The Girls That Gave Her Away

Photo credit: Katelyn James

It occurred to me today that for the first time in her life, my newly-married daughter will be the only female in her home.

She has no one with whom to share clothes.

Coming from a family of seven – three of them females, four if you count the mother – and moving into a dorm and then a house full of women during her university years, this may count as minor tragedy. I don’t know. We shall see how this particular culture shock wears upon their young marriage.

Shannon has had sisters Sarah and Syndi, and then she had this host of girls-becoming-women roommates who shared the 625 Cru House at JMU for several years. She has lived, all of her days, surrounded by girls.

There is something magnificent about such female bonds – blood and otherwise; something rich and vibrant and powerful. It’s not always that way, of course; women can turn on one another so fiercely, can destroy confidence and hope in ways that no weapon every could. It comes with the territory.

Myself, I was shaped by such harshness. The only daughter – in fact, the only girl in my entire extended family – somewhere around the age of 10 I met the unyielding gaze of exclusion at the hand of what we might now call a bully. Back then, it was just the prettiest girl with the blondest hair and the most friends. In our tiny classroom, she ruled the roost, and one day, she deemed me unworthy. Her rule stood fast. For the entire fourth grade year, I had no friends, save the girl who ate paste and picked her nose and the poverty-stricken girl who was the token untouchable.

Wanda. Lena.

I remember their names, and still my heart clenches and fear snakes up the back of my neck, because my name was lumped in with theirs for those nine months.

Wanda. Lena. Beth.

Today, my heart hurts for the most broken. My heart aches for the untouchable. But as a child, all I knew was that some were in and some were out and the line was something none of us really understood, except that to be on the wrong side of it meant deep, searing pain.

/ / / / / /

So here I am, all grown up, the mother of three females who fit every stereotype of every girl you’ve ever known, who love makeup and dress up and have more clothes than they could wear in a million years; who have best friends and girl secrets and deep relational bonds with other females. (And also with one another.)

And this wedding becomes reality, and Shannon says she has eight friends who will stand with her.

And though I’m the mom of three girls who grew into womanhood right under my nose, and though I know that a lot of the world works like this for women, I confess that a part of me didn’t get this. At all. Eight friends? Eight women who will stand with you, help you, surround you, love you and love one another and be anything and everything but awkward?

New to me.

When I married the kids’ dad, I bought the dress by myself. I drove myself to get makeup and hair done the day of the wedding. I had a friend stand with me in the wedding, but that was it.

And now I’m the mom of three girls who grew up and into the kind of fierce, female companionship that can make or break a woman. They’ve learned the value of deep, unyielding love. They gain strength from one another, and they’ve found that outside of the family as well.

/ / / / / /

The morning of the wedding; before the glitz and glamour. They are beautiful.

So: These women, right here. These are the eight – the two sisters and the rest of the crew – who lived and laughed and cried with Shannon, and then came along to witness the most precious covenant she’ll likely make in her entire life. Their presence brought a precise and intentional community to the marriage ceremony, one that burrows in more deeply to the relational support that God knew we all needed. The guests were the witnesses, but these women – and the men who stood opposite – were the community of faith and sisterhood that gently nudged Shannon to this point.

In effect, they gave her away as much as her father and I did.

In these past few days, I’ve come to know these girls; watched them do slow mornings and frantic, hurried deadlines, emotionally teary, joyous and giggly. Watched them follow the photographer’s instructions. Watched them interact with the bride – their friend, my daughter. Each and every one is such a glorious example of the brilliant gift of life, given by the Father of Lights, pouring part of her heart and soul into the people who matter in her life. They inspire me. They bring joy. They are, in short, absolutely amazing women.

It is a rare and blessed privilege to know all eight of these women, to catch a glimpse of them at this unique moment, poised to make deep and meaningful marks upon the world.

I’ve come to love these girls. And I get it, in a beautiful example of all things working together for good. Three days of all this estrogen, all this female relationship stuff; it’s brought some healing to the ten-year old girl who still lives in me, the one who still isn’t sure that the girls in the room aren’t going to turn on her and decide she is one of the untouchables.

Love like this can mend broken hearts, even just by the overflow.

In one of the many moments that brings tears as I recall this wedding, I am thankful to these girls, who invested their words and tears and stories and resources into my daughter, who walked and stumbled and cried and rejoiced with her in shaky steps that eventually gave her a confident stride towards her groom.

I never had friends like this in all my life. But there is not regret; only joy, and an impulse to look around and see where investing in my own ‘sisters’ might result in such big love, in this season of my life.

And there is this, a sense that I managed to do something right. I never understood the girly girl thing; never got female relationships. But somehow, with the strong influence of my own mom trickling down through me, my daughters figured out how important it was. And how to make it work.

And they know it’s worth it.

Photo credit: Katelyn James

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5 Comments

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  1. Achy and beautiful.

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  2. I adore every word of this wonderful tribute and story. Made me cry, Beth.

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  3. Love like this can mend broken hearts, even just by the overflow. This line made me cry. Have been watching my daughter with her sweet boyfriend and I agree completely. Mary sent me here, and I'm so glad. As one who has a phalanx of women friends who would drop everything and face down a charging elephant for me, I wish you a strong sisterhood. Looks like you have a very good start on it. And it's never too late to start forming one. The trick, I find, is opening up about what's bugging you. And then they open up to you, and that's the magic at work. You're a graceful writer. Thank you.

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  4. i'm the only girl in my family, too! i actually thought i was a boy growing up. i remember being 4 or so and being so frustrated that i couldn't pee standing up.

    in other news your daughters are beautiful and great just like their mama.

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  5. Beautifully said Beth… as always.

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