She gently lifted the bundle of satin from her cedar chest and held it close to her. I saw the misty look in her wise and gentle eyes in the moment when she began to unfold and smooth the lovely old gown.
“They told me I shouldn’t have stored it in the cedar chest - I didn’t know it would cause these brown stains. I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, Mom, it’s beautiful," I breathed, "just like I remember from your pictures. Thank you for letting me try it. I was afraid you’d say no. I mean Kathryn and Paige didn’t have this opportunity.” I stumbled over the words, not meaning to cause ill feelings, if there were any.
“They didn’t have the opportunity because they didn’t ask. I didn’t think any of you were interested,” Mom smiled softly at me.
“Thank you, this is the most beautiful thing, it means so much to me!” I hugged my sweet, unassuming mom and there were tears running down both our faces.
Mom lovingly zipped and buttoned me into her wedding gown. My shoulders were apparently wider than hers had been and the tips of my shoes could be seen under the front of the skirt, but apart from that, the dress was a perfect fit!
“I’ll replace the ‘illusion’ neckline; there are a couple of tiny holes,” she told me. That way I can make it just a little bigger in the shoulders for you. And we’ll see if Cramer’s Cleaners can get those brown stains out.”
Funny, I remember that neither of us was worried that the stains wouldn’t come out. Certainly the gown couldn’t have been worn with them in, but we both were so delighted with the idea of me wearing it, how could it not have worked out? I, in my youthfulness, head over heels with the idea of my wedding, was idealistic. She, having started life during the ‘Great Depression’ and then having graduated from high school during World War II, knew how to be very resourceful (and always was). I am confident that if Cramer’s hadn’t been as successful as they were, she would have had another idea for removing those stains.
Now, I found myself admiring the lovely gown again. And now again I heard the wonderful, traditional words.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse...”
I thought about the years since Neil and I had said those words.
There had been much joy and pain.
I laughed remembering how I’d eaten so many chocolate sandwich cookies when I’d gotten home from the hospital after delivering Ali, that she’d stayed awake and was plenty cranky for the better part of two days.
That year when Neil was laid off had been hard. Ellen and Ali had complained about not going on a vacation, but that was the year the Bernhards had moved in next door and the kids got along so well. We got together for barbeques every weekend. And now Kaitlyn Bernhard stood beside Ali.
“In sickness and in health, forsaking all others, til death do us part.”
I remembered when Ellen had gotten into some troubling activities at college. She’d come home and had made life difficult there for a while. It had put a major strain on our marriage. That was when Neil and I really learned what it meant to “forsake all others”. I’d prayed that some day she’d understand why we’d clung to our beliefs, our faith, and each other.
Ali came to me with a rose and she kissed me. I felt very blessed. I found myself wondering if my mother was watching from heaven. Mom, look at your beautiful granddaughter wearing your gown, I marveled. I felt a warmth around my shoulders and close to my heart and I cried.
And then I felt a warm hand close gently around mine. I looked into Neil’s soft eyes smiling at me as they had done so many times before.
“She looks just like her mama those few years ago.” he whispered
“Oh God bless you, Neil.” I sniffled in bitter-sweetness and snuggled closer to him.
As Ali and her new husband kissed the first kiss of their marriage, Ellen leaned over to me and whispered, “ your little granddaughter here has a question for you about that gown, and I’d feel so honored if you said, ‘yes’!”
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