One Story at a Time

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The Wedding Dress

The tires churning up the wet miles and the windshield wipers kept time with the beat in Judi’s head. One mile 5,280 feet, divided by eight equals 660 feet, times three equals 1980 feet - no, that’s not quite right, 42 widths @ 48 inches equal 2,016 feet, almost three-eighths of a mile or 24,192 inches – how many times do I have to calculate the same thing? Why can’t I let it rest? Anyone who is stupid enough to cut a little over three-eighths of a mile of fabric in one afternoon should expect to warp out their hand. Quit beating yourself up, you were well ahead of schedule before then. O.K.! O.K.!

It was 4:30 p.m. on a wet November 22, 1992. In three hours, Judi’s eldest daughter, Kathryn, was getting married. Wendi, Judi’s youngest child, who was riding in the navigator’s seat and sewing the bows on the shoulders of her plum colored satin bridesmaid's dress said, “Hey, Mom, are you singing that song to yourself again?”

“Yeah, I can’t believe that I did that to myself.”

“But the dress is all done now.”

“Sure, Wen, but I haven’t been to bed in forty-eight hours, my fingers and hand are so sore I can hardly stand to hang on to the steering wheel, and if you hadn’t helped with the beading we would still have that dress draped over our knees. And I didn’t get my dress made.”

What Wendi and Judi were discussing was the fact that six weeks prior to today, Judi had had a job that required that she cut 42 widths of fabric for a client’s draperies. The next day her right hand was so sore that it was almost useless, and by the time the order was finished, it was useless. Normally this would not have created a huge, insurmountable problem, but Kathryn’s wedding dress was not finished. The basic dress was made, but there were thousands and thousands and thousands of sequins, shimmering transparent beads, and ivory seed pearls to be hand sewn on the dress. Judi’s fingers could not close, could not hold a needle, and could not manipulate a needle.

It seemed like Kathy was on the phone every five minutes, “How is your hand Mom? Can you use it yet?”

“No, dear, it isn’t any better. I have tried heat, sports cream, and ice, nothing is working.”

“O.K. I’ll talk to you later. Get better Mom.”

This is the way it went, day after day after day after day, and the beautiful unembellished wedding dress continued to lay spread out in shimmering splendor on the sewing table. Judi had begun to rue designing a wedding dress that had all of the glitz and glitter and wonder of a five-thousand-dollar dress. Finally, five days before the wedding Judi got out four little bowls; she put iridescent sequins in one, iridescent clear beads in one, round ivory seed pearls in one, and  rice shaped ivory seed pearls in the forth bowl. Next, having slathered her hand with sports cream and doped herself up on ibuprofen, Judi took up a beading needle and slowly, painfully, threaded it with nearly invisible nylon monofilament thread.

The needle penetrated the fabric and came back up just two threads away from the same spot, and then it went between the two threads at the knotted end to anchor the thread to the fabric. The needle then reached into a bowl and picked up an iridescent sequin, reached into another bowl and picked up an iridescent clear bead. Finally the needle pulled the thread through the bead and back down through the eye of the sequin, took a small bite out of the lace, and made a knot to secure the sequin and bead. One bead was on the dress. It was a start.

Over the next four days and nights, more than twenty thousand sequins, beads, and simulated ivory pearls were sewn on the wedding dress, one bead at a time. Wendi volunteered to do the sleeves, which had the least embellishment, while Judi continued to work on the eight-yards around floor-length skirt and the train. From the shoulders to the pointed waist, the bodice was almost totally encrusted with pearls and glitter following the pattern of the lace. From waist to hem the entire skirt front echoed this encrustation and then the heavy embellishment tapered to being only a foot deep around the base of the skirt. Pearls and glitter were scattered all over the rest of the skirt. The completed old ivory lace dress was the one-of-a-kind original dress that Judi had envisioned, designed, and created for her daughter. It was a fairytale princess’s fabulous dress; it shimmered with the slightest movement. Kathryn would be a radiantly beautiful bride.

The back of the van was loaded; there were three huge covered bowls of potato salad and two covered relish platters for the reception. A full skirted, floor length, purple silk dress for Judi to change into was hanging on the coat hook. Judi's purple dyed heels and Wendi's plum dyed satin lower heeled shoes along with their undergarments were in a small tapestry suitcase.  The five-tier wedding cake and two sheet cakes were in the center of the van back. The wedding dress, carefully spread out on white sheets, was in the very back of the van.

Judi and Wendi had turned off I-5 at the North 50th street exit and were about two miles from the church when the blankity-blank-blank driver in front of them slammed on his brakes for a blankity-blank cat. Judi jammed in the clutch, stomped on the brake, and grabbed for first gear; the van rocked violently forward and then back. The wedding cake slid into the back of the royal blue sheepskin covered front seats. The hatchback flew open; the wedding dress slithered out the hatchback. The wedding cake caromed out the hatchback, bounced off the wet, road oil begrimed wedding dress, leaving smears of chocolate cake, carrot cake, white cake, cherry filling, and white and plum icing; the demolished wedding cake finally landed in the middle of the road. Miraculously the top layer, a small carrot cake, with the figure of the bride and groom on top, landed whole and upright.