65: Making Light of the Storm

65: Making Light of the Storm

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Making Light of the Storm

The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.


Ah June, the perfect month for every mother’s dream: a gorgeous wedding for her daughter. My Holly — a treasure, sunny-tempered, clever, the best of girls — deserved the best. Together, we had planned the wedding as she wanted it, to be held in the farmhouse garden. The night before, all prepared, we went to bed anticipating a glorious day.

I woke at 2:00 A.M. Wind roared through the trees in the pine plantation next door. Raindrops pelted the roof, and soon all other sounds were drowned out in a torrential roar. The gusts grew and shook the house until the windows rattled. Last week’s tropical cyclone that blasted the Pacific had, against the meteorological predictions, turned our way.

What a catastrophe! I had nightmarish visions of the ruined wedding — the marquee, flowers and bridal avenue of potted plants and trees destroyed, torn to fragments, scattered on the wind. Holly on her father’s arm, sloshing through what had been the lawn, sinking deeper with every step. The minister washed away in sheets of rain, and what guests braved the storm swallowed up in huge pools of voracious mud. Only a miracle could reduce this storm by lunchtime, so what could I do? How could I rescue my daughter’s day and make it memorable despite the storm?

At first light, I got up and hurried outside. Bitter cold rain needled my face. The wind pushed so that I could barely stand. Already, the garden was a quagmire, the rain making lakes on the lawn. The marquee, half-toppled, flapped and clapped as the wind tore through it. Soon, it would collapse completely. Nothing remained of the bridal avenue, the floral displays, and the ceremonial arch. In tears, I turned back to the house, walking in the shelter of the shrubbery. Leaves ripped from the trees whirled past, flowers torn off, tumbled to the ground. In a puddle beside the path, two whole white camellia blossoms floated. I paused, caught by their beauty. The blossoms dazzled like twin stars, slowly revolving in the water.

My daughter’s special day would be remembered for all the wrong reasons unless I managed to think of a solution. We couldn’t have the wedding inside our tiny cottage, and the family farmhouse, badly damaged by fire four months ago, was only three-quarters restored. We’d delayed the wedding once because of the fire. We couldn’t do so again, but then what choice was there?

Perhaps I could arrange the farmhouse’s renovated entrance hall and two connecting living rooms. If I lit a fire in the main fireplace and made the hearth the focal point, we could hold the ceremony there. But how to soften the bleakness of new plaster and bare boards? I looked again at the floating camellias. The answer lay at my feet.

I had until lunchtime. Everyone was called upon to help. A “save-the-day spirit” prevailed. Off went family and friends to borrow pretty glass dishes and bowls, old-fashioned white linen tablecloths, and acquire hundreds of camellia flowers. While Holly’s brother cooked a special wedding breakfast for the bride, groom and special guests, her father entertained them, promising me to keep them happy until the ceremony.

I phoned my florist friend Diane to help, stripped the garden bushes of any unblemished camellia flowers, and raided the neighbors’ camellias. Then I made a quick trip to town where I borrowed our church’s and decor shop’s wrought-iron candlesticks and candelabra. Time pressed. I drove to the farmhouse, arriving at the same time as Diane. Her car was loaded with fat beeswax candles and candle lanterns, glass bowls, bundles of ivy, and more camellia blossoms. Two enormous forty-candle candelabra filled the back seat. I hugged her gratefully.

“You’re such a friend.”

Diane grinned. “People are going to talk of Holly’s wedding for years,” she promised. “I’ll make an entrance archway using tree fern branches and the candle lanterns. You do the inside.”

So the transformation began.

At 1:00 P.M., I drove Holly to her wedding. The sky turned a terrible charcoal shade as the rain pelted down. The weather remained atrocious.

“Not what we planned, I’m afraid, my dear.”

She hugged me, taking my breath away and threatening my ribs.

“Can’t be helped,” she said, trying to smile.

The storm raged overhead. It was virtually dark as I parked right up by the front door and helped Holly out.

“Oh!” she said.

The front porch was now an archway of woven fern branches hung with candle lanterns. At the top of the steps, a tall, wrought-iron stand held six globe lanterns. Flanking the steps were two huge silver bowls filled with water on which floated red- and white-streaked camellia blossoms and heart-shaped candles. Every candle flame shone like a star.

My husband opened the front door, and the guests spilled out. Some carried candle lanterns. They formed into a guard of honor, lighting the way. The other guests tossed camellia petals at the bride. Behind them, firelight and candlelight shone, making a warm mellow glow inside the house.

“Oh!” said Holly again, beginning to smile.

I handed her over to her father, who took her arm. The guests fell in behind, cheering, and Holly walked through the hallway along a pathway of red and white camellia petals strewn all the way from the front door to the fireplace in the living area. Tiny glass bowls edged the petal path, one blossom and one floating candle in each, red blossoms alternating with white ones in pairs all the way.

I slipped in the side door and joined Aidan, the groom, and the minister waiting by the fire. I couldn’t wait to see Holly’s face when she saw the room. I’d turned all the builders’ trestles, boxes, and crates into tables for the guests to sit around, and covered them completely with the borrowed linen tablecloths. I’d arranged thick ivy ropes in swags about each table, set out bowls with camellia blossoms and floating candles, and finally placed two candelabra per table. Every windowsill, shelf, and spare surface was trimmed with ivy, candles, and camellia flowers. The church candelabra flanked the hearth, and Diane’s large candelabra sat in the window embrasures on either side of the fireplace. The whole room was incandescent with a soft yellow light. Everywhere, golden stars shone — on windowpanes, in the water, in each person’s eyes. The camellia blossoms, stars in their own right, added their scent to that of the beeswax candles and sweet pine logs.

Holly stopped in the doorway. Candle stars winked at her feet. The glass and the water reflected each flame over and over so that there was a Milky Way of little flame-stars. She laughed with delight, and Aidan stepped forward to take her hand. The minister beamed at them.

In the pause as the guests settled, Holly turned to me. “Mum,” she breathed, “this is perfect. It’s so beautiful.”

That was all I needed. Who cared about power cuts and raging cyclones when this magic was happening? I watched my radiant daughter say her vows and sighed with contentment.

~P.D.R. Lindsay

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