30: Something Borrowed: A Wedding Gown Encore

30: Something Borrowed: A Wedding Gown Encore

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Something Borrowed: A Wedding Gown Encore

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.

~Hodding Carter, Jr.

The color was blush — a trifle paler than pink and rosier than white. It was gossamer light, as if woven by elves. Even on the hanger, it seemed to float.

On Jill’s shoulders, it repeated that performance, drifting down to her ankles in gentle folds and gathers.

Our daughter’s wedding dress, kissed with lace and decidedly in the Victorian spirit, was worn nearly two decades ago, and is now on loan. Another bride will be wearing it on another wedding day that hopefully will be rich in joy.

I could never have guessed that Jill, a feisty feminist, would have chosen that particular dress. “Dress, not gown,” she had stressed, because Jill wanted no part of hems dragging in the grass at her home wedding.

I remember the day we chose it better than I can remember the name of the book I read last month, or the movie I saw a few days ago.

There I was, sitting on a pink velvet sofa unofficially reserved for anxious mothers of the bride, suddenly in the grip of this singular experience with our firstborn daughter.

The sight of Jill, standing incongruously in sneakers — and that swirl of lace and ribbon — literally took my breath away. I think I actually gasped.

But in this archetypal suburban bridal salon, there was still the sense of a little girl playing one last game of dress-up in a stranger’s closet.

As Jill and the sales consultant went on to discuss veils, I was still lost in memories of a little girl with unruly blond curls stepping up to the microphone in the second-grade play to blurt out her line: “I’m cold — please take me home.”

And then, after some other detours into sentiment, the real insight flashed. Once again, Jill and I were playing out my own might-have-beens-that-never-were. In the endless game of dreaming, hoping, yearning that the children you love beyond all reason will somehow live out your own failed expectations, Jill was doing just that.

Until that moment, I had never fully realized what I had actually missed when I had pulled a friend’s borrowed wedding gown over my head, content to be practical, if not sentimental.

It had been a perfectly lovely bridal gown with tiny seed pearls and lace, and it all seemed so sensible back then when my bridegroom and I were struggling to make the down payment on a little Cape Cod house so that he could begin to practice law while I went off to teach eighth-graders who didn’t share my reverence for grammar or lyric poetry. Why blow money on a wedding gown? Why not celebrate the good luck that the gown I borrowed from a generous friend fit perfectly, and was quite lovely enough to sail through the occasion?

Everyone applauded how sensible I was being.

But from some long-buried place, the ghosts were back to haunt a mother of the bride who was suddenly almost reeling with regret.

I had missed out on this experience that Jill was having. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I really should have had that gown of my own, and practicality be damned.

My daughter would not miss out.

Despite her absolute certainty that she was, of course, going to keep her own name, not take her husband’s, this feisty bride was still going to splurge big-time on this one beautiful dress she would wear for several hours.

And my thought, then and now, was “How wonderful!”

Who knew then that the very same dress, in pristine condition, is now considered “vintage” — practically antique — and that a friend’s daughter will be thrilled to wear it. Her circumstances are challenging, and much as she may want to throw caution to the winds of indulgence, she can’t. So Jill’s gown will walk down another aisle.

And to my own bridal gown regrets? Gone and almost forgotten.

My borrowed gown brought me decades of the kind of happiness that sounds sloppily sentimental, but there it is: I’ll take the marriage over the gown any time. So the blush dress is having a second run. Another day with a dress trimmed in lace — and dreams.

Not such a bad thing after all.

~Sally Friedman

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