Like so many other little girls, when I was a child I fantasized about how I might one day wear a beautiful, white wedding dress. When that day came for me, I was full of love and hope. The dress itself had been a gift from a student who just happened to have a never-worn, magically beautiful wedding dress in my size. I remember the way it rustled slightly when I moved, the weight of its folds and the way it hilariously hid my feet. I remember walking in it at my father’s side to the place where I was married underneath a tree on a chilly November day. After the wedding I carefully preserved my dress in case my own daughter might want it one day. I tucked it into my office closet reverently in its white box. I gazed at our wedding photos, at the happiness in everyone’s eyes, me in that dress.
My marriage ended up making me feel infinitely more lonely than I would feel alone. I was confused, ashamed, in agonizing emotional pain, hopeless. The first time I caught him lying to me, those beautiful wedding photos started making me sick to look at. I’d hung them all around our home where I could now see myself in that beautiful dress, smiling radiantly, naively, as I made the biggest mistake of my life.
Not long ago, I held that white box again. Almost everything I own has been in storage these 11 months since I left. I held that box and cried at that relic of great hope now lost forever. What on earth could I do with it? I couldn’t stand the idea of giving it to another hopeful bride, letting her wear the dress I had married my abuser in. It was much too beautiful and valuable to discard like trash.
I decided to take my wedding dress to a seamstress again. This one won’t be adjusting the length of the gown or pinning a bustle for dancing. She’s going to cut it into pieces and sew its soft folds into tiny burial dresses for grieving families who’ve lost infants. Like me, these families will be mourning the death of their dreams.
On Saturday morning, I drive to meet the seamstress at Umstead Park. The ironic midway point is where I’d usually want to be on Saturday morning for the long run I still can’t go on. She is young and pretty, with kind eyes. Her husband and small children unload their van in the background and I open my trunk. The large white box that holds my wedding dress sits between Thai pads and an empty gas can. I open the box and look at it with her one last time. She tells me she’ll send me a picture when she’s made the first tiny gown from it, and then she hugs me and I cry. “Is there anything I can do for you?” she asks, and I respond “Thank you, what you’re doing is helping me.” She takes the dress from my trunk and I get back into my car. I cry and cry, my face in my hands, as a group of runners hits the trails in bright colors. I see her join her family for their walk in my rearview mirror.
(to be continued)