There’s a photo from my wedding in a Davis backyard that brings a smile to the face of anyone who sees it.
It was taken before the ceremony, as my future husband stood in the shadow of the house with his best man. The expression on Bob’s face, just before he takes his first step towards the wedding arbor, inspires the smiles.
He looks scared. Not adult scared, but child scared, like a little boy standing on the diving board knowing he has to jump next. He’s trying to be brave. It’s too late to back out and he knows it. But the whole experience is more complicated than he anticipated and more scary. His hand, held slightly away from his body, looks rigid, his face intensely serious.
None of the wedding photographs capture the same terror on my face, but it was there. A tough moment took place two days before the wedding when my mother sat me down and voiced the opinion that my future husband “seemed too young.” He is, in fact, three years younger than I am, but my mother was trying to say that he wasn’t mature enough.
She rarely made such pronouncements. This one shook my confidence.
Confidence is an issue at the time of all big changes.
The baby eagles I’ve been watching on line in Decorah, Iowa, do not seem to lack confidence, although perhaps they should. They stand up now on their large yellow feet and peer over the side of the nest. They’re half as tall as Mom and their feet look almost as big as hers, as do their beaks. I bet they’ll be flying soon.
On the web site, a long-time observer remarks that Mom never pushes her eaglets off the nest. “Eaglets are like kids,” he writes, “they fledge and they fly when they want to.”
The babies seem to be gathering courage. One time, with Mom watching, the largest eaglet stood up, stretched his wings wide and grabbed a twig as close to the edge of the nest as possible. He teetered for a moment before settling back in.
I read an informational site on eaglets and learned, with sadness, that some do not survive their first flight.
Survival in the air is tenuous, but so is survival in water. Two weeks ago I participated in something called a fish plant. My husband’s fly fishing club buys trout from a fish farm and gathers to move them into the river in a ritual laden with tradition, like a wedding.
A fish wrangler in rubber pants and gloves passes nets of wriggling fish down a line of volunteers to the water where the last person upends the net, freeing the fish.
I don’t think fish have enough intelligence to be confident — or not — but I notice that although most swim immediately, some falter.
Two experienced fishermen in waders stand in the river watching for fish that are having trouble. They reposition them. They massage them. At times it looks as if they are caressing them. Most of the transplants right themselves and swim off, but a small percentage don’t make it.
Later, when the fly fishermen catch these trout, they will release them back into the river. Nevertheless, danger lurks. Some fish will fall prey to the osprey I saw hanging around, or to an occasional bald eagle.
My son, 29, is getting married next month.
He is marrying a lovely young woman — responsible, gentle and creative. Their home already sparkles with decorations she made herself, like the sand she collects from vacations and displays in pretty wall boxes. She and my son are happy together, well-matched.
Although everything seems set for the wedding, I’m like the mother eagle and the fishermen in waders, watching closely, hoping everything will go right.
Will the guests like Minneapolis? Will they find enough to do? How will I spend time with all the friends and relatives who will have traveled long distances to come to an event only a few hours long? I pray they will think it is worth it.
I don’t want a single wedding guest to be disappointed, but what are the chances of that? I don’t want my son to have hard times in his marriage, but what are the chances of that?
Weddings remind me of the dilemmas and realities of life more than I realized, which may explain my temporary obsession with the life cycles of eagles and fish.
Some marriages will not survive no matter how much confidence the couple brings to their wedding vows. Others will. Thirty-five years after my wedding, I know that the look of panic in my husband’s eyes did not last. The marriage did.
Most eagles will fly. Most fish will swim. We of the older generation, we stand close.
— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org