir, Lost & Found: One Daughter’s Story of Amazing Grace (GuidepostsBooks). Learn more about her work at her website and on Facebook: Kathryn “Kitty” Slattery.