We primped and polished ourselves all afternoon in the fanciest hotel suite I had ever been in, paid for with the money my mother made selling her business, the business she had spent my entire adolescence building — almost in secret, it felt, since she never missed a single minor or major milestone in my life. It was only in the last few years of her tenure as C.E.O. that girl bosses and empowerment Twitter and workplace feminism had really taken off.
In one of our fights over the last year, I had asked my mother if she thought the internet had empowered her to leave my father.
She looked confused, then responded with her favorite cryptic phrase: “I don’t know.”
When we arrived at the venue, I touched up my makeup in a dressing room while my mother and sister fluttered around me. Here was the moment when it would all come together — or not. But none of the disaster scenarios I had feared were top of mind, or even in my mind at all. I had put in the work to get here, and now I was letting go.
When my mother asked me how I was, I said, “Really good.”
Later, I walked down the aisle in a happy daze and cried during my vows. The evening was filled with intimate moments not only with friends and family, but with my husband, who lit up my world that night like he had for the previous six years.
All evening I was happy, my feelings uncomplicated and pure. My mother and I hadn’t gone through some magical healing process during the wedding planning as I had hoped, but I was entirely OK. Finally, the somewhat grating concept that this was “my day” rang true.
And I realized that, for all our differences, my mother and I were alike in this experience. Because, some 18 months earlier, without fanfare or celebration, her day had come too. She must have had a million feelings and fretted endlessly as she considered whether to leave my father, but when the time came, she knew she was OK and knew it was right. She had worked on our family her whole life, and, for her, letting go of that wasn’t giving up — it was the beginning of a new phase.
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