I know the feel of my mother's wedding dress. Her first one that is. As a girl child, I would slip it over my plaited head and feel the scratch of net at my throat, the rippled waves of lace; drop pearls and rainbowed sequins catching beneath my nails as I clawed, vain, at the too tight zip. Bride for an hour, I would gather up the skirt in frothing handfuls, not to altar fall; preen and whirl twirl before the glass. Dressing in my mother's past and my own future. I wonder will my daughter do the same in my ivory and satin empire line? Will I let her play dress-up? Or will I say: "No darling, mummy wants to be buried in her dress. Won't she look pretty in the box? She'll finally get her money's worth anyhow. Here's a cowboy outfit. Wear that instead."
I have seen black and white photos of that special day, my mother's happiness with the groom who did not stick around. Who had to be replaced with something that smiled and was more durable. "You may kiss the bride and make her cry," the priest must have said to this groom who fathered a child and then cavalierly, cancerously died. Job done. But I never knew until today that my mother's bouquet was of golden yellow roses with a white ribbon bow. Now I know, I can smell the yellow from here.
Black and white; the day seems far away. In the hectic pink flush of my mother's cheek; I am there, or at least, the idea of me. My uncle JPEG'd me a colour photo of the day. Double click, double click, open and OK: my parents wedding, 24th August 1963. A windy day. My mother's lace dress with its hooped petticoat, lifted up and hurled against her own proud and sentry mother in a sky blue two piece. Dress and coat with matching "I'm looking for something for my daughter's wedding" daisy petalled hat. "He loves her, he loves her not." He loved her; just not for long enough. And my gran, my gran who liked an orchid, exotic in a clear and plastic box, her orchid was a burgundy. A nice contrast, we all thought, against the blue.
The huddle then, from left to right, my father (now deceased in a dove grey silk tie), his grim faced mother (my other grandmother in a dark blue suit), my sky blue gran and the pink cheeked bride. My mother is the only one to smile. I cannot tell if his mother is trying to smile and just unaccustomed to it. Or whether she is thinking; "This will not end well." A groom then, two widows and a bride. I think he should have guessed how it would end. The way it often ends for men. Dead. And gone. Did I mention he was gone?
Still, I am glad I went to the wedding, stood with them in the breeze awhile, smelled the flowers, admired my gran's hat, the sheen on my first father's tie. I magnified his face to a pixillating blur. A blur the size of a daughter's hand. I know this to be the case. I pressed my hand against his glass face and measured it. Taking it away and looking hard, I thought I saw him smile.