Previously: Jallon Brown finally finds a permanent home for KIPP Harbor Academy, the public charter middle school she is opening in Annapolis. But can she get the building permits she needs before the start of the school year? To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Jallon brown stands under the blazing summer sun in a pearl white dress, arm-in-arm with her father, who has just arrived from North Carolina to watch his youngest daughter get married.
William Brown, a retired FBI agent, has tears in his eyes as he summons memories of his 31-year-old daughter: her fifth-grade science project about volcanoes, her softball practices, her forlorn calls from cheerleading camp. He and Jallon talk about once a week, William says, and Malachi, Jallon's 8-month-old son, spent this past week with him in North Carolina.
Jallon looks up at her dad. "Ready?" she asks.
"Ready," says her father. They begin walking in lock step along the stone pathway behind the Frederick mansion that's been rented for the wedding. At the end of the path, standing under a veranda, waits her husband-to-be, Phil Croskey.
The actual ceremony, with about 140 guests, will take place in 24 hours. Right now, Jallon and Phil are rehearsing with their closest friends and family. A pair of wedding planners is issuing careful instructions and asking pointed questions: "Should the ring bearer walk alone or with a flower girl?" Alone, Jallon declares.
Jallon says that she's thrilled about marrying Phil, who's also 31 and works for a community development agency in Baltimore. "I like the idea of entering a lifelong commitment," she says. But the run-up to the wedding has reminded her of a void in her life. Jallon's mother, Goldie Brown, died of breast cancer nine years ago, shortly after Jallon graduated from the College of William and Mary. Her mother didn't get to see her become the principal of KIPP Harbor Academy, a public charter middle school in Annapolis. She didn't get to see her fall in love with Phil and show off her engagement ring. She didn't get to see Jallon become a mother. Now she won't get to see Jallon marry.
"All the planning has made me think about what role she would have played in my wedding," Jallon says. "She would have been right here helping me."
They were so much alike, Jallon's father says. Both teachers. Both reserved in social situations. Both blessed with steely determination. "When Jallon says she's going to do something, you're not going to change her mind," William says.
"She even walks like her mamma," he says.
Now Jallon and her father arrive at the veranda, where William shakes hands with Phil and takes a seat nearby. Jallon and Phil grasp hands, and a wedding planner passes out paper towels to the groomsmen and bridesmaids, who dab their sweating foreheads. Jallon's hope for a cool wedding day is melting away, but she and the rest of the wedding party can't retreat to the air-conditioned mansion until she and Phil have rehearsed their vows.
Jallon and Phil don't say their vows -- that's reserved for the ceremony itself -- but they practice all the motions, finally turning to face their guests. As they walk from the veranda, their friends and family break into applause.
-- Tyler Currie