Scintilla Project, Prompt 6: Talk about an experience with faith, your own or someone else’s.
When I was at my parents’ house this past July, a number of utterly bizarre things happened. First, in a Sauvignon blanc induced haze, I decided to clean out a large container of junk in my childhood bedroom. This led to me finding a veil studded with plastic penises from my “bachelorette party” (which consisted of Tink taking me to Sunday lunch at Souplantation in Oxnard, where I wore the aforementioned veil, much to the abject horror of the families dining). Under the influence of wine and nostalgia, I placed the ridiculous crown on my head, and continued to sort junk (pun intended.) My mother soon found me, and somehow, the evening devolved from paper-sorting to veil-wearing to trying on each other’s wedding gowns.
Second, I love my mother, but the world should know this: my mother dressed me like a cupcake when I was married. I remember standing in the changing room at Rene Strauss for the Bride on Wilshire in Beverly Hills, saying I want to try on simple dresses; sheath dresses. And my mother replying, You’re going to regret that. Don’t you remember that you always wanted a princess wedding?
I had not, in fact, always wanted a princess wedding. I loved playing wedding when I was a little girl. I grew up in to a somewhat stiff and difficult woman, but I love romance; I love love stories. I think there are some men I’ve dated (or married) who might tell you that I am not a romantic, but I’ve always felt that they missed the obvious.
One might say, Meredith, your mother did NOT dress you for your wedding. You were a grown woman. You had a choice. But have you ever watched one of those wedding shows on TLC, where the girl seeking a gown is so concerned about what Mamma and Grams think about the dress? Those ones where the she wants to look like Marilyn and her family wants her to look like Lady Di? Guess who wins? The bride-to-be comes out in some Frankenstein combination of sexpot with sleeves, and there are tears – the happy kind – and life goes on. Mine was a happy choice, and a pretty dress. The world kept spinning.
Third, on that sticky Southern California Sauvignon Blanc-soaked night this past summer, my best friend showed up, and my mother and I got tipsy and tried on each other’s wedding gowns. What was instantly clear was this: we had made an awful mistake. Even back in the early 70s, she should’ve worn a dress in the style of mine, and in the mid 00s, I should’ve worn a dress in the style of hers.
My mother is a beautiful woman. And In my sparkly, too-white-for-me dress, she was radiant. The silk swirled around her, and suited her frame. The bodice was tight, but the dress was otherwise perfect for her. And I understood, then, why she’d picked it for me.
Similarly, her dress was perfect for me. It was simple, and classic, and had a history of things that had worked. I love found things; things with a story. My mother loves things with possibility. Our younger selves had somehow missed the obvious nearly a decade ago. However, we’d been different people, and in those days, we’d not been able to see even the noses on our faces.
So we stood in my parents’ front room, laughing our heads off and drinking our wine with my best friend, and remarking that if I ever undertook a second marriage, I should probably consider wearing my mother’s dress. Those were all strange thoughts: history, possibility, do-overs.
Earlier in that evening, as I had gone through that box of papers, I had found in an envelope a copy of my marriage license along with copies of photos of members of Andrew’s family and mine on their wedding days. Lots of successful marriages. Ours was one of the only divorces.
Sitting on my childhood bedroom floor, under the whitewashed walls and ceiling, I dry-heaved. Divorce as a concept; marriage in retrospect – i.e., the thing about which I most often write – it is an easy thing to digest. It is pre-chewed. But I was suddenly confronted with life before the war; my younger self, i.e., the girl who wore twill skirts and pop-collar polo shirts, and had a diamond solitaire.
It isn’t that I’m not that woman, nor is it that I never was her. But what I learned was this: I’d married because I had faith that it would work. And it didn’t. I’d survived my divorce on hope; friendship; maybe too much wine; and believing I would survive. But the things I’d believed had been tested. The years between signing that piece of paper to bind, and signing the one to release me had been a test of my faith.
That silly night in my parents’ house with my best friend and my mother reminded me of what was to come; it renewed my faith in possibility; reminded me that love remained. And hopefully, it prevented me from ever again having that mermaid tail-and-mutton chop-sleeves moment on the dressing room chopping block in front of the three-way mirror.