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Friday, July 20, 2012

Mother Wore Blue Velevet


We were cleaning out the family home--dismantling it in preparation for sale. Now I found myself in my father’s bedroom, dreading the task at hand. I sat at my mother’s dressing table with its double set of large drawers connected by a low shelf that supported a broad, round mirror, its forties styling dating the piece. Upon opening one of the pair of drawers, I began placing items on the nearby shelf. My fingers reached into its depth and curled about a swatch of fabric. When I drew it out, I recognized what it was--a fragment of my mother’s wedding gown of blue velvet.
The feel of that smooth piece of material brought a black-and-white photograph to mind. Myself as a four-year-old, standing on our home’s front stoop. My over-large eyeglasses dominated a narrow face which was framed with shoulder-length brown hair. I looked into the camera, my hand reaching up to touch my face as I ducked my head to one side. The photograph was taken to commemorate the special dress I wore--short puffed sleeves and gathered skit that ended at my knees--made of dark blue velvet. I recall my mother’s explanation of having made matching dresses for my sister and I from her wedding gown.
Which brought a second photo to mind--my parents’ wedding picture. A not-so-young couple that stood side-by-side, solemn expressions on both their faces. They stood midway on a flight of concrete steps leading to a church’s pair of carved wooden doors. He stood ram-rod in a severely-cut black suit with she stood close but not touching, wearing a long-sleeved blue gown whose hem swept the ground. That picture was taken November 25th, 1936.
Over the years, each time I came across that photo, I had questions. How did they meet? Where was the picture taken? Why were they the only people in the wedding party picture?
Thinking about the wedding picture, I wonder again why did they stand beside each other as strangers and why such solemn expressions on their faces. From that seemingly distant relationship came a family of eight living children and a marriage that lasted over fifty years.
Although I am the oldest living sibling, there was a daughter born before me who lived but a few days. In years past, I’ve flipped the pages of the baby book my mother made of her first child’s short existence. I look for answers to questions I cannot ask. 
As I grew older, I especially wondered if there was significance in my mother’s choice of color for her wedding dress. Why blue velvet rather than the traditional white. Growing up I sensed my parents felt trapped in their relationship yet we children were nurtured in an atmosphere of commitment, mutual respect and a kind of love that grew with the years.
I finger the scrap of blue velvet and can’t help wondering why my mother kept it all these years.So many questions I never dared to ask went unanswered. And now there is no one to supply the answers--I can only speculate. 

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