This is what parents mean when we say “you’ll understand when you have kids,” and your son or daughter looks at you with that angry blank, frustrated look teenagers reserve for the stupidest people they know.

“You’ll find out. I live in constant terror for you. And you can’t understand. I’ve seen things, and you haven’t. So you don’t know what I mean.

“But you will. If you survive all the dangers of the world. If you do. I would die to make sure you do. “

After Our Daughter’s Wedding
by Ellen Bass

While the remnants of cake
and half-empty champagne glasses
lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering
in the slanting light, we left the house guests
and drove to Antonelli’s pond.
On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried.
A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light.
“Do you feel like you’ve given her away?” you asked.
But no, it was that she made it
to here, that she didn’t
drown in a well or die
of pneumonia or take the pills.
She wasn’t crushed
under the mammoth wheels of a semi
on highway 17, wasn’t found
lying in the alley
that night after rehearsal
when I got the time wrong.
It’s animal. The egg
not eaten by a weasel. Turtles
crossing the beach, exposed
in the moonlight. And we
have so few to start with.
And that long gestation—
like carrying your soul out in front of you.
All those years of feeding
and watching. The vulnerable hollow
at the back of the neck. Never knowing
what could pick them off—a seagull
swooping down for a clam.
Our most basic imperative:
for them to survive.
And there’s never been a moment
we could count on it.
“After Our Daughter’s Wedding” from Mules of Love. © 2002 by Ellen Bass.  BOA Editions Ltd. (buy now)

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