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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Wedding Dress

Last night I opened a box. Taped, tied with string and lovingly put away, it lived in an attic for 68 years. On the lower right corner, “HIGBEE’S” was stamped. In the center of the lid, a date: “August 8, 1942.” Above it, big letters scrawled in pen announced “Betty’s Wedding Dress.”

I slowly untied the yellowed string and picked away the now brittle masking tape. The box began to fall apart, its long vigil ended. The lid came off in pieces, revealing tissue paper. I lifted a paper-cocooned bundle and slowly, reverently, peeled the layers away. For the first time in over half a century, the dress gave pleasure to admiring eyes.

Now aged to the color of cream, I could still appreciate its beauty. A cap-sleeved lace bodice flowed into a floor length skirt of chiffon under which a crystal satin underskirt shimmered in golden lamplight. A band of lace near the waist of the A-line skirt echoed the bodice. I turned the dress around. The Sabrina or Boat neckline dipped demurely into a V-shaped bottom edge. Running from the V was a series of lace-covered buttons. The dress was stunningly simple and magnificently elegant.

How like my mother-in-law this dress is, I thought to myself. Mom was never ostentatious and her simple way of dressing gave her a panache that few women achieve.

I held her dress carefully to me. In my mind’s eye, I saw her rush to the door of her mother’s house. I heard her cry of excitement as she accepted a brown, rectangular box, her giggle as she signed her name, Betty Harr, realizing that it was probably the last time she would sign her name so.

I could see her dressing for her wedding, twirling in front of her childhood mirror – the last time she would gaze into it as an unmarried woman.

I could almost hear the peal of an ancient organ as it rung out Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. I could see her smile as she placed the wedding ring upon the finger of her groom, feel her excitement as they left the church and began their lives as husband and wife.

Later, she would take her lovely gown and wrap it in tissue paper, smiling as she remembered her wedding, happy with the new life she was beginning with her husband.

The box would lie safely in an attic until, 68-years later, a devoted daughter-in-law would once again appreciate the beauty of the keepsake protected within its crumbling nest.

I carefully rewrapped the gown, pondering on the promise it held, thinking of the bride who wore it. Young and vibrant, her entire life before her, she could but imagine the happiness she would find with her groom which would last for over 50 years. She would bear three sons, each successful in their chosen careers, happily married to loving women who give them daughters and sons to fill their hearts with joy and pride – happy lives, good productive lives. She could only envision the six grandchildren she would know and the great-grandchildren who awaited her in the future. She could but imagine the birthdays and christenings, the Thanksgivings and Christmases…the Mother’s Day celebrations. Mom would have a rich life, a good life, a useful life and at her passing, would be mourned completely, lovingly, leaving precious memories of her sojourn upon this earth.

I replaced the crumbled lid of the box, covering the gown until I could find a better receptacle for its priceless treasure. Perhaps, someday, my future daughter would wear this beautiful gown – this stunningly simply, magnificently elegant wedding dress of love fulfilled.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Christopher's Final Surgery

Chris sailed through his fifth and final surgery this last Monday. The first night was rough but he stuck it out with calm and bravado.

They opened his nose completely, broke it, aligned the septum after removing part of it, used the excess to replace missing cartilage, lined up his septum, which was slung to the left, centered his nose with his cupid's bow and sewed it into place.

The staff in Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio was beyond fantastic in their care of my 18-year-old boy. In fact, each and every one asked for information to come and see him play at a local restaurant near where we live.

Today he took a walk around our lake, made himself a tasty lunch and is now watching the Toy Story special on ABC Family Channel. He is out of pain, his nose looks beautiful and he is anticipating returning to the restaurant where he plays backup for a talented singer/song writer and beginning his job with an upscale Japanese restaurant where he will be personally trained by the owner. Life is good.

It's funny how Children's Hospital has been a part of a major portion of my life. At two months and then at four, I was admitted with a fractured skull, age four years found me again admitted with fourth degree burns and age nine for neurological study. Age 15 found me practically living there with my friend, Patsy, one of the few female hemophiliacs at that time and age 16 saw me visiting her the final time a few days before she died.

That last evening, as I was leaving the hospital, a sound made me glance to my left. In a small room sat a nurse feeding a baby. What caught my eye was the fact that the baby was sitting upright. I looked again. The infant, hungrily eating, had a hole where his or her mouth should have been. I remember saying a quick prayer and thinking I hope that baby has a mother who loves it. Now I realize that what I had witnessed was a nurse feeding a baby born with cleft lip and palate. God had given me a glance into my future.

It is odd when I reflect back on my 50 plus years journey with Children’s hospital. It began with my healing, followed by the death of my friend. Within the tragedy of losing Patsy lay a promise: a promise of a sweet babe who would need a home.

We seldom realize that we are witnessing what is to come. It wasn’t until we got the call that a beautiful baby boy, born with cleft lip and palate, was looking for a family, that I realized my blessing and I knew, I just knew that he was meant to be mine. I knew that it was destiny that made me visit Children’s that last, fateful night: I was meant to say goodbye to my dear friend who I thought would be a part of my life for many years to come and I was meant to witness something that would help me a full 24 years later.

Perchance my odyssey with Children's ends here: Chris' final surgery. An era has passed; a chapter has closed. Perhaps, when my sweet son moves on to make his own life and create his own family, I will return to Children’s…this time as a volunteer instead of a patient, visitor, or parent. Life is good.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

For The Love of Writing

I have been writing since age nine. A third generation poet, I have always loved the beauty and flow, the cadence and flavor of words.

I remember lying upstairs in the old farmhouse, snuggled down in a feather bed, buried beneath layers of homemade quilts. Fully awake, I would listen to my mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles talking, their voices drifting up to me through the vent in the floor. I enjoyed the music of their speech, the meter: the up and down patterns and the various inflections and tones of each individual.

Many of the patterns were identical. They were from the same family, after all. But some had moved away, as my mother had, to the “big city” and their speech had changed – evolved. I found this fascinating!

Mawmaw would say “Well, I’ll red up the table then.” Her voice deep in her throat: resonant and rich. Mom answered “Okay, Mother. I’ll help you clean up”: this said much lighter and higher in the throat. Aunt Louise replied “Fetch them dishes on over here then, Mam-aw.” Like Mawmaw, she spoke deep within the larynx, emitting the same sonorous sound. Beautiful! Exhilarating! It was difficult to drift off in spite of the caressing feathers and quilts. Who could sleep with this verbal lullaby just one floor below?

My paternal grandfather and my father were both poets. My mother and father divorced when I was nine-months-old, so it wasn’t until age 11 that my father and I began to get to know each other. I remember him coming into my house and laying a piece of paper onto the dining room table. “That’s the first stanza of a poem,” he informed. “Your grandfather wrote a poem starting with these four lines and then asked me to. It’s your turn.” I remember picking up the paper, curious…poetry, I’d never tried poetry.

I picked up the pencil my father offered me and finished my version of the poem titled “Poetry Problems.” My father lifted my composition to his eyes, perused it and nodded. “Yes,” he said. “You have the gift.”

I have since written hundreds of poems, most of which have been published, and have daily thanked the memory of my grandfather and my father for the genetic gift to me.

With this wealth of dialect and poetry surrounding me throughout my childhood, it was no wonder I became a writer. What else could I do but scribe the music of my family’s voice?

Poetry Problems

One day I sat down to see
If I could write some poetry,
And found I had a hectic time
To get the silly stuff to rhyme.
No words would go either here or there,
They simply refused to go anywhere,
And so with a sad and doleful frown
I slowly put my pencil down.
Instead of trying to go on again,
I wouldn’t do it at all if I couldn’t do it then.
Maybe if I had worked long enough,
I could finally have written the kind of stuff
That poets get paid for – every day,
But, no, I had to have it my way.
So I’ll tell you something you all should know
Don’t ever quit ‘till you’ve reached your goal.
Don’t do as I did, and quit – just like that.
If at first you strike out, go back up to bat.

©1978 Debra Shiveley Welch

Warning: All poems/articles/works by the author are protected by copyright laws against the risk of plagiarism. To safeguard the author, a regular search of the Internet is provided to ensure this law has not been broken! Any Website/Blog/Forum which displays Debra's work MUST have received her permission to do so. (Permission to adopt statement given by its creator, Debbie Stevens.)