Now that the house where I grew up outside Louisville, Kentucky is going to its new owner, my sister-in-law who shepherded the place for many years and her daughters, who also grew up there, are sorting through and giving away the accumulated possessions of three generations.
It has been so many decades since I lived in that house that I was astonished, recently, to discover that some things of mine still resided in dusty recesses, out of the reach of time: a novel of Joseph Conrad’s, a copy of King Lear—this with tiny penciled notes in the margin, from my junior year in high school.
Even more astonishing, the dress I wore at my first wedding has shown up in what used to be called the sewing room: a large room off the back hall, with big, sunny windows, completely lined with closets, shelves and drawers for the household’s linens—dozens of embroidered pillowcases, sheets, and towels, all, in my memory, white…
The dress of course was white, too, and according to my niece it had been put away, probably right after the ceremony, in its Saks Fifth Avenue box, and had lain undisturbed on one of those shelves in the linen closet all these many years.
I remember almost nothing about the dress, or what it was like to wear it; I was furious that my mother thrust what were called “falsies” down the front to make up for a lack I had never really noticed. But then, falsies in all senses of the word are so often present in one form or another at these occasions.
Now the dress is coming back to me. How will I feel when I lift that dusty lid, and rustle through layers of tarnished tissue paper?
Probably somewhat amused.
The world has changed greatly since that long forgotten saleswoman at the big New York department store paraded wedding dresses for her customers, and yet the dress and much of what it stands for apparently remains.
Or perhaps in fact very little remains of the attitudes, hopes and thoughts of those far-off days, the illusions, the faith, the love, and therefore the dress in its box is even more precious (although perhaps not to me) as proof that all that actually existed.
For the arrival of my dress, please read The Bingham Estate: My Wedding Dress Comes Home.