I have been obsessing about mother’s wedding dress recently. It has nothing to do with weddings past or present (or future for that matter…), or fashion, or really even my mother. It has to do with stuff. Clutter. Things that bog you down and hold you back. This obsession came to a crescendo a few weeks ago when I closed on a new house. Knowing that a move was pending, and that I had to move all my stuff to a new location, I had a come to Jesus meeting with myself and, well, my stuff. I started to really see all the stuff that has accumulated, and all the stuff I have been carrying around, and all the stuff I’ll have to move, and all the stuff I’ll have to put in storage, and the stuff I should get rid of, and then my gaze fell upon the box that contains my mother’s wedding dress.
It’s a pretty dress, and actually quite in style, given the fashion leaning to all things tulle and vintage these days. It is simple, and elegant, and my mother looked chic and happy in the pictures I have seen of her wedding. My mother was fairly petite. At least compared to me. She was about 4″ shorter and weighed a good 30 pounds less than I do on a skinny day. She had small bones and crisp features and tiny feet. I could not eat for a year and never fit into that dress. My daughters are taller than me, and neither has shown any propensity for tulle, or vintage for that matter, and if Vegas was making odds, they’d bet against either of them ever wearing my mother’s wedding dress.
So why do I still have it?
I’m haunted by that dress. To give it away feels like I would be giving my mother away. To sell it to a vintage clothing store seems like sacrilege. (Although the more I think about it, maybe my thrifty Depression Era mother would approve of the decision…) To keep it is foolish, and to pay to move it into storage (and keep paying to store it) so that I can pass the stress on to my own children some day is just plain irresponsible and stupid.
Which kind of circles back to the concept of having stuff, and how much stuff, and what stuff,…and of that stuff, which stuff is important to keep just for the sake of keeping it. I chastise myself for not being able to rid myself of things that serve no purpose for me, other than as anchors to the past – to childhood memories or sensations of a time when there was less restlessness in my life.
Why can’t I just get rid of it?
I look at my mother’s wedding dress now as a symbol of what was and what might have been and what could still be. It’s almost as if having the dress wrapped neatly in my office corner replicates having her sitting quietly in my office, supervising the choices I make; cheering my successes and picking me up after my defeats.
I guess there are certain things in life that never really qualify as stuff. They are icons or talisman. Objects that, despite their bulk or apparent uselessness, represent to us something so valuable and intrinsic to our nature that to lose it would be to lose part of ourselves. I had thought that to rid myself of the stuff that bogs me down would set me free. Free to live a more efficient life. Free to make clearer choices. Free to go where the wind takes me. But perhaps not. Maybe real freedom comes from knowing the difference between what is valuable and what has value.
For now, the dress stays. Perhaps a time will come one day when it is only a dress. When it becomes stuff. I’ll worry about what to do with it then…