On one of the nice sunny days last week, I opened the windows and let the sweet smelling air into the house. Now energized, I needed a plan: How about taking the first step in spring cleaning and straightening my closet?

Our mother passed away in 2004. As my sister Roe, brother Jack and I prepared to sell her beloved home, we packed her clothes, shoes and handbags; the grandchildren lovingly chose pieces of furniture, mirrors, tea pots and other items to add to their own homes, knowing that these were their wonderful Nanny’s treasured possessions. 

We finally came to Mom’s cedar chest, which was beneath the windows in her bed room. This is the same cedar chest where I sat many a Saturday night after returning home from a date; I would give Mom all the details and we’d whisper and laugh. Of course we woke Dad and he’d tell us to take our true confessions elsewhere! Roe and I knew that there was something very special in this chest. Under a few light blankets, wrapped in white tissue paper, lay Mom’s wedding dress. After a lump in our throats, tears and a hug, we knew we couldn’t give the gown away; it had to remain in the family.

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“Ruthie, you’re the oldest child and you should have it.”

Shortly after I brought the dress home, I took it to a specialty shop to have it preserved and boxed. Now, here I was looking at this extraordinary box in my closet; somehow, I needed to see this piece of Mom’s legacy, to feel close to her. I carefully slid the box out of its sleeve making sure I didn’t disturb the clear plastic window. I could see only the top half of the dress but I knew its design—I had held it many times. Mom told us that she had seen a dress similar to this in a bridal shop; she and her seamstress went to the shop where the seamstress sketched the dress on a matchbook cover. Voila! A wedding dress fit for a princess!

So elegant and regal was this creation: A champagne-hued bridal satin and lace sheath dress with a cathedral train trimmed in hand-sewn lace. There were close to a hundred satin-covered buttons going from the lace collar to the hem, and on the leg-of-mutton sleeves. When Mom let me hold the dress for the first time, I remember feeling the silky softness and the weight of the satin.

Our parents’ wedding photographs show a young, beautiful bride in her fairy tale gown and a handsome, dashing bridegroom in his smart tux. That being said, if one were to see photos of them as the years passed, the look of love and togetherness between them is there for all to see. Priceless.

Now a confession: While examining the dress with the shopkeeper before having it cleaned and preserved, I saw some smudges under the cathedral train. I thought:

“Those could have come from Mom and Grandpa walking to the altar or Dad and Mom when they happily came down the aisle as husband and wife or when they danced their first dance.”

Chills ran up my spine! How poignant and beautiful. 

I decided not to have the wedding dress cleaned.