I remember the day of the wedding dress imbroglio. And when you are a child and there is an imbroglio, the cause is sure to be boredom.
This was the 1970s after all, and toys had not yet been invented. There were, instead, adult accessories made smaller and marketed as toys – jack knives, steel-tipped lawn darts, home chemistry sets, eardrum-rupturing air blasters, BB guns, Easy Bake ovens, mini motorcycles. My father, a pediatrician, and my mother, a nurse, were safety freaks and forbade all of these excellent things. Unlike Gus and Joanne Lavris, who lived across the street with seven hellions, and who probably believed that hazardous toys served to weed out the weaklings, my parents used graphic medical photos to try and scare us into safety. "See, son, how the boy in this picture has no thumb? That's what happens when you whittle soap with wet hands."
This was also before society collectively decided that unstructured time was a menace to children. Throughout the Nixon administration and well into the Ford years, we had nothing to do, ever. Maybe a scout meeting once a month but most evenings and certainly most summer days were as vast and empty as our ambitions for the future. We were perpetually bored and no adult cared.
So it was that my sister Malisa was out on her bike, doing afternoon reconnaissance through Buckley Hills to see which of the ten thousand neighbor kids were available to play. From the corner of her eye, she saw something white and fluttery in Mrs. Arrington’s garbage can.
Who throws away something white and fluttery?
Malisa slammed back on her pedals and looked both ways before lifting the lid. Half stuffed inside was a perfectly pristine wedding gown.
She didn't think about why the dress was at the curb for the Tuesday garbage pick-up. She just took it. She tucked it into her bike's plastic basket like it was a puppy needing a new home and sped away.
Things didn't go as expected when Malisa got home. My mother was mortified. She didn’t like her child digging through trash. But worse, she imagined poor Mrs. Arrington, newly divorced, looking out her window in humiliation as some punk rode away with her discarded dress. "Get back on your bike and return that dress, young lady!” she said.
My sister plopped on the stairs and cried, the gown crumpled in her lap. I sat with her, marveling at the hundreds of tiny loops and buttons cascading down the back. It was at this moment, past euphoria and despair, that we arrived at rebellion. We came to our senses and did what any child would do and stashed the dress in the side bushes. Then we pedaled back to Mrs. Arrington's driveway to dig some more. We came up with the petticoat, shoes, veil, and even some old checkbooks. As we left the scene, the Lavris boys rode up but too late. Nothing left for them but a boring wedding album.
In the end, my mother resigned herself to our booty. It was too good to pass up and at least it wasn't sharp. No one would get burned. And for the duration of our childhood, Mrs. Arrington's gown formed the basis of our entertainment. It starred in dozens of plays, spook houses, and dress-up parties. Somehow, every production required a character in a wedding dress.
Here I am today, just like my sister, rescuing gowns and giving them a second chance. New in the shop is a stunner of a dress modeled by my friend Amy, who played dress-up with me one afternoon after we hung a wall collage in her family room. Click on the photo for shopping information.