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Saturday, August 13, 2011

something old

When I was little, my family would sometimes spend summers in the USA at my grandparent's house in Alabama. Mimi and Opa had lived in their house since my mom was a baby, so the house was a museum of artifacts from the 1950's onward. Especially the basement.
The basement had a pool table, a workshop, two guest bedrooms, a storage room, and a sewing room. In one of the guest rooms, there was a cedar chest. In that cedar chest was a large collection of TIME magazines and newspapers from important dates in history like the Pearl Harbor attack, Kennedy's assassination, and the USA's first lunar landing. All this was plenty to keep my 11 year old self occupied for an entire afternoon.
One day I got through all the magazines and newspapers and dug deeper into the cedar chest, passed unframed paintings and old certificates. My hands brushed soft lace and I uncovered my grandmother's wedding dress.
This was such a priceless find, and for some reason I thought I would get in trouble for removing it from the chest. I shut the door to the guest room and laid the dress out on the bed. It was yellowed with age and crumpled from being folded in the same position for decades. In some places, the threads had simply given out.
I listened for any activity upstairs, and when I heard none, I wiggled out of my summer playclothes and slipped the dress over my head. I didn't even need to unzip the metal zipper. Since there was only a vanity mirror in the room, I pushed a chair in front of it and stood on the seat to take a look at myself in my Mimi's dress. It was so long on me that the tea length hem brushed my toes. The scoop neck hung loose and repeatedly fell off my shoulder. I was fascinated with the story I was wearing all around me. All of the people in my life and the love that holds them together was decided one October day in 1951 when my grandmother wore this very dress that her mother sewed for her and pledged her life to my grandfather. I would not be if not for that day and that covenant. It was just too cool.
I put the dress back and never told anyone I had worn it. A few years later my aunts had the dress cleaned and restored and surprised Mimi by displaying it at their 50th wedding anniversary reception.  It was nice to see it white again.
When I knew that Tim was going to propose, Mimi's dress was my top choice in wedding dresses, but I heard that the condition of the dress was too poor for me to wear. Even though I found another perfect wedding dress, I still wanted to display Mimi's at our wedding, so my Mom graciously had it shipped down to Florida from Alabama.
When I got here last week to get everything ready for our wedding, I bee-lined to Mom's closet and got Mimi's dress down and unwrapped it. Mom helped me slip it on over my head and pull the zipper up the side.
This time, it fit perfectly.

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