A wedding fragment
I found a piece of material that I cut out of my wedding dress. 1960, aged 20, I married the man who was supposed to give me the security I had lost in childhood, when my father disappeared carrying a suitcase. My mother was my security from then on, but she was also my burden. I became her constant companion, her wailing wall, her partner in running the farm, and the carrier of her dreams. A good education was part of those dreams, and so I went on from boarding school to university; marriage to a man who was intelligent, ambitious, and designed for success in his career was the other part, and so I married a man who was to become a leader in his chosen field. He was eight years older than me, and we came from different worlds. When I was 32, our worlds parted, and he abducted our three children to the United States. It was 18 months before I was able to get access to them. They were separated from me for the rest of their childhood, apart from two visits of two weeks a year.
The dress was beautiful; knee length, ivory satin with a front panel in the skirt embroidered with padded velvet roses. My wedding was a dream of elegance, beauty and taste. When I woke up, I was trapped in a world I didn’t belong in.
I cut the panel out of the dress before I threw the dress away. After my first child, I couldn’t fit into it any more. Fifty-eight years later, I find the fragment again. Insects have eaten little holes in it, and it is stained in one corner by water. But still exquisite. What to do with it? I post a picture of it on Facebook, with a photo of me and my mother before we went to the wedding superimposed on it. Many Facebook friends respond with likes and loves. One friend who is a dressmaker suggests I get it framed. And so I take it to my framer with three wedding photos, and ask her to frame it for me. It will be a collage of that dream of my life, so full of promise, so bound to fail, but redeemed by my survival and the survival of my three beautiful daughters, who are my closest friends and soul sisters. Together and apart, we have never stopped loving each other, and each of us has faced our demons and found ways of living which are true to ourselves. We found each other and ourselves again. But it was never easy.
I can leave their father out of the frame, but I can’t take him out of the story. Until he died last year, he has always been an absent presence in my life, like a shadow. That shadow has passed now, and that story is told. So his part in this story is very small.
This is the beginning of my third memoir. I’ve written one of my childhood with my mother’s story woven into it, one of my first marriage, its breakdown and the loss of my children, and now I am writing one of my life after my life fell apart. It is hard to write, and for many years I’ve not really wanted to write it. Yet now, in this last quarter of my life, a voice insists that I still have a story to tell.
So I have begun. This fragment frames the rest of my life.