I hang the garment bag on the mirrored door in the bathroom, and a feeling of excitement washes over me. Today I’m marrying a wonderful man, and in five months we will have a daughter. It was only this morning we’d walked out of the ultrasound office after finding our baby was a girl; something I hadn’t expected given my husband-to-be’s family genetics typically favoring the male gender. I unzip the garment bag to reveal the beautiful dress within. It is just over forty years old, and the color which was once a bright white is now more of a cream, giving it a rather of antique charm. The empire waist, collar and cuffs are embellished in lace lined ribbon with tiny pink and blue flowers; the same ribbon that make tiers in the floor length skirt. The long sleeves are sheer and flow to the cuffs, which were meant for very tiny wrists; bony wrists like mine, like my mothers. It is, after all, my mother’s dress; the very one she wore when she married my father nearly forty-one years ago.
I smile thinking about the day I asked her if I could wear it for my wedding. The look on her face brightened with a mixture of surprise and joy I’ll never forget. She’d seen me in a wedding gown before. On the day of my first wedding I’d worn a Cinderella dream dress, filled with beading, crystals, and glittering tulle. It was a fairy tale dress, a glorious wedding, but the marriage did not compare. My mother, who’d seen me at my most beautiful, soon after saw me in a way most mothers hope to never see their daughters, abandoned and lost at age thirty-one. She’d stood by, helping me gain my footing, supporting me as I rearranged my hopes and dreams, and later, rejoicing when she discovered I was pregnant by a man who couldn’t wait to spend his life with me. Without judgement, and with an open heart, she rejoiced.
As I had no desire for another large wedding, my family understood, and embraced my wishes to elope with my fiancé. My tummy was just slightly beginning to show signs of pregnancy, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to wear on my wedding day. I didn’t want anything flashy, but I knew I wanted it to be something special. After searching for ideas many late hours online the image of my mother’s gown popped into my head, and all I could think was – how perfect. How perfect it would be to wear the gown that marked the beginning of my parent’s forty-one year marriage. How seamlessly the empire waist and A-line skirt would allow room for my growing belly. Without a doubt it was the perfect lucky charm to wear on the day I begin a new life. It was clear when I brought up the subject, my parents thought so too.
I carefully pull the gown from the plastic covering and hang it from the beautiful canopy bed. The gown seems to glow in the soft lighting coming through our room windows at the old Bed and Breakfast we’d chosen for our elopement. I stand watching the small dust particles glittering like fairy dust in the light before turning back to my dress. It is then that I notice the small envelope pinned to the collar. Careful of the lace, I gently unpin the envelope, and find the note folded inside. It’s from my mother. It is only twenty minutes until I take my vows, but I stand silently, looking at the words she’d written in her beautiful cursive hand. She didn’t write about how she’d wished she were here, or about disappointment with my decision to elope. She wrote about how the rain outside while she pressed her old wedding gown reminded her of how it rained on her wedding day, and how she felt it was a sign of luck. She told how she and my father were blessed in their marriage, which produced two wonderful children. She ends with, “It touches my heart knowing you will be wearing this gown on your special day, sharing a life with someone who has your best interests at heart, and gaining a new perspective on life when you first gaze upon your child.”
This is what it means to be a parent. It’s about loving, supporting and trying your best not to judge your child’s decisions. It’s about hoping against hope that they are happy, and doing one’s best to let them know that they are unconditionally loved. I know I will not always be able to step back and understand what is going on through my daughter’s mind, but I know I will always hope that no matter what, her life turns out to be a beautiful one. This is what my mother is doing for me. She’s not questioning, warning or showing worry. She’s letting me know she’s always on my side.
My intended walks into the room, breaking my concentration. “What are you reading?” he asks. “A note from my mom, wishing us luck,” I tell him. I put the note away for safe keeping, and finish curling my hair before finally putting my dress on. My husband-to-be tells me how beautiful I look, and I smile, subconsciously running my hand over the flowing fabric to feel the curve of my belly. I feel beautiful. Perhaps one day my own daughter will feel beautiful in this gown too. In the flower filled, enchantingly overgrown garden of the Bed and Breakfast I recite my vows to my husband with only a few of the employees looking on, and still I can’t help but feel my mother is with me; even more than I’d felt at my first wedding where she was actually standing by my side. She is with me in my happiness, in my dreams for a wonderful future, and everything that will come with it. She is with me, believing that the second time will be the charm.