“I haven’t opened this box in sixty years.” My mother said, as she pulled at the ripped cellophane window on this supposedly preserved box with acid free tissue paper.
“To think, we almost threw it away.” I said.
I couldn’t believe that I had chosen this day to finally bring back her wedding dress. This sixty-year-old dress, being delivered a week after my own thirtieth wedding anniversary. Saved from the trash pile in my mother’s old basement because my sister-in-law called at the last minute to say “don’t throw it away. We can use pieces of it in the grandchildren’s wedding clothes.”
The box was bigger than my petite mother. We laid it out in her foyer and started removing the cover and tissue paper.
My mother held up dress.
“Mom, that looks like a doll’s dress.” I said. “It’s still so pretty.”
My mother held up the yellowed vail, so thin and sheer, like my mother’s hands it disintegrated in. The tiny pillbox hat kept its shape if not its color. The scratchy crinoline was the last thing to be pulled from the box and of course, the best preserved, still white like the day it was carefully folded and placed in the box.
I wanted her to put on the dress. I was thinking back to a time before me, when my mother was an eighteen-year-old child bride wearing the pillbox hat. My mother was the one who had said to leave it for the trash pick-up when we cleaned out her basement three years earlier. At the time, she was not nostalgic. It wasn’t about the dress; she was on a mission to purge her basement so as not to leave it for me to do after she was gone. As she removed each piece from the box, I could see in her eyes that she, too, was revisiting that time. She was wistful as she held the dress close to her body.
I eyed the dress as she held it in her hands, wondering what we could do with it now that we had rescued it from its almost certain demise. Could we save pieces of it for each of the grandchildren to cherish in some way. Could the example of a long and happy marriage be passed down in a small piece of lace? The dress was yellowed but still so beautiful. My mother was still so beautiful.
The serendipity of the moment was not lost on me. My niece was getting engaged that very night. The first of my parents’ grandchildren to get married. The whole family, including my daughters, were flying in that day to be a part of an impromptu engagement party the next night. The whole weekend was a surprise for my niece and a surprise for my mother. I was on pins and needles – so excited for the engagement and for the joy my parents would feel for my niece and seeing their whole family gathering to celebrate.
To save a wedding dress for sixty years. To see it come out of the special box – I couldn’t help but think about when it went in that box. 1961. My mother was as happy and hopeful as my niece will be. Will my niece preserve her dress with a piece of my mother’s dress that was rescued from a trash bin sixty years after it went in the box?