This is my wedding dress. Circa 1989. It was the first one I tried on. Someone had told me that the first dress you try is usually the one you choose, because when the hundreds of teeny buttons are done up in the back and and the long train is ruffled out and arranged, you turn, seeing yourself in the mirror as a bride for the first time, you fall in love with it, and no other dress ever looks as good, and that's what happened. I managed to regret for awhile having chosen the first dress I put on, thinking I had somehow been too hasty, had missed the biggest shopping opportunity of my life or something, and my petulant whining about that made my mom sad, but on the day, when I was as beautiful as I ever would be, and my best friend had buttoned up all those million buttons at the back and ruffled out the long train, I had not a single regret in the world. I remember that my beloved brother, looking like Mr. Darcy in his ascot and morning coat, was the one to go to the florist in his Camaro to pick up my bouquet, which he delivered to me with the tenderest care. I remember that my best friend, looking as always exactly like Martha Plimpton, in her cream lace dress and Florida tan, was tragically hungover and trembling but made us laugh and laugh, and I remember that my mom, looking like a princess herself, put an ice bag on Martha Plimpton's neck to keep her from fainting. I remember that the waitress at the rehearsal dinner told a filthy joke to the minister and the church organist and I snorted iced tea into my sinuses. I remember that my dad curled my hand into his big arm as we headed up the aisle together, and squeezed it hard for a second, telegraphing all the sentimental things he wanted to say; his sense that he really was letting me go, and how it was hard for him, but how okay it was, too. That he loved me. "Don't trip," he said. "Walk slow." I remember that Doc, dressed in his brother's rented pants, was waiting for me at the other end, and that he gasped when he saw me. I remember that I was so thrilled about wearing this dress that I forgot to pack anything else to wear and had to come home again the next morning to pick up some clothes. My parents were drinking mimosas. "It's too late to give her back," they said. This dress cost a lot of money, a lot more than I should have asked my schoolteacher parents to spend on anything. It was, and still is, an utterly gorgeous (and utterly 80's) confection, a proper Cinderella dress, and wearing it, I felt lovely and loved.
Here's something that could not be more true: the dress does not hold those memories; they are in me. The dress is not the wedding, nor the marriage, nor the spectacular man I married and our subsequent decades of happy partnership, nor is it the repository or representative of any of those things, either. I don't need to continue trying to keep it safe and protected from, well, time. So I brought it down from the attic, and on a cloudy day, I hung it from the crabapple tree, and the wind tossed some pretend life into it, and ruffled out the train, and I photographed it. And then I folded it carefully back into the bag, zipped it closed, and gave it away.