Occasionally, my younger daughter can convince my older daughter to play with her menagerie of stuffed animals. Part of the bargain is that there has to be a wedding. For hours, the girls work feverishly on the ceremony. (You can’t just throw these things together, you know.) Once the hallway has been decorated, minor creative differences sorted out, and the proceedings rehearsed to their satisfaction, I am called to take my seat among the other stuffed animals in attendance.
When the wedding march begins, the bride is pulled down the aisle by a string tied around her middle. Last month, it was Rosie the Raven’s turn to marry Vinnie the Vulture. Rosie looked ravishing in her makeshift veil, but Vinnie, wearing a tie, was still a little rough around the edges.
The preacher, a bear named Grandparent, presided. My oldest daughter, hidden behind the corner, cleared her throat. “We are gathered here today . . . ” she began. The service proceeded swiftly from there, and a couple of sentences later, it was the moment of truth.
“Do you, Rosie, take Vinnie to be your lawful husband?” After a firm yank from the string, she did.
“Vinnie, do you take Rosie to be your lawful wife?” A hand reached forward and nodded Vinnie’s head for him.
Then, the preacher broke from marital protocol and asked, “Rosie, are you sure you want to do this?” While Rosie contemplated her answer, the preacher gave Vinnie a second chance, “Are you sure about this, Vinnie?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at this odd little hiccup in the middle of the service, this chance my daughter was giving each half of the couple to rethink the situation and invest in a little more heart insurance before tying the knot. But it also made me ache, because I know that my daughters will have to learn–one painful experience at a time–that there are few guarantees when it comes to love. You can never really be sure.
Which means that there will be spectacular failures of the heart–the kitten who got sick and died, the classmate in college who is most definitely “the one” but will never think of you as anything more than a friend, the coworker who stabbed you in the back, or a spouse that becomes a stranger while lying right beside you in bed. Worst of all, there will be those really low days when you can’t find a reason to love yourself.
Still, despite our dismal track record, we humans bravely keep reopening our hearts to love. We get a puppy to replace a beloved canine who died of old age, piece together a rejected heart and ask someone else to the prom, and forgive even when the hurt has left a disfiguring scar. To heal from broken love, we need to apply love, even though this will leave us vulnerable to another love blow.
Yet again and again we take a leap of faith over “Are you sure?” and say a metaphorical “I do.” Why? Because despite the fact that there are no guarantees, the only sure thing about love is love itself. Love is the gravity that holds us in place. Love is the invisible glue between our atoms. Deep down, every human being knowns that love is the very best thing we’ve got going for us.
That is what I want to tell my daughter as I wipe a tear from my eye and watch the newlyweds slowly depart down the aisle. Explain to them that there is always the possibility of heartbreak–a love that is unreciprocated, an apology that isn’t accepted, or a relationship that falls apart–but still, they will survive. If they fly through the air with an open heart, they will be okay no matter where they land, because love is at the center of everything. And that is the guarantee we have in the unsure ceremony of love.