Grandma’s Wedding Dress

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My Dad’s mother was a tiny woman of short stature, with her large brown eyes

peering expectantly in her face from under her wedding veil. There is a portrait of a

group of women, gathered in a photograph, where they are all wearing wedding

gowns. It is unique to see this 85 year old picture, where there are 28 women in

varied lengths and shades of their wedding dresses.

This sepia and cream photograph, which I chose to frame recently, in a gold-

filigreed metal frame with burgundy velvet backing, has been in my ‘custody’ for

almost 40 years.

I took this so-called “Pagaent of Wedding Gowns,” picture where I had to scan and

search carefully to find my grandmother here, out of my mother’s old red leather

photo album. This album was the kind where black pages had white ink lettering

that filled in “only a few gaps in all the years” collected. The words under the

pageant’s heading say, “Women’s Auxiliary.” I wonder why the word ‘pagaent’

is misspelled this way?

 

My old blogging friend, Lorna, seriously you have been around since about 2 years

ago, (Not ‘old’ in age, heaven’s no!) is getting married tomorrow! I am rejoicing and

dancing in my head at this good fortune and news! Please check out one of her most

endearing and comical posts about hers and Phil’s wedding ‘planning!’

http://lornasvoice.com/2014/09/11/the-idiots-guide-to-non-wedding-planning/

 

My warmest regards to the Happy Couple! Upcoming wedding of my youngest

daughter’s best friend from middle school, Holly and Nate, will be on October 4, ’14.

Showering these two couples with love, laughter and the best married lives ever!

So, if I lived closer, Lorna, I would be there for you: singing the funny song,

“I’m Getting Married in the Morning, ding dong the bells are going to ring…”

(from “My Fair Lady,” only inserting “You’re” for “I’m.)

 

My Mom, at the time, did not pay too close attention to this album, since we often

‘ransacked’ memorabilia, in those days.  Usually, I was borrowing scarves, clothes,

jewelry or those dainty handkerchiefs with embroidery or colorful woven floral

patterns. I liked to tuck these into my purses or pockets in jackets. My brothers used

to borrow men’s ties and wove them in and out of the belt loops in their bell-bottom

pant’s belt loops. Randy and I were involved in theater, he with set designs and the

stage crew. He inserted a lot of his original artwork into the plays during those

years.

Randy and I both knew how to “patch” (jeans, skirts, jackets, and other things)

and would get into my Mom’s large sewing ‘basket.’ We were more careful putting

things back in good order in there, since she was more likely to be using it sooner

than later.

The album had those black triangles, normally placed at four corners of a photo,

which had given out in two places. When I told my Mom that I needed to write

a paper or story of a historical event she just said, “Go ahead and use whatever

you like.” At the time,  I decided to do what pleased me best, to write a fairy tale

about my grandmother for this literature class I was taking my Senior year of high

school. My Grandma Oldrieve had died during my Freshman year of high school.

She had lived with us, since I was only 3 years old.

 

My Grandma O. was an enigma to me.

Although I would talk to her, she rarely spoke. She nodded her head and quietly

patted my hand. She took my arm, when I would go to get her daily for dinner.

She held herself up, while leaning on my arm. She had been ‘feeble.’ My Dad had

had to go to work while he was only 11, due to her inability to  pay rent on her

own. This story I have shared elsewhere.

 

My Dad loved his mother, but he was also quiet around her. This is a mystery,

which my Mom explains in her own about way. I do know my Mom felt

gratitude for the 12 years she lived in their homes. My Grandma helped out

with laundry and dishes. She would always send us in our pajamas to kiss her

goodnight, while she sat in her own ‘suite’ of rooms, smoking. My brothers were

hurried, but I would sit for a few minutes to check out what she was watching on

her little black and white t.v. I would perch on the arm of her comfortable chair.

Sometimes, she would give me a dry kiss on my cheek or a frail, gentle hug.

 

To describe the photograph more in detail: There are 20 women wearing white

wedding dresses, 6 wearing black dress and most are wearing long dresses. The

two women who are wearing ‘gray’ dresses, could have on pastel colors which

are only what I can detect as ‘gray.’ There are three women wearing short dresses,

which are below the knees, but would not be considered ‘short’ by most people

these days.

My Grandma O. has one of the mid-length dresses on in a wispy, gauzy kind

of material. It looks like it is layered over a taffeta or satin fabric. It makes me

think of a ballerina’s dress, not the tutu form, but the one that you see in a

formal style performance. Her dress is cream or white.

The photograph mentions that this is taken at the:

“New Thought Temple

December 8, 1939.”

 

When I wrote the details up in my ‘report’ or paper, (in high school lit. class), I

included the questions that I asked my mother and father. Was this in Cincinnati?

Did Dad ever go to this church? Do you know why they were gathered at this time?

Were the women who wore black:  widows?

The answers went like this: Yes, No, No, I think so.

 

I don’t have my original ‘Fairy Tale” about my Grandma and Grandpa,

my father’s parents. I do have the lovely stories of my mother’s parents

and grandparents’ love stories in my blogs. I did not keep any of my

high school writings, but did keep most of my doodles and scribbles,

resembling ‘art.’

 

Here is the ‘essence’ of what I had hoped my Grandmother’s wedding

day encompassed. . .

 

I wrote that my Grandmother loved her beau and wished to please him

always.  She was sweet to him, waited on him, hand and foot. She met him

at the church called, New Thought Temple. When he went off to the WWII

war, he was never the same again when he returned. There are no letters

sent from him, saved in a bundle with a ribbon around them. My Grandpa

was in a Veteran’s Hospital, when I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He had

only one visit with my parents, my grandmother and me together. My

Mom says he smiled at me, while I was a baby. He did not hold me, my

Mom said it was due to his having sudden seizures, she was afraid he

would drop me. They held me out to have him look at me, they sat with

him and told him that my Mom was planning on having another baby,

(my brother and I are 18 months apart.) He seemed to nod and smile,

she says that he was happy to have visitors. She thinks back, sometimes

to how it may have been, if my Dad hadn’t been given a job in Tennessee

and then, later up in Sandusky. If they had stayed closer, in Cincinnati,

maybe they would have visited more often?

 

My Grandmother was a ‘dreamer’ and she tried her best while coloring in

with watercolors and colored pencils, drawings for Gibson Card company,

while she was a young woman. By the time she had my Dad, she worked

as a ‘Candy Striper’ at the big hospital in Cincinnati. She knew my Dad was

going to Kentucky to work and make wages for their bills, but she did not

express much emotion or gratitude. My father wondered if she had been

depressed or despondent and unable to express herself to her obedient

son?

My fairy tale would be that she wore that dress down the aisle and found

a strong, sturdy man at the end of that walk. My grandmother, Eveline,

had her vows shared with my grandfather, Edwin, with a fine group of

people gathered. His strength pulled them through hard times, his arms

held her up so she needn’t feel like she was alone. My fairy tale would

show her tremendous joy, spinning around while preparing to walk down

the aisle, with her cream gauzy dress. She would be  whispering love secrets

to her maid of honor,  which would give her much satisfaction later in her

life.

While she lived in her son and daughter-in-law’s house, she would reflect

back  upon that splendid day. It would be forever etched into her mind,

with all the beauty in the bouquet, the scent of roses and carnations giving

her such smiles, lingering in her mind.

The comforting three little ones who would come in all clean, powder-scented

and hair slicked back on the boys, would bring her much inner peace and joy.

Memories of her wedding pirouette with her good friends surrounding her,

then the fine wedding waltz with her handsome tall Edwin, would be her last

thought, when she succumbed to her heart attack in 1970. Heavenly visions

of her husband’s hands reaching out to guide her along.

That’s the “happily ever after,” I wished for my Grandmother.

At Last.

 

 

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24 responses »

  1. I love looking at old photos of my family and imagining what life was like for them. That song…my best friends down the street growing up, all had older brothers. It was like their parents had two families. All the boys were older. The youngest boy and the oldest girls (twins) were 8 years apart (I think). Anyway, the middle brother was getting married, and I will never forget him singing that song the day before he got married. I even remember the wedding—such great memories!

    • So grateful, April, for sharing this imagining life was like for those in our family photo albums. I think that joins several of wordpress writers out there, it seems hard to NOT do this! I am happy about remembering to include that song, April! I am humming it in my head at the library! Hugs, Robin

    • Becky, thank you for this and such a great way to describe this, bringing back ‘rich memories.’ We are indeed ‘rich’ with the ‘wealth’ of loving family members. I wish that I has asked more questions and tried to pry a little bit more out of my quiet, loving grandmother. Lesson learned. Hugs to you and enjoy your weekend!

  2. oh robin, how amazing that photograph must be. i love the stories that are behind the pictures and the people whose families they are a part of. i’m going to try my best to tell my grandchildren all of my stories so they will know me and can pass the stories on someday. (well, most of the stories, anyway)

    • We sometimes have to ‘fudge’ or edit out some of those memories, but they also can make us more ‘human’ to them. I am so glad, Beth, you will make sure the kids and grandkids know the history and meaning behind the actual lifetime events you have had. The stories behind pictures mean a lot to us all, individually and as a family, too.

  3. That photo, taken near the end of the Great Depression, does hold a key to the mystery. My Mom had a similar album with black pages, black triangles to hold the photos in, and white writing. Robin, your description evokes memories of that time. My Mom and Dad married in 1941.

    I loved your story. Beautiful memories. 😉

    • Thank you so much, Judy, for helping me to figure out some more of the mystery. My parents married in 1955 and my Grandma O. probably would have been married for awhile, by the time of that picture in 1939. I am not sure when she did marry. Thanks for telling me that your Mom had the same kind of album, black pages, black triangles and white writing. I wish we could sit side by side, my looking at your family’s photos, then you at mine. Isn’t it great how our age loves this sort of thing? I have not been able to really have my daughters do much more than page through these. My oldest one has a few taken out of the albums, placed in frames, since her area of interest in art school was photography. Thanks for your personal sharing, Judy. I am so glad it helped you to have beautiful memories of your own brought back…

  4. Every Christmas Eve, after church, I pull out my parent’s photo albums and it always feels like the first time I’ve seen the photos. I love looking at photos, even of people I don’t know. 🙂
    Congrats to your friend! Wishing her and her future husband a long and happy life together. 🙂

    • I am so interested in this annual event of yours, every Christmas Eve. This is a lovely time to ‘walk down memory lane,’ looking at family photos. It would be such a great family ‘ritual,’ too. I agree, we see new things every time we do this. I love looking at black and white photos. Sometimes, I will stand and look at these for quite awhile, when there is a collection posted in the library or at an art gallery. At the end of movies, sometimes they will show the details of the people, where you see their family included. The end of “Quartet,” directed by Dustin Hoffman, they show all the famous band and orchestra people who contributed or acted in the movie, in their black and white attire. “Amelia,” my mother and I watched, showed a few actual photos of Amelia Earhart, her husband and her co-pilot’s real photographs, for example.

  5. I am so wanting to see the photos now! A beautiful, nostalgic trip down memory lane and how special your family are. I met my Grandmother for a few days and sadly she passed, I never met my Grandfather, they both lived in England. I have their wedding photo, very stoic. We are a small family, my penguins and now one brother as the other passed some years back. No cousins etc. I have two nephews and a great niece, but what I’m trying to say is a large family must be so special in so many ways. A beautiful story Robin.

    • I am happy that this got you excited about my family’s photo albums, Jen! I think it is always nice to be able to study these, try to understand family dynamics and when I see my Mom, try to get her to remember more details, too. Unfortunately, she knows little about my Dad’s side of the family, although we have a family tree back to England. I am 1/4 English, Jen! Smile!
      I would like to say, I am so glad you shared about your grandparents, Jen. I am sad that you never got a chance to know your Grandmother or Grandfather. (On both sides? or just your Dad’s side or Mom’s side?) I love the idea, I mentioned this to Judy, that we are of an age, that looking at other peoples’ albums and photos can really mean something. I would love to sit next to someone and have them tell me their family’s stories, then look at mine, help me figure out some of the dynamics. I have a rather small family too, Jen. I am so glad you have your parents, I search through your chats for news about your ‘penguins.’
      My Mom has only one sister, so my Aunt Amy and Uncle Orrin are still alive. My Dad had no siblings, his parents and he are gone. My two brothers never had kids, so my three and then, their children, are mainly who I have now. My oldest daughter was specializing in college in Photography, so she listens and looks at these photos with me. Sometimes she will ‘raid’ my photos and frame them on her ‘family photo wall.’ I am glad we had this ‘chat,’ Jen!

    • This was easy to do, since she was unimposing and very sweet lady. I am glad that my Mom was able to include her, since it would have been sad for my Grandma to live on her own. I am happy you found this a lovely story, Hollis. Thank you for the compliments.

    • I appreciate your saying this, Brenda. I didn’t weave it exactly into a fairy tale, somehow I could not quite ‘get there.’ But you are so kind to say this about the ‘work in progress.’ I sure hope there were happy memories and romance, too! Hugs, Robin

      • I am not sure, they were separated early in their marriage, due to some kind of pre-war or after-war situation. My Dad was vague, but my Grandfather Oldrieve came back not the same, whatever mess he was involved in. He told me he loved my Mom’s spunky ways and her ‘piss and vinegar.’ So, I think he was reacting to a lack of warmth, coming from my Grandma. I loved her just the same! She just seemed so sad and helpless…

  6. The photo is a treasure, Robin, and I love that you wonder about it still to this day. Those one-word answers to your questions, isn’t it something how families communicated sometimes when we were in high school? Oh, boy, I can remember times like that, too.

    I love the fantasy you had for your grandmother. It’s so easy to believe that so much of it was true, my friend.

    • Mark, thanks for this wonderful ability to capture how the high school ‘question and answer’ part of dinner went! You are so right about the way we communicated, they as parents and we, as teenagers!
      I like the way you call the photo a ‘treasure’ and how you mentioned the way I wrote my grandmother’s ‘fantasy’ in my mind, hoping she had some good things to remember, since she was so quiet, it is hard to know what was going through her mind. I do wonder about it, to this day, as you said…

    • Thank you, Ian. I appreciate these lovely compliments. I am sure most families treasure their antique photos, but this one I have studied more than most. She was such a quiet person, who died while I was a self-centered teenager, the time I started really wanting to know about her, there were few photos of her past, my Dad’s side of the family was quite poor, he had to start working at age 11, crossing into the state of Kentucky, where they didn’t have child labor laws! His mother was what he considered, “mousy,” so he married my red haired, green eyed ‘spitfire’ mother! Smiles!

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