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Love and Marriage

It took the wedding fantasies of a four-year-old to help me remember my Laura Broadwell

Several months ago, my daughter Eleni, who was then four, came bounding home from preschool, breathlessly announcing that she’d chosen a husband. The groom-to-be was a classmate named Adam, who was sweet, handsome, considerate, and as enamored of Eleni as she was of him. And though Eleni hadn’t set a wedding date—or even apprised the little boy of her plans—she loved to go around the house saying, “Mommy, I’m going to marry Adam. Really, I am.”

The first few times I heard her profess her love, I was amused and somewhat befuddled. Where on earth had she learned so much about “marriage,” and why was she suddenly fixated on the idea? So after several days of listening to the distant peal of wedding bells, I finally asked, “Eleni, do you know what it means to get married?” “Sure, Mom,” she replied without hesitation. “It means you fall in love—and you really, really love someone.” Then pausing for a moment, she added, “You know, Grandpa married Grandma, Ariel in The Little Mermaid married Prince Eric, and I’m going to marry Adam.”

As it turns out, the girls in Eleni’s preschool class had been giggling and whispering about boys and marriage for weeks, which was why Eleni had become preoccupied with the idea. And after Eleni told me of her intentions toward Adam (and let the “wedding cat” out of the bag, so to speak), she came home daily with the latest bridal news. On Monday, I learned that Sophia and Diane wanted to marry Charlie; on Tuesday, that Jordan and Mary had their eyes set on Mark; and so forth. By the end of the week, Eleni had brought me up to speed on the affairs of all her pals, so she asked the inevitable: “Mommy, who are you going to marry?”

Eleni and I were rushing out the door when she dropped this bombshell on my head. So as I tried to collect my thoughts and give her an honest, appropriate answer (something better than “Your guess is as good as mine!” or “I hope someone, someday!”), I sort of rambled. I said, “Oh, honey. Not all mommies get married,” pointing out all the other single moms we know—and hoped that she wouldn’t feel as though her mother was the only oddball on the block. And I made a few attempts at humor, suggesting that maybe I could marry Clifford the Big Red Dog or even Eleni, because I loved her so much.

But Eleni knew an evasion when she heard it. After an exasperated little sigh, she said, “No, Mommy. You can’t marry Clifford; he’s a dog. And you can’t marry me; I’m your daughter. You have to marry a man—like Grandpa.”

Since she seemed suddenly intent on schooling me in the rules of marriage, I decided to press my luck—and the issue—a bit further. I asked her why she thought it was important for her dear, sweet mom to get married; and while she turned it over in her mind, I remembered when I had struggled with the question myself. I recalled how, through much of my twenties and thirties, I longed for a loving companion and children—and how, at age 41, I decided to adopt Eleni on my own when I still hadn’t found the right partner.

Finally, Eleni looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I think you should get married so you can wear a long, pretty dress and a princess crown, and so that people can throw flowers at you. I think that would be really fun.” As I pictured myself—a blushing, middle-aged bride- twirling around like Ariel, Snow White, or Cinderella, I had to agree. It would be fun. But even more so, if my little girl—the love of my life—were spinning around beside me.

Laura Broadwell is a writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York. She adopted her daughter in August 1999.

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