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An old mill weaves two people into one loving family

June 30, 2008

Last Sunday my oldest son got married. Our task as parents is officially done. As I said in my toast to the bride and groom, we did the best job we knew how.

Sometimes we failed, but if you look at what we did as a menu of cafeteria items, there were more nutritious treats than inedible offerings.

The most important job in those first years is to make sure that children don't hurt themselves, by eating poison, falling down the stairs or being left unsupervised while some pervert is trolling for victims.

We read to our children early on and I drew cartoons of objects to teach them their letters.

We took them to Sunday School, Scouts, youth soccer and Little League, where some of the longest days of my life were spent on the hardwood bleachers, waiting for the third out.

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One of the best things I ever told my son was about "the list."

He had been getting into trouble for making what he thought were amusing comments while the teacher talked.

Keep it up, I said, and you'll be on the list. The list might not be written down, but every school, - and, for that matter, every organization - has one.

If you're on the list, the powers that be come looking for you when something goes wrong.

Better to make friends with your teachers, I said, so that they'll do the things they don't have to do, such as providing references and writing letters of recommendation.

Later on there were girlfriends and cars, both dangerous in their own way.

If a parent's job sounds like drudgery, it can be, but there are joyful moments, too: The first scream from a healthy set of lungs, the first haircut, seeing them get that first job and watching them graduate from high school and college. Seeing them land that first real-world job isn't half-bad either.

Nor is watching your son marry a beautiful, funny and educated woman. The ceremony was held at the historic Savage Mill in Savage, Md.

According to its Web site, in 1820, a man named John Savage lent four brothers $20,000 to build a textile mill along the Little Patuxent River.

Driven by a 30-foot water wheel, the mill functioned until 1947, when the falling demand for woven cotton - for tents and boat sails - effectively shut the mill.

Now, after a $12 million-plus renovation, it's become a key tourist attraction in Howard County.

The ceremony was held on a deck overlooking the forest and the river. My son's bride was positively giddy, and looked as if she might start to dance at any moment.

Some mental pictures I have include:

My son sitting quietly in his hotel room beforehand, hoping that everything that had been planned would happen with no problems.

Running around the old mill looking for the photographers, who were an hour late because the bridesmaids were late in getting their hair done.

The relief everyone felt when my son's best friend from college arrived - and on time - and delivered a truly great toast.

The mother and father of the bride each giving toasts, with her mom saying that they knew before her daughter did that this was the man she was going to marry.

The four bridesmaids sitting together at the table watching the newlyweds' first dance, as enraptured as if the happy couple were Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

My youngest son, looking very handsome in his tuxedo and vest, attending to the details he was responsible for as if he were carrying the key to the nuclear suitcase. His shoutout at the end of his toast was more in character.

My boys have always been close. When we brought my youngest home from the hospital, the eldest couldn't wait to hold him. I can remember the times they fought clearly, because it happened so seldom.

The relatives and friends looking on as a series of laptop computers showed pictures, from infancy to adulthood, of the bride and groom.

The grandmothers remembering days gone by, when the two adults standing before them were just toddlers. It struck me then that being grown up means no longer being embarrassed about the stupid things that you did before you knew any better.

Dancing for the first time in years and realizing that I really am out of shape.

We left the mill after tossing handfuls of birdseed at my son and his bride. We were quiet on the drive home, thinking about what we had seen and what had happened.

We wish these two the best, but wishes probably won't have as much to do with it as their own abilities, resourcefulness and their love for each other.

Bob Maginnis is editor of the Opinion Page.

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