The Best Role of All

The Best Role of All

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

The Best Role of All

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The bell rang, and I was free. I grabbed my sweater from the cloakroom, shouldered my red plaid book satchel, and followed the line out the door to the waiting yellow school bus. The day was over, and the other kids were laughing, but I was carrying a burden heavier than a book bag. All the way home I sat in silence, tears brimming. At the door of my house, the dam broke.

Thankfully, in this midfifties household, my mom was there to gather me in reassuring arms and gently probe to find the splinter in my soul. She consoled while I cried until at last I was ready to talk.

“Each class is giving a play at school,” I sniffled, “and . . . and the first grade is doing Tom Thumb’s wedding!”

“That’s nice, honey. Do you have a part?”

“Yes . . . yes . . . I do.” The heaving sobs returned.

“Are you nervous, dear?”

“No, Mom, I’m old.” More tears!

“I have to be old . . . and I’m only six!”

At last, the soggy truth was told. All the parts had been given, and I got the role nobody wanted as the mother of the bride!

The only bride I knew was my mom. She had worn a pretty white dress in the picture on the wall in her bedroom. I knew and loved her mother—Mimi—my only grandmother, but I was not ready to be like her, at least not for a very long time. She made great cookies, but she was a little bit plump, wore glasses, and had gray hair! This was not the part I had imagined for my dramatic debut.

Mom’s reassuring smile melted my heart, and her gentle response could have won an Oscar. “Marcia, honey, you don’t understand. You have been given the most important part!”

“What do you mean, Mom?” I was astonished.

“You and your friends don’t realize it, but the mother of the bride has the honor of being the last person seated before the ceremony begins. She is so important that after she is seated, no guests are allowed to enter the sanctuary . . . the doors are closed. If anyone is late, they have to stay outside.”

My mouth dropped open in awe of my new role.

“Come with me,” she beckoned, and I mutely followed.

We walked into her bedroom and over to the dresser where she invited me to share the bench. This was a grown-up place, holy ground. As I marveled at the invitation, savoring the essence of face powder and Chanel No. 5, she opened her jewelry box, pulled out a tray, and retrieved the most brilliantly sparkling diamond bracelet I had ever seen. I could hardly breathe as she began to fasten it around my small wrist.

“You’ll have to be careful,” she cautioned, “because this bracelet is far too big for you and it will easily fall off your arm. But I’m going to let you borrow it for the performance. Mimi wore it when I got married. It is a mother-ofthe-bride bracelet.”

“Oh, Mom! This is so beautiful. And you would let me wear it?”

“You’re the mother of the bride, aren’t you? And mothers of the bride are very special.”

“Are the diamonds real, Mom?”

“No honey, they are rhinestones, but it is expensive costume jewelry, so you must take very good care of it.”

“Oh, I will, Mom!” I said, visibly relieved.

The night of the play, I faintly remember that I wore a long dress, and I’m sure it was very pretty, probably blue, and probably made by Mimi. They did seat me last. But the thing I remember most was walking down that aisle staring at my bracelet, watching it sparkle, feeling the weight of its significance and the honor I had been given to wear it. I decided right then that the role no one wanted was the best role of all.

Fast-forward fifty years. After a six-month engagement, my only daughter married in June. Weeks of joyous preparation culminated in a midsummer night’s dream. And for the second time in my life, I played the mother of the bride. This time there were only tears of joy. Hair color now hides the gray, Weight Watchers shaved the pounds, and contact lenses had long ago replaced spectacles. Once again my dress was long and pretty, rose instead of blue, but not made by Mimi. She and Mom were watching from heaven. I knew it the moment I snapped the clasp on my bracelet, as brilliant as ever. It finally fit, and so did the role. I still believe it is the best role of all.

Marcia M. Swearingen

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