The Wedding Hankie, Part IIPosted: May 2, 2009
It started the day before Thanksgiving, 2008, when they had the ultrasound. I’d asked to be a part of it by phone. I won’t say anything, just set the phone on the table and let me listen, I begged. Baby A was a girl. It was quiet as the technician moved the wand toward Baby B. Then, an eruption of laughter. There it is! The wand had landed on the determining factor. Baby B was a boy.
“He’ll have to wear your old wedding-hankie bonnet home from the hospital!” I said before we hung up. My words drifted into thin air and stone walls.
I once wrote a story about that old wedding-hankie bonnet. It was published in Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul II in 2003, and in my own book of personal essays, Pink Butterbeans: Stories from the heart of a Southern woman in 2005.
I’m just a lacy hankie
As pretty as can be.
But with some tiny stitches
A bonnet I will be.
I’ll be worn home from the hospital
Or on the Christening Day,
After which I’ll be neatly folded
And carefully packed away.
Crinkly, aging tissue paper cradles the tiny white bonnet. Delicate batiste trimmed in scalloped lace and satin ribbons to tie under a new baby’s chin, it came as a gift to my firstborn son, along with a poem clumsily pecked out on an old typewriter. He wore the bonnet home from the hospital. Then the treasured keepsake was neatly folded and carefully packed away. . . .
On her wedding day we’re told,
Each bride must wear something old.
So what would be more fitting than unpacking li’l old me?
A few stitches snipped and a wedding hankie I’ll be.
And if perchance it is a boy,
Someday he’ll surely wed,
And to his bride he can present
The hankie once worn on his head.
But what did he do? Eloped! Yes. He and Nicole eloped. I sort of guessed, but they waited two weeks before they told me because she was trying to get up enough nerve to tell her mother and father first.
. . . “You are marr-i-i-i-i-ied?”
“Yes, we’re married.”
“But, but . . . you didn’t have your wedding hankie!” I stumbled over the words.
“Your wedding hankie. It was a gift when you were born.”
“I didn’t know I had one.”
“Yes, you have one. Your bride was supposed to carry it down the aisle.”
“We didn’t have an aisle.”
“Well, she could have held it while repeating her vows. It’s the bonnet you wore on your head when you came home from the hospital. We were supposed to present it to your bride.”
“I didn’t know.”
“She was supposed to remove some stitches and make it into a handkerchief to carry during the ceremony. It has a poem and everything.”
“Our ceremony was pretty without it. We had candles and wrote our own vows.”
“And then some day, your bride is supposed to add back a few stitches and make it into a bonnet again for your baby to wear home from the hospital. It’s an heirloom!” I shrieked.
Ohhhh? I’ve waited twenty-five years for this special moment — never to be.
The bonnet remains a bonnet. Its white satin ribbons hang loose, untied. . . .
“I can’t be-lieve you got married without your wedding hankie,” I sputtered under my breath. “Well, we’ll just save it for your first child to wear home from the hospital.”
My head whirling, I started folding up my frenzied sentiments, packing up my foiled schemes, and setting my sights down the road a bit. By golly, when the first grandchild is born, I’ll personally deliver that bonnet to the hospital, place it on the newborn’s head, and loop the loose ribbons into a neat bow. And this new child will surely make it to the altar with the hankie once worn on his father’s head.
By golly, my moment came April 18, 2009, when Winston Hardy, ten days old, was set to come home from the hospital.
His twin, Jillian Dawson, had come home two days earlier.
“Now, you’ll have to follow us in your car,” my son said. “We’ve got two baby seats in the back and don’t have room for you.”
I collected two cameras, my purse and keys, my Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul II book, and scurried to my Outback, breathing hard. My son drives fast, and I wanted to stay right behind him. I wanted to take a picture of them driving to the hospital to get this special bundle of little boy. “Nicole, do you have the wedding-hankie bonnet?” I yelled before I closed the car door.
“Yes, I’ve got everything.”
At the hospital’s NICU unit, my son and I went through the customary three-minute scrub, keeping an eye on Nicole over our right shoulders. She couldn’t wait. She rubbed in some hand sanitizer and went straight for the baby.
The place was abuzz with nurses and a doctor, having to say good-bye to little Hardy, now four pounds eight ounces, a favorite of the staff. Those who could gathered around to watch Nicole dress him. The place was full of comments, stories, laughter, oohs and ahs.
Nicole put the soft white fancy sleeper monogrammed with the initials WHB in blue on the baby.
Then came the moment.
She — the mama, the bride who didn’t get the opportunity to be presented formally with the wedding hankie or to carry it during her wedding ceremony — with her own delicate hands, placed the tiny white batiste bonnet on Hardy’s little head, looped the satin ribbons into a neat bow, and stepped back admiringly.
“There he is.” She smiled. A precious boy, wearing his Poppy’s pen name, his great-grandfather’s surname, my maiden name, and the bonnet worn by his father 35 years ago.
The moment was rich in emotion. It was hard to hold the tears back, but I had to work quickly. I placed the Chocolate book in his isolette, focused, and snapped a few pictures, while trying to explain the significance of the unfolding scene to the staff circling us.
This new child wore home the hankie once worn on his father’s head.