IF I KEPT A BOOK OF REGRETS, my first entry would be that I failed to appreciate the wedding dress my mom made for herself.
She took such pride in it.
She loved it, so.
My mom looked and acted younger than 92 when her eyes took a sudden drift towards blindness and a fall the year earlier demanded she could no longer live alone in the town of her birth and lifelong residency. It broke her heart to leave her home, her two elder cats, and all of her possessions behind during her acquiescence to my sister Sue’s Texas ranch those last months of her life.
Among the few possessions she wrapped and packed with care was the dress she bought in 1969 to be buried in, and her wedding dress of 1938. Both of them, pink.
I couldn’t say if Mom intended for Sue, me, or our kid sister, Kate, to someday wear her gown, but I do know Kate and I had already declared by age eight that neither of us intended to marry. And, it must have been embarrassing (if not disheartening) for Mom when all three of her daughters so disdained Home Economics in school that none of us finished hemming even one dish towel to the satisfaction of Miss Merriman, the same teacher who’d first taught Mom to sew in 1926.
Nevertheless, I felt honored (and a tad smug) to be both Mom’s namesake, and heir to her love for the color pink, a pigment that looked best on her, and always brings out the best in me. I seldom wear any other color. I feel less poised when I do.
Mom wasn’t as obsessed with the color as am I, she being more of a fashionista whenever she left the house. But her outfits always included a splash of pink ,at very least, as an ornament in her hair, a bangle on her wrist, beads around her neck, a porcelain broach, or a cloth flower pinned near her heart.
Years ago, as I sat with sister Kate discussing Mom’s passing of a decade earlier, she brought out the wedding gown and conferred it to me for safer keeping.
“It is exquisite,” I marveled, after tenderly unwrapping the tissue.
Unlike modern gowns that average fifteen hundred dollars in apparel stores and run as high as ten thousand in bridal boutiques, Mom’s dress was an innocent, ultra sheer Heberlein organdy acclaimed for a crispness, yet light like gossamer.
The pastel pink fabric, embroidered with rows of one inch white flowers separated by rows of half inch white petals and stems, was perfectly cut as a single piece floor length gown, it’s mirrored left fold creased and sewn in matching pink thread up the right side with tiny hidden snaps under the arm, a flounce encircling the knee above the A-flared skirt, and puffy sleeves framing a single notch neckline.
“I’m ashamed to say I spent six years as a production control manager in New York City’s garment industry purchasing piece goods, and dealing with jobbers, cutters, designers, and sewers daily — yet never once, Kate, did I think to appreciate this dress by Mom.”
“Yeah. Well. That’s true. But it is a wedding gown after all. Why would we?”
“I know. Still. The pure, perfect intricacy of it blows me away. And that she chose pink! How audacious.”
“I don’t follow.”
“You know, it being 1938 and all. Her going against the catwalk code of wearing white.”
“That would be you, not her.”
“I get it from her.”
“But it’s not why she wore pink.”
I gazed up from the gown, puzzled. “No? Why then?”
“She’d been married before.”
Her answer stunned me. “Mom was married before Dad?”
“Uh-huh. We all knew.”
“The rest of the family.”
“Have you known for long?”
“No.” She stopped to think. “Only about forty years. Maybe fifty.”
I sat, locked in a blank stare, feeling flabbergasted. “How come no one ever told me?”
Kate shrugged. “You’ve always seen Mom through rose-colored glasses. I wasn’t about to cloud them. Besides, it’s not as if we ever talked about it once we knew.”
Within weeks I’d found his name, his date of birth and death, his military record, a copy of their marriage license, the divorce decree with the listed grounds, his burial place, and a picture of his tombstone.
I’m still searching for his face, convinced that every writer’s DNA includes a need-to- know-the-ending of a story.
But wasn’t she brave? To marry and divorce and demand the court restore the legitimacy of her maiden name during a period of time when valiant women were demonized and divorcées were treated as pariahs?
I took such pride in her.
I loved her, so.
# # #
by Marguerite Quantaine © 9.20.2017
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IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story, by Marguerite Quantaine is on Amazon in paperback and kindle.
MY LITTLE BLACK DRESS IS PINK, by Marguerite Quantaine is due for release on Amazon, October, 2017.