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  • Cathy Stenquist

Saying Yes to the Dress

Updated: Aug 18

Sunday Evening:

I browse through old pictures. My little girl, adorned in her tutus, is all grown up now, and getting married next summer. I am feeling a bit nostalgic. She is due over to my house at 11:00 am tomorrow, to begin the search for her wedding dress. How has the time passed so quickly?


Erica Leigh and her friend, Greg, "getting married."


Monday morning:

Standing in front of my dresser, I linger indecisively wondering what should I wear. The everyday leggings and comfy shirt I have worn the past year and a half during the pandemic just will not do. Opening my closet door, I slide each long forgotten dress and skirt slowly and thoughtfully to the left. One by one, they audition for a scene that I had imagined for thirty-two years since Erica Leigh was born.


The bride and I.

I hold several options up to my chest, analyzing them in detail in the mirror and scrunching up my nose to many, finally settling on a blue sleeveless dress. Yes, cool, comfortable. And if I am very lucky, the busy blue design along with the Spanx might just disguise the"covid-15"that I have gained. Laying the dress on the bed, I slide the closet doors shut and open my jewelry box.

My mother-in-law June and I on her last birthday.


On special occasions like this, my heart is feeling heavy, yearning for all the ladies in my life that I have loved and some I have lost; my sisters, my mother, my grandmothers and mother-in-law. My way of holding them close, bringing them along for the ride is to wear something of theirs. It somehow helps me feel like they are a part of it.


Immediately I know what I want to do.


My old wooden jewelry box safely cradles a variety of metal, beads and pearls lovingly passed down. Lifting the lid, I scan the velvet compartments - occasionally picking up a trinket, considering it, then dropping it back in the box. The sparkle of ocean blue catches my eye. I slide my mother-in-law June's ring slowly onto my finger. "Hi Junie," I say outloud to her sweet soul.


June's blue ring.


Next, a gleam of gold. The textured oval earrings inherited only months ago when my mom passed, will add just the right sparkle. Tilting my head to each side I place the gold posts in each ear and secure them with a rubber backing. I imagine my beautiful mother in front of her mirror with these same earrings many years ago, and I smile.


Hanging on the wall, I spy a long gold necklace with turquoise beads. I had mailed them to her in 2015 with a sweater dress as a surprise, simply because being a caregiver had taken its toll on her and clothes and jewelry always made her smile. Putting it around my neck and laying it close to my heart feels right. I love you, Mom...thanks.


L-R: My sister Diane, Me, my Mom and my sister Sandy on my mother's 70th birthday trip.


After putting on my makeup I reach toward the bathroom cabinet shelf where I keep items belonging to my ladies: a mostly empty jar of "Here's My Heart" perfumed cream that belonged to June; the bottle holding the last bits of my mother's perfume,"Jontue,"; the bar of "Sweetheart" soap whose smell brings back memories of my grandmother. I dab and spray a little on each arm and breathe in their presence.


My memory shelf.


I am now the matriarch of my family, though I still feel like the innocent little bride from forty years ago picking out my own dress. Crazy at it seems, in the middle a pandemic, world upheaval and global warming... Today I will take my ladies with me, and know we will all shed a few tears watching Erica emerge from the curtain, adorned in lace and satin. A little bit of hope, joy and connection as she thinks about saying yes.


Nancy and I waiting to see the next dress.


Post Script:

Sharing this moment with my best friend Nancy, helped to fill a bit of the hole left by the absence of my beloved ladies. For Nancy has shared the journey with me for over 32 years, watching Erica Leigh grow into the amazing young woman that she is. With the smallest of glances, Nancy tells me with out words that she knows how I am feeling. While we waited, we reminisced, laughed and welled up. The hour we spent together was lovely and it is a wonderful start to saying,"Yes!"


Mom, June, Gram, Nana, Sandy and Diane-

I am so very grateful that I got to share this moment with you, my dear sweet ladies.

We'll be together again next summer when the 'I do's' fill the air.

I'll love you forever,

Cathy


My precious Erica Leigh.







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