Sixty-three years ago, a young woman named Naomi went to a dry goods store in Elmira to select fabric for her wedding dress. As was customary in her circle at that time, she chose from the blue colour palette and took home two swatches to show her fiancé. She said that he liked the navy as it went with his suit, but she wanted something a little brighter, so she went with the royal blue crepe piece. She sewed her dress on their Singer treadle sewing machine at their farm house in the little hamlet of Yatton.
Thirty-one years later, Naomi’s daughter went to Duthler Textiles on Gaukle Street in Kitchener to find fabric for her wedding dress. She chose a bolt of European-made chiffon with embroidered lily-of-the-valley throughout it to go over a lining of soft satin. She sewed her dress on the Kenmore sewing machine given to her by her Mom and Dad on her twentieth birthday. It was a cocktail length with three-quarter sleeves and lovely, sheer shoulders. Pearl buttons with individual elastic loops ran down the back of it.
And, just a few months ago, Naomi’s daughter’s daughter went to a small shop called Boutique 1861 on St. Laurent Blvd. in Montreal and chose her wedding frock “off the rack”. The dress was brought home for alterations and added bits and pieces. The same pearl buttons that held her mother’s dress in place will be removed and stitched down the back of her dress. “Something old” perhaps?
There’s going to be a wedding here on the farm. The proverbial fatted calf has made its contribution, and the mismatched china plates have been collected. Rentals are in place, flowers are ordered, and we hope for a fair weather day.
When I got married, our meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing, and pumpkin torte for dessert was made entirely by the ladies at the church. My mom and her family made all the food for their wedding meal of mashed potatoes, Schneiders Red Hots sliced open and stuffed with dressing then drenched in brown butter, veggies, and sours. Mom used a hand beater to whip the egg whites for the dozen or so angel food cakes that she made from scratch. She also made all the icing with that same hand beater. Our girl wants to make her own cakes as well, though not every last one and not with a hand beater! Family and a caterer will be part of the mix.
There is this lovely thread of matriarchy that is running through these wedding preparations. Women putting their heads together, remembering, planning, dreaming, and working. Ideas are birthed and schemes are hatched. Sisters, aunts, cousins, and Grammas are lending their hands. Friends are doing their bit. There is a coming together of the village to create a day of joyful celebrations for one of their kin.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” goes the old saying. Wisdom from the old can carry forward into the new, but there is always room for recreating how things are done and borrowing from what has worked elsewhere. Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof said that tradition helped to keep balance, but he also found out that holding too tightly to tradition can be harmful to relationships. It takes deep connectedness to stay fluid.
In the weeks ahead, meats will be slow roasted, batters will be mixed, and porches will be painted as we prep and primp for that big day. Dresses and shoes, earrings and pearls, shirts and ties all need to be gathered and pressed. The clock ticks on heedless of time, and the day will come, ready or not. We will celebrate with abandon and officially gain another family member. And Naomi’s daughter’s daughter will weave her own colours into the family tapestry. As Chava says to Tevye – “The world is changing, Papa”. May we both hold tight and let go all at the same time.