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My son no longer needs me as he once did. And that’s how it should be. | Holly Christensen

In World
May 26, 2024

For a decade after high school, I regularly attended bridal showers, rehearsal dinners and weddings. The first few felt like theater performances in which my friends and I play-acted adult roles wearing bridesmaids dresses of mauve or sea foam green — colors that screamed, “It’s the ’80s!”

The season of weddings was followed by the arrival of babies and a new wave of showers. Those showers were often full of silly games and presents, but not much useful preparation for the radical life changes a first baby delivers.

Eventually, the wedding and baby cycle all but ceased. That is until a few years ago when envelopes with fancy calligraphy began dropping into my post box once again. Nowadays, like a flower girl preceding a bride down the aisle, save-the-date cards with engagement photos arrive several weeks before a wedding invitation. Most are from people whose diapers I once changed — nieces, nephews, offspring of the aforementioned friends.

One friend shared with me that when his son recently became a husband, he was struck, a little shocked even, by the realization that his boy is undeniably now a man. Three of my four sons left Akron for college, traveled the world and eventually moved away — what’s more adult than that? Little did I know.

My second son, Hugo, was the hardest child to raise in no small measure because he’s the most like me. And yet we were always close. “You’ll cry the hardest at my funeral,” I sometimes told him when he was mad at me. At age 19, Hugo saw a photo of 18-year-old me and it hit him that I was always more than just his mom. He’s called me multiple times a week ever since.

Hugo went to Rochester, New York, in 2015 to study opera vocal performance and European history. Three years later, he spent a summer studying in Graz, Austria, where he met Claudia, who is also an opera vocalist. Their now six-year relationship has followed the contours of a Hallmark Channel movie.

For two years, while finishing college, they had a long-distance relationship. But then, in 2020, the pandemic brought them to Akron to shelter in place. That summer, when everyone was feeling cooped up, they packed Claudia’s car with camping gear (and their puppy) and drove to the Pacific Ocean and back.

Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2022, Hugo and I went to Sam’s Emporium on East Exchange Street and he bought Claudia an engagement ring. A few days after Christmas, he proposed to her at a romantic cabin in upstate Wisconsin.

Since then, they’ve lived in wedding world. Four months after Hugo proposed, there was an engagement brunch in Madison, Wisconsin, where they moved nearly three years ago for management jobs with performing arts organizations. They looked at locations for an outdoor wedding near Madison for several months before deciding to “elope.”

My idea of elopement is a couple who tells their families, “Hey, while we were gone last week, we stopped at a justice of the peace and tied the knot.” Hugo and Claudia’s idea of elopement is inviting their immediate family members to join them next month at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming (their favorite stop on their 2020 road trip) for a service officiated by a friend.

I flew to Madison this past March for Claudia’s bridal shower in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois, an hour’s drive from Madison. For much of the four days I was there, Claudia was in Rockford with close friends who’d flown in for both the shower and a bachelorette party.

Meanwhile, Hugo and I walked his dogs at several expansive dog parks across Dane County, many located on reclaimed landfills (Hey, Summit County, not a bad idea, that!), cooked, gave ourselves facials and watched movies. One afternoon Hugo took me to Indochino, a men’s custom suit shop, to see the fabrics and style of suit he’d ordered for the wedding.

On the day of the bridal shower, Hugo dropped me off at a restaurant in which a lodge-like room was packed women and plenty of presents. He left to join Claudia’s father at a shooting range. Claudia was still opening gifts when Hugo returned two hours later and he took a seat beside her.

I’m not sure what happened next. But both my eyes began leaking while I silently watched the young, but very adult, couple. Not a steady drip, drip, but rivulets coursed down my cheeks and onto my silk blouse. In the photos taken before we left the restaurant, my face looks like I’d stuck my head into a hornets’ nest.

The poignant feeling as the first of my children commits to spending his life with the woman he loves is hard to describe because it’s like no other emotion. Happiness mixed with the tender, yet weirdly surprising realization that my son truly has become a grown man who no longer needs me like he once did. And that is as it should be.

Contact Holly Christensen at whoopsiepiggle@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Wedding season emotional when child is groom Holly Christensen

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