Sunday, July 31, 2011

On a Whim

The house that my parents live in now is not the house in which I grew up.  Although my six siblings and I were all born in California, we moved to Western New York when I was eighteen months old.  For this reason, all of my memories center around the rambling farmhouse and its overgrown grounds that I called home until I left for college.  My first visit home from Smith confirmed my worst fear: an obnoxiously yellow and red "For Sale" sign stuck crookedly from the frozen ground in front of my beloved house that Thanksgiving.  By Christmas, it was sold, and by my birthday, my parents had moved an hour north and west to their dream retirement house, a pint-sized, winterized cabin on Lake Ontario that requires enough renovations to keep them busy for decades yet.  I've long since gotten over the hurt and anger I felt about the selling of my childhood home, but there are moments when the old scars twinge slightly. 

For instance, it takes me an hour to drive to my hometown to visit my one remaining friend from high school.  She and I share not only a first name and an identical tattoo, but a history that is full of memories, inside jokes, old hurts, healed wounds, and fiercely-kept secrets that only a friendship that spans so many years can acquire.  On a whim, we had decided to start our day together by visiting a dress and boutique shop that has been in my town for ages.  It's where giggling teenage girls go to get their prom dresses, where grandparents pick out tiny soft pajamas for their family's newest additions, and - the reason for our visit - the first place a girl goes to look at wedding dresses.  We wandered in, laughing as we reminisced over our cringe-worthy prom dress choices we made in that very shop more than five years ago.  We meandered over to a large rack marked SALE that was full of white dresses.  "This looks right," I said, glancing around.  "I don't know what I'm doing," I whispered to Cait.  "Me neither," she said, helpfully.  "I've never done this before either."  Sighing, we dove in, quickly realizing that looking in the size 20 section was probably a bad idea.  We pulled one down off the rack that looked vaguely promising.  I hefted it high into the air, surprised at how heavy it was, and remarked as much to Cait.  "That's the weight of commitment, honey," she said, and we laughed.  I saw another dress I thought I liked and asked Cait to pull it down.  She did and I sopped short.  "I really like that one," I said, all laughter gone.  "Me too," she said quietly.  "All right, well, let's go for it, soldier.  Into the dressing room you go!"

A few requisite jokes about my Christmas tree-printed underwear later later, (in my defense, I did not pack nude-colored underwear for this trip because I was not aware that I was going to be going wedding dress shopping, even if on a lark) I emerged in the first dress.  It was underwhelming.  "I look like a tablecloth," I said.  "Or a sheep," suggested Cait, ever helpful (Our unflagging honesty with each other has sustained our friendship over ten years and six hundred miles.  I wouldn't change a thing.)  Back in the dressing room, I slipped into the second one and emerged for my zip-up.  I tiptoed, barefoot, over to the mirror, clutching the too-big dress to my chest and looked in the mirror with a gasp.  Cait grinned from behind me.  "I think...I think this is it..." I said, trailing off as I stared transfixed.  "And it's on sale!" quipped Cait, making me laugh, because I could see how much she loved it too without her having to say it.

We headed downstairs and I wrestled my way into another four gowns, mostly for the sake of saying I tried on more than two.  Eventually though, I slipped giddily into the other dress for one last look - this time with the help of the shop owner, an old friend who's known me since I was in diapers.  She held the back closed with four clips and assured me that it would be easily altered to fit "my tiny self" (Let's not get into that, shall we?).  "Is this your dress?" she asked me, smiling at me fondly.  "Yes!" I said, in a barely audible whisper.

I couldn't believe it.  On a lark - on a whim! - I had found the dress.
Today, for the first time in a long time, I felt beautiful.

Tonight, at my parents' gorgeous lake house, we enjoyed the bounties of the season and the last sunset views of the garden for this trip.

I still can't bring myself to drive past my old home.  Maybe someday I will, or maybe I'll decide that there's no point.  For now, I'm just basking in the gratitude for a day well-spent.  After all, it's not every day that a girl gets to pick out her wedding dress with an old, dear friend right by her side.


Holly R said...

What a beautiful post! I think a lot of people feel the same way about their childhood homes, and on a much happier note- congrats on finding your wedding dress!

Cait said...

Thanks Holly! I'm currently resisting the urge to put it on and strut around the apartment in it, all by myself.

Tu Nguyen said...

<3 I'd love to see a photo of the dresss!YAY!

Cait said...

Good grief, woman, do you think I'm going to post pictures of that before the big day? You've gotta be kidding me :-)