As the years had gone by, the age had been informally set at fifteen. It used to be that when a girl had filled out, and hit puberty, she was of age to start a family of her own. As times changed, fifteen was determined a proper age to begin the year-long process of courting. Parents would be involved in the process, approving the (mostly young) men who chose to court their daughters. More often than not, it was up to the young lady being courted who would decide whose offer she would choose. His first foray into the family would be a supper. Not a Sunday, for those were reserved for when a young lady had made her choice.
A potential suitor would be invited for a regular family meal, and perhaps, afterwards, if she still deemed his presence suitable, she and her parents would retire to the family area. Slowly, the courting dance would lead outdoors as he said his goodbyes. If his presence was acceptable, and she felt that a future would be bright with him, there was an invitation to return. Those invitations would eventually lead to a Sunday lunch and family afternoon. Eventually, there would be a ring, and an announcement to families, and finally, everyone in the village would be made aware. And then, the veil would be white, the dress would be white, and the party bigger, if possible.
Today, her dress was a beautiful shade of lilac and pink – a pale version of the colors on her cake. Standing out on the dress were the sequins that shimmered in the soft light from the windows. Her veil was short, wreathed in green ferns and a few pink faux pearls and rhinestones. The cut and ruffles on the veils created a soft cap on her hair, which would be simply curled and layered by the hairdresser. It would be removed after the ceremony, and her hair would be her veil.
When Sara’s bath was over she wrapped herself in a big towel, drying off and putting on her undergarments, until she stood in her slip. Her mother pulled the dress, a heavy, frilly concoction – and both women simply looked for a moment. Vilma saw the dress as the ultimate achievement for her little girl, knowing that at the same time the next day, that dress would be but a memory, and her plans would include a different color of dress. Blinking away tears, she helped her little girl step into the lace and frills. Together, they pulled up the dress, Sara’s hands slipping through the long elegant sleeves of lilac satin. Most of the lace was in the skirt, with a few ruffles of it in the front, accented with pale pink ribbons and rhinestones.
Next came the colorful rhinestone jewelry: earrings and necklace. Vilma brought out her compact, brushing a few quick strokes of face powder. There were few moments in the life of a mother that surpassed the poignancy of the first makeup application, the coming of age dressage. Vilma cherished the moment dearly.
Outside, Sara’s brothers followed their father in the main home to ready themselves. Pressed pants and button down shirts, a quick comb through their shining hair, one silvery head and four rich mahogany hued coifs – that was all that really needed to take place. Washed hands and faces, a folded napkin in the front pockets for the potential young ladies coming to the party, and they were ready to face the crowds.
The crowd had grown while the last minute touch ups had been taking place. The hairdresser was a funny woman who took care to make Sara look just like herself, but sleek and polished. She too had joined the throng of people who were finding seats close to the action near the orange grove. Only Josue and Vilma remained, waiting for Sara to come out of her bedroom, waiting to give her their blessings, and Vilma, the small bouquet. When she stepped out, their sun worn faces, a reflection of hard work and dedication to family and the land, became suffused with joy at the sight of their only daughter.
It was more than her dress, more than the veil, and far more than the makeup. It was the sight of their beloved, their innocent and loving, kind daughter who smiled like the little girl who had given them such joy all fifteen years of her life. It was the sight of their hopes and dreams, the signs of the future woman that she would be, wrapped up in lace and satin. She took tentative steps towards them, her gait slightly different because of her small heels. Josue and Vilma embraced her, crushing her clothes in the process, neither of the three caring – they simply stood in an embrace. All that preparation, it had been for this moment and the many small moments to come later.
Together, the parents walked their quinceañera to the side door, where Fabian waited. He was dressed impeccably, in a rented suit, with a peek of lilac handkerchief to match Sara’s dress. He was smiling and waiting patiently for his best friend, ready to walk her down to where the pastor waited to give the official blessing. He saw the way the afternoon sunlight and shadows played over her face, her dress, her veil, her jewelry. He smiled at her indulgently, his heart full of brotherly affection for her. His beautiful friend was certainly coming of age, and he would be beside her, giving his support as long as she needed him.
He held out his arm, and she slipped her hands over it, with an ease that showed years of friendship. Josue and Vilma stood behind them waiting for the church guitarist to begin. At the first strains of the guitar, Fabian and Sara began the long walk towards the pastor. The parents followed, letting her lead the way – out of her childhood and into her future as a young woman with everything life had to offer, simply waiting for her to grasp and take.
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