Why Keep Your Wedding Dress?

Growing up Air Force (and BTW, I've learned you're not supposed to cap AF in certain contexts, but for me, Air Force will always be capped), I grew up not holding on to things, space-taking memorabilia that ends up needing to be dusted every now and then--the only attention you'll ever give it later.

This is part of the pragmaticism that flows in my Air Force dress blue blood.

My daughter has more remnants of her short life than I do of a life lived in three countries, including seven different US states before I was fourteen. My sister marvels at the stories I tell of our childhood. She doesn't remember this stuff, and she's older than I am. But my head was the only container I could keep my mementos in: the bear, chain around his neck, who walked down the main road--a dirt road, traveled by as many donkey and carts as by autos--he walked down the dirt road with his owner on Sundays and if you threw money in their general vicinity, the bear would dance for you. That was in Turkey. I remember the bear and the dust and the dirt road.

I remember England, too, and to this day I don't know why I had to share a room with my brother when it made more sense for me to share a room with my sister. We rode the train from Ipswitch to London to see Buckingham Palace and I waited for the queen to lean out of a window and wave to me, but she never did. The changing of the guard was boring to my five-year-old self. Better was my dad's shrill whistle, two fingers in his mouth--he stopped traffic with that whistle. The double-decker bus stopped for us and we ran, happily climbing to the top. This was even better than that boring old castle with a queen who never came out.

I'm all grown up now, with children of my own. I can't stand clutter. My wedding gown, dry cleaned at a fee almost the cost of the gown itself (though not to worry, I had no train and my mother taught me to be frugal), lies unseen, shrouded in blue plastic, boxed in cardboard, tucked away, forgotten in our closet. There is no one in the house who has any sense of curiosity about it. I weigh the same as I did then (not bragging, it's just the way it is); I feel no need to try it on, admire it, or gaze at it with feelings of any sort.

But in my head, oh, in my head: my mom had pleurisy when she flew down early to help me the week before my wedding. She spray painted and beribboned a hundred and fifty tiny candy baskets. She took birch tree branches and laced them with white Christmas lights and placed them around the reception hall. Even though they were divorced, my dad flew down about the same time. I remember how that felt, the wishing that they had never divorced because I knew, we all knew, my dad still loved my mom. He had a bad back, so he got the guest room and my mom got the couch. This was when I rented a house with my brothers and sister. One night, my dad talked about grandkids. It wasn't embarrassing. I wanted him to have grandkids--he was going to be a great grandpa. To this day I remember THAT conversation and I remember him crying over the phone two years later when I called late one night to tell him his first grandchild had just been born and I remember him sending me an airplane ticket when she was five months old just because he heard her laughing on his answering machine, and I remember he died three weeks after our visit.

I still have the shells from his twenty-one gun salute.

I never look at them.

I rarely visit my brother's grave. He is not there.

Photos are painful.

My daughter isn't going to wear my dress. Why am I keeping it? I threw out the portion of cake we kept because by our first anniversary, it was freezer burned and tasted awful. The dress is a dress; it isn't the fabric of my life--just a couple hours of my life, a costume, almost.

I got married. I am married. I plan to stay married.

But I need room in my closet for other things.


Kim Kasch said...

It's hard to let go of brothers, parents and even wedding dresses.

I've been married almost 30 years and I still have mine--and I would never fit back in that thing. And, I almost lost it a few weeks ago when my sons were cleaning the basement and threw it in the garbage pile.

I "rescued" it. Jake had no idea why I'd want to keep it.

Wild About Words said...


This is beautiful. It is why it's important that you write books for children, staying true to your heart, your memories, your deepest self.

No one can write like you, think like you . . . remember like you.


Charles Gramlich said...

We are simply taught to keep some things. I have always traveled with my books. Other than that I don't keep a lot.

This was a very touching post. Excellent writing.

Danette Haworth said...

Kim, it is hard, and I know you know how waves of grief can wash over you even years later, no stimulus needed. I can't believe you had to rescue your wedding dress! Good thing you saw it!

Donna, thank you.

Charles, it's true--it's traditional to keep certain things. My husband was practically superstitious when it came to that cake on our first anniversary. It took a lot to convince him that throwing away that awful freezer burned confection was different from throwing away our marriage! Thank you for you words on my writing.

Now I will prove that I am not a robot.