Tulle time: building a wedding dress, and a bond

Erin Lucien is among the most fearless men I have ever met. He hasn’t climbed steep mountain faces, taken up cliff diving or vacationed in the Amazon.
Instead, the Redwood City, CA-based home remodeler fulfilled a promise he made to his daughter more than 20 years ago: to make her wedding dress.

The daughter, Danielle, marched down the aisle a month ago today, and my story about it was published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle. Here’s a link.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/09/LVMK1L3VRO.DTL

Erin Lucien is 56, and has never shied away from getting out of his comfort zone. But this one project was a giant leap for a man who had never sewn before. His daughter, a former tomboy who fished by his side when she was small, says it has strengthened their already-strong bond.

All of us in middle age can point to many times that we sacrificed for our children. We sacrificed our time, our money, our sleep, our careers when they were small. As they grow older and develop lives of their own, we can take pride in what we did for them and what they have done for themselves.

While the need for sacrifice hopefully goes away once they’re grown, so do the opportunities to strengthen the bond. We walk a line between treating them like the adults they are and wanting to delight them like we once did with homemade Halloween costumes, fanciful birthday cakes or custom-built dollhouses. To delight a grown young man or woman sometimes requires that we do some growing on our own. It means being willing to try something unfamiliar and challenging because it will give us one more cable to pull our grown kids closer.

The wedding dress took courage on Erin’s part and trust on Danielle’s part. Erin, who has rebuilt kitchens and bathrooms and invented a few whimsical household items, had to learn how to handle $100-a-yard silk. He read “Sewing for Dummies,” watched YouTube videos and visited local fabric stores to ask a lot of questions. He labored over the muslin prototype, fussed with three layers of skirt and fretted over the engineering of the straps. He wasn’t afraid to throw out things that didn’t work. The process took several months.

A number of people wondered whether Danielle was making a mistake. While she had another dress bookmarked in case something really went wrong,Danielle said she knew in her heart that her dad would come through. When she walked down the aisle last month, both she and Erin knew that they did the right thing.

Hours later, during the post-reception cleanup, one custodian complimented the bride’s dress, and Erin told him that he had made it himself. The man wordlessly and reverently extended his hand.

What Erin did for his daughter can inspire similar awe in any adult who has watched their grown children grow more independent, feeling both pride and regret. But it shows that the opportunities for truly delighting our children don’t go away as they age, if we are just willing to be fearless.

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