I cleaned out my closet a few months ago. In it was the dress I wore when I married the father of my children.
The children's father and I eloped. We were married in the Methodist church, with only one friend and the minister in attendance. My dress was lovely--I'd had it for years, even before I married him. Tea-length, they called it. All ecru-colored, watered silk and tiers of lace.
I happily donated it to Goodwill.
But last week, I arrived at the ex's house to pick up the children, and sitting in the driveway---with the pile of suitcases, backpacks, and lunch boxes---was a box. In the box was my wedding dress from my first marriage. The ex has been cleaning out the attic, and he wanted me to take it away.
I have held on to that dress for 20 years. It was gorgeous. The dress every girl dreams about when she imagines her wedding. White and sparkly and very princess-like.
But I have nowhere to store it now. And I wouldn't feel right giving it to my daughter or anyone else. I guess I'm superstitious, but I wouldn't want to wear a dress from a "failed" marriage, would you? It would seem like jinxing yourself from the start...
So I donated it to a local high school theater group yesterday. I figure using it to "play" wedding won't hurt anyone.
But why does it bother me in a way that donating the other to Goodwill did not? Why have I felt pangs of loss over that dress that I still don't feel about the other?
I suppose part of it is that my first husband was the love of my life. I loved him passionately, in a way that---I regret to say---I never felt for the father of my kids. I entered that marriage with so much hope! The sparkles on my dress were only pale reflections of the stars in my eyes.
Giving that dress up means giving up the dream, I suppose. The dream of uncomplicated love. The dream that marriage---for me, at least---is a possibility. I've tried it twice now, and I don't seem to be very good at it.
But maybe there is something hopeful in being able to let go. Maybe, by cleaning out my closets, I am opening the way for new experiences. Experiences that are rooted in reality, not starlight.
And maybe, without my shattered dreams hogging so much room, love and hope will find some space and decide to take up residence.
Doxy on her first wedding day: July 18, 1987.