Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Wedding Dress

Jessica gazed at herself in the full-length mirror. A familiar stranger stared back at her. The curly auburn ringlets framed her face and cascaded over her shoulders. As she looked, the dewy emerald eyes sparkled in the sunlight. Jessica felt the light touch of the breeze from the open window. It brushed past her cheek, a touch of benediction.

"It’s perfect," she said aloud.

The dress had been her grandmother’s, a rustle of white ivory silk. The skirt flowed gracefully over Jessica’s hips in two tiers: a shiny outer layer over a transparent wrapping. The hem was higher than it seemed—Jessica was determined not to trip over her feet on the big day!

She carefully reached over and smoothed a wrinkle in the sleeve. It was a net of white lace that ended at the elbow. No puffy sleeves. That had been the trend fifty years ago. Each pearl had been detached carefully and re-sewn with a loving hand. They lined the bodice in graceful curves. The pink roses puckered up at her breast and waistline. A light blue sash wound around her hips.

The sash had been Jessica’s addition. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, she thought. Jessica wanted to add some color to her outfit. White and cream were elegant in a detached sort of way, a sign of unmistakable purity.

She smiled and turned in front of the mirror. The white toe shoes fit snugly on her feet, tied with a length of pink ribbon, like a dancer’s. No heels. She had been adamant on that point. She wore heels twice a year, once at Christmas and once at Eastertime.

"Why can’t you be more ladylike, Jessica?" Elizabeth Gordon had sighed. Her mother was fond of bringing up the subject. "No man would even look your way. No one will be able to see the prettiness underneath all the mess. Mark my words, you’ll be an old maid if you don’t fix yourself up."

Jessica had gazed down at her mother. Elizabeth had her own ideas about life. She was entitled to them. Far be it from Jessica to erase all that she had ever known. Jessica had taken Elizabeth’s hands within her own.

"Don’t you worry, Nana. Under this down-to-earth glamour is an incurable romantic. I’ll find the right man when the time is right, and you’ll be around to see me married. It just takes time, that’s all."

"Time," Elizabeth had snorted, but her eyes sparkled. A smiled played around the corners of her lips. "Change is overrated. Tradition is what holds us together, Jessica. You will see."

Tradition. Jessica laughed and did a complete pirouette on her tiptoes. The dress flowed all around her. The news of her engagement to Mike stunned everyone, included her mother. All of their friends knew and cheered for them. Eventually, the Gordons accepted the idea that their wayward girl had found true happiness in a most untraditional way.

The sky-blue sash behaved as it should, draped in soft folds. Her grandmother nearly fainted when Jessica proposed the idea, but Nana made no effort to stop the alternations.

"Sake’s alive! It ain’t broke! So why fix it?" Nana McCray had been the belle of five counties. This was her coming-of-age dress, a cascade of bustle and ruffled flounces. It was the same gown in which she had wedded Jesse Carson. Dutifully, Elizabeth Gordon left it be for her marriage to Joseph Gordon. Now Jessica Gordon had the nerve, the unmitigated gall to change it?

"Times change, Nana," she reminded her grandmother in the gentle tone she reserved only for the family matriarch. "Your dress will still carry on the proud tradition, Nana. When my daughter weds, she will do the same."

Nana Carson’s eyes filled with tears. "At least—try not to mess up the design too much, dear. I’ve never tried to stop you from living your crazy life, and I won’t stop you now." She sighed. "This’ll break your Momma’s heart…"

"Momma knows," Jessica replied. Oh, that had gotten a reaction from the Ice Queen herself: her jaw dropped in pure astonishment, the gray eyes glazing in mixed horror and pride. "She said she didn’t mind a bit, Nana. Just as long as I don’t turn it into a miniskirt or anything like that."

Nana looked scandalized, so Jessica patted her hand. "Don’t you worry, Nana. I’ll do nothing of the sort. You’ll see."

I hope I did okay. Jessica reached for the finishing touch: the headband covered with white and gold, adorned with soft lily and baby’s breath. The veil settled past her shoulders. Another light breeze passed through the floral curtains and stirred the veil. Jessica gazed at the mirror one last time. Past and present shimmered in the threads of this dress, each woman passing down her memories and her traditions. Jessica knew she had not broken them, only enhanced them. Perhaps her own daughter would include her own unique piece to the mosaic, when her time came.

The door opened behind her. Elizabeth smiled as she entered the bridal room. Jessica felt a stirring of unease; what would her mother say? That unease vanished when Elizabeth nodded her approval.

"It’s beautiful, dear," she whispered. "You’ve done good work. Here." She reached into her pearl handbag and brought out an emerald pin in the shape of a winged angel.

"What’s this, Momma?"

"My contribution," Elizabeth said. "I wanted to wear this on my wedding dress, but Nana wouldn’t let me. It wasn’t ‘proper’, she said." She pressed the pin into Jessica’s hand. 

Jessica carefully latched it into the blue sash at her waist, where everyone was sure to see it, including Nana. She straightened and saw the gleam in her mother’s eye, that look of quiet defiance and gratitude.

"Is this all right, Momma?"

"Yes, Jessica. It’s all right. Everything is all right." She surveyed her daughter from head to foot, taking in the wedding dress. Changed, but still the same. It would always be the same as long as loving hands touched it.

Jessica extended her hand. "Walk me down, Momma?"

Elizabeth nodded. "Yes, Mike’s waiting. I think he will definitely like what he’ll see."

She put her hand in Jessica’s. Together, they walked out of the room in a rustle of satin and white ivory silk.

Copyright 2006 by Annie Dameron

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