In the musical comedy “Funny Girl,” there is a character, Mrs. Strakosh, who is fully defined in most viewers’ minds, even though we only know one thing about her: she is the mother of Sadie, who is a “married lady.” Her daughter (played by a decidely plain young woman) has managed to nab a husband… and not just a husband, either: a dentist! This is an achievement of great magnitude: every time Sadie grins, flashing a mouthful of braces, every woman in the room sighs in approbation. Mrs. Strakosh beams with pride; she basks in her friends’ admiration and envy. She has completed her life’s work. She has married off her daughter.
Five days ago, when I watched my beautiful daughter get married, I felt just like Mrs. Strakosh. I still do.
Part of me is appalled. I am not, like Jane Austen’s archaic Mrs. Bennett, the type of mother who believes that a young woman’s personal worth and financial future are solely dependent on the match one arranges for her. I take great pride and pleasure in knowing that my daughter is a woman of the modern age.
She resisted every match I tried to make for her… quite sensibly, since I can barely spell algorithm, let alone develop one that can match her to a perfect stranger in twelve essential dimensions.
She has an education far more impressive than her father’s or mine; she is a hard-working and well-respected professional with reasonable prospects for life-long, remunerative employment. She has long been an impressively busy person, with many friends who could easily take up all of her free time; I don’t know how she manages to find the hours she needs to mentor youngsters, study her faith, and put up with her aged parents, who revel in her company.
She’s a funny lady, and a good one…always sought by others, but able to find fulfillment when she’s by herself, too. She reads, she crochets, she draws, she plays violin, and she bakes magnificently. She’s what people used to call “an accomplished person;” one of the best-rounded human beings I will ever meet.
Had my daughter never met her wonderful spouse, I know she would have been a worthy person and in many ways a happy human being. She might have given and received every kind of love; she might have even raised children!
But she wouldn’t have been “a Sadie,” and I would have always lamented the experiences she would have missed had she never been a married lady.
Now, let me tell you something else: I don’t measure my own self worth exclusively by the achievements of my children, either. I don’t know what Mrs. Strakosh did other than to raise Sadie, but I have a few extra-maternal activities on my resume. I’ve worked, I’ve made friends, I have painted and written. Thank God I can cite these credits, because I am a lousy housewife and a very unconventional mother. My cleaning skills are questionable, and I certainly don’t sew. I’ve never baked a pie for my kids. On the other hand, I found them a website from which to import guava shells in syrup, and there is no better dessert. I’ve taught them one does not need to be conventional in order to live enjoyably.
Perhaps that’s why I am so puzzled by the conventional delight in which I’m cocooned right now.
I lived to see my kid get married. I got to watch her stand at the altar, in front of a hundred members of the community, and pledge herself to an outstanding young man. I watched her add a link to a chain that goes back to the dawn of time, as they established themselves as a new household… a new family. I was there as she received the church’s blessing to love in every sense of the word, and the admonition that this love must persist no matter what life dishes out. I was there as the wedding ceremony ended, when Amanda and Ben turned around: no longer two independent people, but one unit, one family, one branch from which humanity will continue to flower.
And I knew, as Mrs. Strakosh must have, that the child once born of my womb had grown, prospered, and grasped her rightful place in society, while giving and receiving a love that I’m certain will last a lifetime.
It makes me want to sing.