A Wedding Dress


Shimmering fabric, delicate stitching, sparkling sequins, and warm, tiny seed pearls.

All of it swathed in yellowing plastic and stuffed in a dilapidated box, a veteran of four moves in two years.

Not my wedding dress, but my predecessor’s.

When one marries for the second time, particularly when one marries a widow(er), one encounters the unexpected fairly often in the name of Love.

There are surprises and complications one cannot predict, the second time around. Here are a few, certainly not all, things I learned:

  1.  One always compares favorably to a Crazy Ex.
  2. Apparently, all “ex”es are certifiably crazy. Be sure the one you’re dating isn’t it.
  3. The second time around, instead of or maybe as well as worrying if your parents or siblings will like your Newly Beloved, now you also get to worry if the respective children will like you.
  4. If the Newly Beloved is a widow(er) never, ever compare oneself to Late Spouse. See: Kobayashi Maru

I got lesson #4 about three seconds after Paul proposed. It was the first time I attended, with Paul, the annual Christmas party thrown by his adult daughter. Warmly introduced to the slightly tipsy best friend of Adult Daughter as Paul’s fiance, I shook her hand, sat down and watched, paralyzed, as she poured out a long line of Patron shooters, raised her glass and gave a long, emotional, tear-spattered toast to the late Jackie, “the heart and soul of these parties”, to cheers and tears all around.

So there is that.  (Refers self to #4, above, for 86,507th time.)

There is also a beautiful little girl with her grandmother’s name. It is up to her grandfather, father, uncles, and aunt to fill in the details of who the first Jackie was, but I can ensure this sweet artifact of her survives. One day, a young woman can hold and maybe wear something her grandmother chose for the most significant day of her life.

I want to think that if it were me, someone would do this for my daughter or granddaughter. Is that a weirdly old-fashioned notion? Maybe it speaks to my own rootless history, but I set about rescuing the dress.

The local cleaners hand-washed it, twice, to remove several stains along the skirt; it appears all of Jackie’s wedding guests baptized her at some point.

According to the Interwebnets, the best way of preserving it for a future generation is to gently, without creasing, fold it in unbuffered, acid-free tissue, wadding up sheets to fill out the sleeves and delicately embroidered bodice sewn with sequins and tiny seed pearls. Tucking in sachets of lavender discourages insects. Finally, it is wrapped it in yards of unbleached muslin and placed gently into an archival box specially made to keep fabrics safe from Father Time (or Father Dust & Bugs, anyway).

bridal collage

Tucked into an envelope will be a couple photos from Paul & Jackie’s wedding. Whether she wears the dress or not, our little Jackie can see her grandmother as she was on her wedding day: young, radiant, and just a little bit pregnant with Jackie’s father. In a sense, they are all there in the eyes of a radiant bride.

Bridal Jackie 1988


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