Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Poor Little Lamb

Fifty-one years ago today, I was a bridesmaid at my uncle's wedding. I was five years old, and thrilled, nervous and somewhat baffled (what exactly was a wedding?).

The wedding took place at the imposing Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey). The first time I saw this commanding 1895 Neo-Byzantine structure, I was awed by its magnificence. Inside, the holy scent and hush filled my bones with what can only be described as reverence. I felt a communion with a mystery I didn’t understand, but nevertheless absorbed as a benediction of something sacred. No one had to tell me to be quiet as we practised for the ceremony. The desire to be so, breathed itself to me, without communication.

I was to walk down the aisle side-by-side with the bride’s young niece, Amelia, who was seven years old, and thus, in my eyes, a world of knowledge, older. We were to be attended from behind by my cousin, Christopher, a few months older than me, and at the time, my best friend. Both he and the groom were to wear traditional Scotch kilts and accessories, as a salute to our Scottish ancestry and last name.   

The afternoon of the wedding found the three of us sitting importantly in a row of velvet chairs in the lobby of a London hotel, waiting for the big, black car which was to take us to the cathedral. Dressed in a long cream silk dress with a gold sash, be-ribboned satin shoes, a wreath of yellow and white roses in my hair, a small gold silk drawstring bag looped around my wrist, I felt like a princess. My nervous excitement built.

Earlier there had been tears when Amelia realized that her brand new white silk panties with lace trim, bought especially for the occasion, had been inadvertently left at home. That crisis dealt with, a small new one occurred when Christopher was scolded for playing with his sporran, and then smacked for fiddling with the tartan kilt flashes designed to keep the socks up, which he claimed were itchy.  Now a storm threatened. I literally felt unable to move, paralytic with fear. Tears flowed down my cheeks. Threats and bribes in equal measure, nothing could cajole me.

Then, suddenly a gorgeous vision in white appeared on her knees before me; the bride, my soon-to-be, Auntie Prue. “Poor little lamb”, she said. She kissed my tear-soaked face between her hands, and then wiped them away with her very own hanky. I can still remember clearly the perfume scent rising from that fine white linen, the lace of her veil brushing against my dress, the softness of her hands and voice. The gentleness of that "poor little lamb", a term I had never heard before, stuck me and I was infinitely comforted. The awful feeling clutching my insides started to abate. Clinging to her hand, I allowed myself to be escorted outside.

Nothing more untoward happened and the wedding and reception proceeded in all its traditional pomp and circumstance. I mostly remember it as a whirl of gold and white; the church bathed in candlelight, whispery white silk, golden strains of music, starched white snowy tablecloths, fragments of crisp white royal icing melting in my mouth.

Half a century later, grace and kindness still defines my Auntie Prue.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story - and what a lovely Auntie Prue. Such acts of kindness live with us for ever.