I’ve always been fascinated by my mother’s wedding dress. It was so elegant and so very detailed with its lace sleeves and pearl beading. For much of my life, I imagined myself getting married in one that looks just like it. Perhaps, maybe even the same exact dress; however, that all changed one summer afternoon.
I was about five, sitting on the floor of our living room inside of our Queens apartment, playing with my Barbie Dream House when one of my mother’s older sisters walked in and told her that Sister Margaret* from our church was getting married. My aunt was over the moon for Sister Margaret. I mean really, really excited. She and Sister Margaret had been road dawgs for years, and apparently, my auntie had volunteered to help her plan the wedding within a short span of time because it’s better to marry than to burn or whatever.
“Here’s the thing, she needs a dress,” my aunt told my mother.
My ears quickly perked up. I’ve been nosy as long as I’ve been old enough to talk. But I knew better than to let on that I was listening because there was a chance that they would notice and tell me to stay out of grown folks’ business, so I kept my eyes on my Barbie dolls, but my ears were wide open.
“I told her that I would ask if she could borrow your dress,” my aunt said slowly.
I can’t remember my mother’s response, but I do remember that my mom obliged. She has always been a really sweet person who would do whatever she could to help someone else. Years later, I learned that Sister Margaret never returned my mama’s dress and while my mom seems to have dealt with it, I’m still salty AF. I’m tight at my aunt for volunteering my mother’s dress to some random church lady (My aunt got married decades later and I find myself wondering whether or not she’d be willing to allow someone to borrow her dress). I’m tight at my mom for agreeing. I’m tight at Sister Margaret for not going out and buying her own damn dress and even more so, for not being gracious enough to keep her promise to return it.
I’ve asked myself countless times whether or not it’s normal that I feel such a strong attachment to my mother’s wedding dress—even though the only time I’ve seen her in it is in pictures. Perhaps it’s not even about the dress at all, but that I’m just so heavily invested in my parents’ love story. At 25, I’m still like a child during storytime when my father tells the story of how he met my mother on a warm summer night in the 1980s. He was cruising around Jamaica, Queens trying to be seen in his Ford Thunderbird when he saw my mother and her friend standing at a bus stop. It was the first night that my super-strict granny allowed her to hang out without her older sisters. And as fate would have it, she and my dad crossed paths. He gave her his number and then waited by the phone. She didn’t call for weeks. Apparently, she didn’t plan to, but she experienced a change of heart and that’s when their whirlwind romance began. They married just three years later at age 21 and the rest is history. I’m a sucker for love stories, but next to my own, theirs is my favorite.
I keep at least two of their wedding photos on my cell phone. I nearly cried a couple of years ago when another one of my mom’s older sisters pulled out their wedding invitation and it was so well preserved it looked as if they had just sent it out yesterday. I grin from ear to ear when my older cousins get to talking about how live my parents’ wedding was and how they danced the night away at the blowout reception hosted in the backyard of my grandmother’s home; or how my parents were so young and silly that the wedding photographer literally had to chase them around to get their photos because all they wanted to do was dance with their friends. I’m invested, y’all. Like, for real. As I approach my own wedding, I shudder at the thought that my mom’s dress—an artifact of their love—is tattered and sitting at the bottom’s of some random’s closet.
But Sister Margaret is long gone. Not from this earth or anything, but definitely out of our family’s circle (not because of beef or anything but because life). She surfaced about ten years ago, but as far as I know, she faded to black a short time after. I should probably let go of what happened to my mama’s gown and stop thinking about it because it’s clearly not going to change anything. But in some ways, I feel like a part of my family’s history was handed over to someone who didn’t even appreciate it.