After a 17 year hiatus, in May 2023, Teresa & Bonnie headed off to England to visit Teresa’s family. To set the scene: Teresa was somewhat nervous. It had been a long time since driving on the left and with a stick shift. Then there was the fact that her parents were getting older and had been in poor health. It would also be the first time meeting a niece and nephew, who were just small children during the last visit. (They are now both at university, my niece an undergraduate, my nephew studying for his Master’s Degree).
We had been talking about a visit for a few years. We renewed our passports in 2019, then COVID hit, then we moved out of State. The trip was originally planned for July but after much discussion, research and planning with the family, we finally settled on 3 weeks in May. That decision turned out to be fortuitous.
And so begins the story of the wedding dress……
After spending a few days with my parents and brother and then 4 days with one of my sisters and her family on the Isle of Wight, we travelled back to the village I lived in before I moved to the United States. We stayed with a good friend and my former next door neighbor. It was strange after so long away, seeing the house I called home with my former husband. While there, we had lunch with Brian, my ex. To my embarrassment and shame, I didn’t recognize him as he approached us as we were paying for parking. (That’s another story). But we get on well, so he took it in good stride!
After lunch and a quick stop off at Brian’s apartment, we visited his place of work and was introduced to the owner. Co-incidentally Brian works in the same industry as we do; he for a supplier of promotional products and us a distributor of same. It’s a small world! But I digress!
As we were getting ready to leave, Brian said he had something for me but he wasn’t sure I’d want it. I started to get worried. In the boot of the car he revealed a cardboard box neatly tied up with string. I looked at him puzzled. We opened the box and there it was……..my wedding dress …..neatly folded, separated with tissue paper and preserved with a small bar of lemon soap and a cube of bath salts. Brian’s Mum, Ruby, who passed away a few years ago, had kept it in her attic all these years. When Brian’s Dad passed, the house was sold and the contents were removed. Brian chose to keep the wedding dress and give it back to me.
After the initial shock, we discussed our options—I could bring it back to the States and donate it, Brian was willing to donate it locally. Bonnie & I looked at each other—my niece on the Isle of Wight was getting married in July —perhaps she could cut it up and use it for decorating the arbor or for “something old”. Brian offered to keep the dress, so I could call my sister and ask if she thought her daughter would be interested. If she was, we’d meet up with Brian again before the end of our trip to hand it over.
My sister said Jo (my niece) would be thrilled—she often participated in plays and was sure she could use the dress, even if not for the wedding. She promised to confirm this with Jo.
We continued with our trip, visiting with long time friends who treated us to a traditional English Cream Tea. Then we visited my other sister in the Bristol area and met my niece and nephew for the first time since they were children. They both made special trips back home to meet me. I hope to go back again to get to know them better.
When Jo confirmed she’d like the dress, we met up with Brian again. We took the dress to my parent’s house and decided we’d better see what condition it was in. It was perfect, not yellowed, still in tact. My sister would pick up the dress and get it to my niece.
At that point our task was done. We returned to the US with a good feeling about the outcome of the unexpected “gift”. But the story doesn’t end here…..
After experiencing a cancelled international flight, creating a less than pleasant trip home, we settled down to the task of catching up with our business and getting back into our normal family routine. We had several emails from Jo, updating us on the progress of the wedding plans. With a wedding celebration over two days one of which was in their back garden, there was a lot of landscaping and maintenance to do. There was no mention of the wedding dress and I didn’t like to ask.
On Friday 28th July 2023 my niece, Jo, was married to Patrick Gooden in a Registry Office on the Isle of Wight. She wore my wedding dress! It was such an honor—I tear-up every time I think of it.
Originally our trip to England was going to be for the wedding in July. Among other considerations, we decided we could spend more quality time with everyone if we avoided the last minute wedding rush. If we had visited in July, we would have still met up with my ex and he would still have given me the wedding dress, but…...it would have been too late for my niece to even consider wearing it!
And thus, I wanted to commit the story of the 40 year old wedding dress to “print”. It is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life and one I want to share with you.