I used to think a wedding was a simple affair. A boy and girl meet, they fall in love, he buys a ring, she buys a dress, they say "I do." I was wrong. That's getting married. A wedding is an entirely different proposition. I know. I've just been through one. Not my own. My daughter's. Annie Banks-MacKenzie. That's her married name. MacKenzie. I'll be honest with you. When I bought this house seventeen years ago, it cost me less than this blessed event in which Annie Banks became Annie Banks-MacKenzie. I'm told that one day I'll look back on all this with great affection and nostalgia. I hope so. You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never imagine. I remember how her little hand used to fit inside mine. How she used to sit in my lap and lean her head against my chest. She said that I was her hero. Then the day comes when she wants to get her ears pierced and she wants you to drop her off a block before the movie theater. Next thing you know she's wearing eye shadow and high heels. From that moment on, you're in a constant state of panic. You worry about her going out with the wrong kind of guys, the kind of guys who only want one thing--and you know exactly what that one thing is because it's the same thing you wanted when you were their age. Then she gets a little older and you quit worrying about her meeting the wrong guy and you worry about her meeting the right guy. And that's the biggest fear of all because then you lose her. And before you know it, you're sitting all alone in a big, empty house, wearing rice on your tux, wondering what happened to your life. It was just six months ago that it happened here. Just six months ago that the storm broke.
I've always been a concerned parent. I'm big on car seats, seat belts, bed times, curfews, calling when you get somewhere, never running with a sharp object. What can I say? I'm a father. Worrying comes with the territory.
We live in a small town in Southern California called San Marino. I love this town, and not just because it's the kind of place where people still smile at each other but because it hasn't changed much in the past twenty-five years. And since I'm not a guy who's big on change, this town fits me like a glove. I got Annie's ten-speed all cleaned up and polished. New seat, new tires...I couldn't wait to show it to her. This is our house. 24 Maple Drive. Annie was just in grammar school when we bought it. A few years later, we got a surprise package. Our son, Matt. I love this house. I love that I taught my kids to ride their bikes in the driveway. I love that I slept with them in tents in the backyard. I love that we carved our initials in the tree out front. This house is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and looks spectacular with Christmas lights. It's a great house. I never want to move. But the thing I think I like best about this house are the voices I hear when I walk through the door.
Right then I realized, my day had passed. She'll always love me, of course, but not in the same way. I was no longer the man in my little girl's life. I was like an old shoe. The kind we manufacture and get all excited about, then after a few years discontinue. That was me now. Mr. Discontinued.
With one swift move, I'd been cut out of the deal. Annie, Nina, and Franck were in charge now.
I was beginning to feel like I was having an out of body experience. I had to get out of the house, and fast. Nina said as long as I was escaping would I mind escaping to the market and picking up something for dinner. Sure. That was all I needed. A busy supermarket. I needed to drive, mellow out, get my mind off the wedding. But mellowing out was not in the cards.
That was the low point. Flipping out over four hot dog buns. I couldn't figure out why I'd gotten so nuts. Why the wedding had me so unglued.
I knew I'd never be able to remember what Nina wore that day. But I also knew I'd never forget the way she looked.
This was the moment I had been dreading for the past six months. Well, actually for the past twenty-two years...Annie overwhelmed me. She was as calm and cool as I had ever seen her. Very unBanks-like.
It's funny how empty a house can suddenly get, isn't it?