It’s just one surreal jump in life after another around our house! We are officially getting ready to welcome a new member to our family…a son-in-law! That’s right! Erin’s engaged!
How can she possibly be engaged? She’s only 3 years old, right? I realize this is so cliché, but here goes anyway…where DOES the time go? (The all caps is so you get the Southern mama emphasis in the right place.) I swear when I look in her face, my sweet cherub-faced baby looks back at me. Every single time. Now we’re talking about cakes, bridesmaids, and dresses. Sometimes I feel myself backing out of the situation and just watching myself from a distance. The whole thing is just so strange.
Before I really get into this, I guess I should be completely clear about one very important detail. Erin’s fiancé is Todd Jack Tuls. He comes from a good home with a solid family background. He has good old-fashioned Southern manners. He knows to stand when a lady enters the room. He doesn’t sit if a female in the room is standing regardless of how many empty chairs there are available. He is unfailingly polite. He is kind. He is considerate. He has a work ethic I never thought I would see again. He has goals. He has a future. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I think to sum it up best, I need to say that he is everything we have ever prayed for in the man in Erin’s life.
Not long after Erin was born, my sister Donna made some comment about praying for not only Erin but also for the man Erin would marry. I thought that was a little peculiar, but it was Donna and we get our giggles from what we think is peculiar about the other. I just couldn’t help it, though. I had to ask. Why was she praying for a person whose entrance into our lives was so far in the future? Her answer was truly profound and based on unshakeable faith: somewhere out there, somewhere we probably knew nothing about, the man Erin would marry was being raised by a family we didn’t know. Donna prayed for his parents. She prayed that he would have a strong family structure with a secure home. She prayed for his safety. She prayed for his faith. For twenty years she prayed for a man we didn’t even know. This is not the first time Donna’s prayers have intervened on our behalf.
When we found out Erin was on the way, my sister – in her infinite wisdom – began praying quite diligently for our new baby to be a girl. Not just any kind of girl, mind you. A GIRLY girl! It didn’t take long for me to realize that God must like Donna more than me. We got what she prayed for. She will sell her soul for a flirty pair of four-inch heels. She is addicted to make up and loves purses. Afterwards, I think God took some pity on us and let Erin’s more practical side develop equally with her “girly” side. She can put together an outfit out of stuff I can’t imagine going together. She accessorizes as naturally as she breathes. She is tall, slender, and blonde. She has beautiful eyes and peaches and cream complexion. She has hair other girls have envied. I say all this to preface one other thing: she is a tomboy somewhere deep down inside. She has a fierce competitive side to her and hates to lose. She gets truly intense when competing. I used to sit in the bleachers at volleyball games and marvel at the things I would hear coming out of her mouth! She pushed everyone on her team as hard as she pushed herself and could not tolerate those who were not throwing themselves on the floor going after a ball she refused to let hit the floor. She spent summers running and working out. She spent every volleyball season with huge bruises on the inside of her right knee and sore spots on her hip bones from diving for the ball. For several years my car reeked of sliding pads and athletic shoes. Getting dirty playing the sport in season never bothered her. She would just pull that curly hair up into a knot on the top of her head so it would be out of her way, and threw herself into the game. I had the red clay stains from softball fields and equipment in my old car to prove it.
So, Donna’s prayers for our child were answered and so were ours. I am just now beginning to appreciate her prayers for Erin’s future husband. I think that God started listening to Donna from her first prayer for TJ – even though we didn’t know exactly who she was praying for – and began to pick out the person Donna prayed for. The more time I spend around TJ the more thankful I am for Donna’s prayers over the years.
So here we are planning for a wedding! I am so excited for the two of them I can barely stand it. He is so good to and for her. Her supports her in pursuit of her dreams and shares his dreams with her. I knew things were serious the first time she came home and talked about what they had done together the last time she visited with him in Wisconsin. (YES! Wisconsin!) Every time she talked about him, I could see the loneliness in her eyes. She missed him as if there were a part of herself missing. Every time she left him in Wisconsin or put him on a plane back home, she lost a bit more of her heart to him. Now her heart is more his than hers. Thank you, God, for TJ. Thank you for the home he was raised in and the values his parents passed on to him. Because of these things, once she moves to Wisconsin to be with him, I’ll know that someone who treasures her will be watching over her for us. He takes care of her and treats her as if she is some precious thing. For that I will always be thankful.
The wedding won’t be until April 2013. While that looks a very long time away on the calendar, I know just how quickly that time will pass. My job as Mother of the Bride is to make this time in her life something wonderful to look back on fondly. My job is to listen to what she wants and help her do that. She has already picked a venue in Birmingham. That isn’t exactly right out the back door, but I don’t care. She saw the place and fell in love with it. That’s enough for me. Her Daddy didn’t bat an eye. He told me to call her and tell her to book it. We knew it was coming and Erin and TJ didn’t want to leave picking out a place to the last minute. They were afraid what they wanted wouldn’t be available so we jumped the gun a little on wedding planning and got an early start.
TJ proposed to Erin on her twentieth birthday. He met her at the airport in Milwaukee then turned her around and put her on a plane for California. He took her to Huntington Beach as a surprise for her birthday and proposed the next morning on the beach. There were flowers and tears involved in there somewhere and evidently it was history’s most perfect proposal. I know he put a great deal of thought into the planning so I’m glad it worked out the way he wanted. I know it is a memory that will be special for Erin for the rest of her life. John and I knew it was coming because TJ had called earlier in the week to ask John for permission to propose. Even though John was expecting the call, he told me later he got a little emotional in the course of the conversation with TJ.
Now the peal of wedding bells sounds in my head all the time. Erin is picking bridesmaids and making plans. She is very creative and has a vision in her head of what she wants it to be like. I will do everything I can to make that day exactly what she has in mind. My job is to be in the background that day, making sure everything that happens has no other purpose than to make the both of them happy. This will be my last real, official “mama” job. I feel a weight on my shoulders to do this right. On the day she marries TJ, I don’t want her thinking about anything but seeing him waiting for her at the end of the aisle. I still remember seeing John’s face as the doors of the church opened on our wedding day. I was looking specifically for him and he was the only one that mattered. Everything and everyone else faded into the background. That’s what I want for Erin and TJ…the joy of looking into each others’ eyes on the day they are married and knowing….this is the person God meant for me. This person is my life.
Congratulations, Erin and TJ. I love you both.