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.