By Duane Wood
When I proposed to Tammie, my soon-to-be step-daughter, Izzi, had just turned six. Initially, when Izzi was being aloof, or always sitting between us, or demanding constant attention, I assumed this was simply a six-year-old child dealing with the unknown. No doubt this contributed but the real issue was jealousy. I’ve learned two important things since then; it doesn’t really matter how old the woman is to provoke a jealous reaction, and surprisingly enough, trying to reason with a six-year-old doesn’t really work.
As the wedding day drew closer, Izzi’s excitement about the ceremony increased. Every night she made us rehearse what we were going to say – except for kissing the bride. Watching her flip between excitement and jealousy was interesting.
It was important to us that we include Izzi in the ceremony in some special way. An obvious choice was being a flower girl. She liked this idea and wanted everyone to be very clear that she was the “head” flower girl. This seemed to give her a sense of being in control. But what she really needed was something permanent, lasting and symbolic. I wanted her to realize that my commitment was to both her and her mother. I decided to give Izzi a wedding ring too.
I shared this idea with the minister, and he felt it was a fine idea, and suggested I write some vows. When I asked Tammie if she wanted to read the vows before the wedding, she said, “No, I want to wait and hear what you say when everyone else hears it. I trust you.”
Awesome. Trust is the foundation to a great marriage. But I quickly realized that if I screwed this up, time would stop, the sky would fall, and western civilization would end as we know it. Or worse, for a brief moment, all the attention was going to be on the groom – a fate worse than death.
The ring was a simple gold band with a small heart made of opal; something similar to a promise ring. Since Izzi made us practice getting married all the time, we used one of the rings we practiced with to find her size.
To keep this moment spontaneous and meaningful, neither Tammie nor I told anyone about the ring. I left my best man in the dark until ten minutes before the ceremony. When I explained to him what was going to happen, the look on his face was somewhere between, “Well, this is rather unorthodox,” and “Huh?” That didn’t help my performance anxiety.
Immediately after I placed the ring on Tammie’s finger the Minister was to pronounce that the union just witnessed was more than a union between two people. It was a union of three. Releasing the hands of my new bride, I stepped down from the altar and asked for the head flower girl’s hand. While on one knee, I said the following:
Isabella Marie Mayes, I, Duane Andrew Wood, give you THIS ring as a token of my promise, and I’ll even PINKY SWEAR, that I will, in the best way I know how, be a good step-father to you, and a loving husband to your mommy.
When Izzi realized what was happening her face lit-up – and my heart melted. With a huge smile, missing teeth and all, she gave me a huge hug and kissed me on the cheek. Of course, I melted inside. She completely understood what just happened. A memory was created, and two souls bonded.
To my surprise, there was not a dry eye in the house. The entire wedding party cried, and my new father-in-law gave me grief because I made him cry. As touching as this was, the most important thing to me was that Izzi understood she was just as important to me as her mother.
I would love to believe that this one special day gave her the sense of confidence and security she needed to become the strong, independent and capable woman she is today. By the time Izzi reached junior high the ring was no longer “cool” and was eventually misplaced and lost. But as she matured, and our relationship grew stronger, we didn’t need a ring to bring us together. It was the memory of a simple gesture that said her stepfather loves her dearly.
About this writer
- Duane Wood’s day job is as an IT professional. Yawn. His real passions are officiating NCAA and high school football games and writing. He lives near Monterey, California, with his wife and three children.
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