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THE Wedding Dress Act THREE

If you have been following this random blog you know the story of THE wedding dress Acts One (yet to be written up), Act Two & Four. But what about Act Three you wonder. It’s a great one! Read on to see if you agree.

I asked good friend Sherrie to write down the story she verbally told me about lending the dress to another friend and this is what she jotted:

“Wow…this is going to test my memory!!

My friend Charlotte (Char) from Radford (used to be an all girls school) was 3rd to wear the dress. Following graduation in May of 1969 Char went to join her family in Japan where her dad was stationed in the Air Force. It was there that she met Lance whose dad was also stationed at the same base and they got engaged.

Char’s dad’s tour of duty ended that summer of 1969 and the family returned to northern Virginia in July. Her wedding was planned for August! I was the only bridesmaid in the area and so we went looking for dresses in a panic because she had less than a month until the wedding. We found nothing suitable and it dawned on me since Char and I were the same size, ‘You know Char, I have a dress that might fit you.’

The dress had been cleaned and sealed after both our weddings and was at my parent’s house in Williamsburg. The weekend we went to get it was the famous ‘walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong’. It was televised and it seemed like the entire world was glued to their television sets watching.

It occurred late Sunday night our time. Joe and I stayed up late watching it, caught a few winks of sleep and left before dawn because Joe had to be at work bright and early.

We had a 1968 Fiat Spider convertible 2 seater and there was barely room inside the back of the car for our luggage so absolutely no room for a fairly large wedding dress box!

Joe secured it to the rack on the back of the car with bungee cords and it seemed pretty safe. We had driven less than thirty minutes when we heard a slapping type sound. At first we weren’t sure what it was and then we heard the sound of the release of the box going air borne.

It was so dark we couldn’t see, but when we pulled off the road it was confirmed that the box was gone.

We were on Route 143 between Williamsburg and Richmond and the road was a divided four lane highway. There were no lights, not much population, certainly nothing close to the road with any light and it was about 4AM.

We had to back up and down the highway hoping no other cars would come along, frantically searching for the box. After what seemed like forever we finally found it about a half a mile back in a ditch. Thankfully the box had not been damaged.

We secured it again using other methods than just bungee cords. I remember a belt and things pulled out of our luggage to tie it tightly to the rack. And so the dress made it back to Alexandria. while a man from earth walked on the moon above.

Aside from tacking up the hem a bit, the dress fit her perfectly.”

It would be fun to have a few of Char’s wedding photos but I am grateful to have snagged this screen shot of her (I never met her) when many of us, who were unable to attend the event, made Sherrie a Happy Birthday video. In her segment Char mentioned THE Dress and panned to this photo!

The End of Act THREE

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THE Wedding Dress Act Four

And we thought that the wonderful crazy story about the shared wedding dress was all said and done.

Not this dress. It continues to create memories.

Enter Sherrie’s daughter Cary and soon to be fiancé Judd. Cary’s lifelong best friend, Kathleen, lives on the Outer Banks and they visit back and forth regularly. During one visit Cary posts a sunset photo and I comment that I know where she is. Turns out I was not quite right. I thought that Cary was at the Colington Harbour soundside beach when she was actually at a similar small beach near Kathleen’s house in Kitty Hawk. But they both claim stunning water oaks overlooking peaceful waters to frame a good sunset.

We get to chatting, one thing leads to another with Cary and Judd agreeing to swing by for coffee on their way home to Charlottesville. They have never been to our house and as I am giving them the tour I point out the wedding dress to Cary. The story is new to her and she agrees with her mom that she would never have an interest in wearing it. She takes my picture with the dress. This is in May of 2019. In September Cary & Judd get engaged. They set their wedding date for May 1, 2021, well enough into the future to circumvent the pandemic.

Months pass. Cary gets a dress and sends me a photo of it. She tells me that she has a wish to somehow use a piece of her mom’s dress in her wedding attire. I suggest a piece of the Alencon beaded lace or some of the tiny covered buttons incorporated into her dress but neither idea strikes a chord.

Whatever we come up with she wants it to be a complete surprise to Sherrie. My lips are sealed. I look at the dress. As steward of the dress I definitely want Cary to have a piece but I also do not want to alter its integrity.

Then inspiration hits. I do not even ask Cary. I tell her I have the perfect solution and will mail her the finished piece. She trusts me enough to agree.

The dress was too long for both Sherrie and myself and it ended up with a very deep hem. I make a heart shaped template as big as I can to cut into the hem of the dress from top to almost bottom leaving just enough for a cloth patch to be ironed on to keep the cut out area together. The dress is sewn in panels. I snip two hearts for symmetry along the inside of the hem from two of the largest panels. And patch the openings with light weight iron on fabric.

I appliqué stitch the two pieces together. At first I consider leaving the top part open so Cary can tuck in a note but the piece looked prettier completely stitched. Because I want the appliqué to be as big as possible without compromising the dress it ends up being part satin and part horsehair which I think rather interesting because that documents the construction of original hem.

It has taken me awhile to ponder various ideas and decide if the fabric will cooperate, there’s not a lot of margin for error or do overs. The days are advancing and I have assured Cary, even though she does not nudge me, that she is not forgotten and my idea almost finished and ready for mailing.

By the time I gather my courage, make the cuts, sew the heart appliqué, and mail it off to Cary it is late February. Plenty of time for an early May wedding, but she’s a bride there are endless things to do.

Cary is beyond delighted when she gets her surprise. “I LOVE it!” she texts. I envision Cary tucking it into her bra or bouquet but she does that vision one better. She sends me a video, under sworn secrecy of course, showing how she has stitched the heart into the lining of her dress. It is completely perfect. She tells me she has sewn the heart in using blue thread. I tell her that my nod to blue was sewing as well. I gathered my veil with blue thread.

The pandemic has proven rude and relentless, nevertheless Cary & Judd stick to the original date modifying the location to their backyard and the in attendance guest list to family and close friends with everyone else attending by Zoom. We all send video toasts which Kathleen collates into a file for Cary & Judd to watch after the ceremony. I added one of our many outtakes here because Cary & Judd have the best of the lot and we do work hard to make a good one for them. We want to capture an Outer Banks sunset while toasting with the wedding memento champagne flutes Cary & Judd have sent by FedEx to everyone.

And Cary’s surprise for Sherrie goes off without a hitch. Their wedding photographer captured the reveal moment so well

Now this is not the end of the wedding dress story because rather like Star Wars I started in the middle.

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Peter, Paul & Mary and ME

Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, Mary Travers

Nephew Jake sends a text this evening asking if I was ever a fan of Bob Dylan. I laugh and tell him he’s opening a can of fun worms. I dig out my epiphany post and send it to him. He then asks about Elvis. Nada there but I tell him I do have an awesome PP&M story and wander over to my blogspot world to dig it out to move over here.

I first *meet* Peter, Paul & Mary when I am a green freshman in college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The monied gals all belong to Columbia Records Album of the Month Club. You get mailed their selection or one of your own. Most gals opt for Columbia’s selection and so it lands on Peter, Paul & Mary to be the chosen album for September or October 1962, I forget which one, the weather is still nice though. I did not have enough money to buy albums then but get a lot of free listening as most dorm room doors stay open all of the time.

After college, which involves my moving to Richmond Professional Institute in Richmond, Virginia in my sophomore year as my folks have left Ohio and out of state tuition is pretty steep but more than that my family too far away, I buy every PP&M album available.

And then, happy day for me, I read that PP&M are coming to the Mosque, THE venue to be at in Richmond in those years. My apartment and work mate Sherrie and I make plans to go. As the day of the concert approaches our plot thickens. I know the Mosque pretty well. All of our college dances and those of MCV (Medical College of Virginia) are held in the opulent basement ballroom. Concerts of all kinds are held upstairs in the massive domed theater complete with two balconies and box seats. There I saw Bob Dylan, Roger Miller. I weaseled my way into a Sam & Dave concert. The Mosque and I have spent many grand hours together. Back to my PP&M story. Sherrie & I want to talk to them, meet them, rub shoulders with them after the concert. But we don’t want to walk home late at night by ourselves even if our apartment is only a few blocks away. So the afternoon of the concert we park my Carolina blue Volkswagen Beetle, Velma, vintage 1962, in the Mosque proper parking lot. It is legal but there is only room for about a dozen cars.

We are ready! The concert is all that we expect. Just the three of them on that huge stage owning the show. Well there is one more, Dick Kniss, their bass player. He is always introduced but remains well separated from the group even though still on stage. That was it, no fancy lights, good sound but no headsets, just acoustic guitars. You know the picture. Simplicity delivering quality music. Then near the end of the sold out concert, Mary announces that as much as they would love to stay and chat, they have to get to Baltimore to catch a plane. They have not one minute to spare. We are all crushed but that is that.

Concert over, Sherrie & I head through the packed crowds thronging the sidewalks. Bumper to bumper traffic clogs the streets surrounding the Mosque. We sigh, we are never going to get out of our tiny parking lot any time soon. Still we forge ahead and beg with Velma’s vintage charm to let us out of the lot. Some kind soul does. We are now part of the bumper to bumper traffic. Suddenly a head pops out of the car window in front of us and yells back to me, “Do you know how to get to the interstate?” Sherrie and I gasp! It’s Mary!!! PP&M are (beat) in front of us! They need our help!

“Sure!” I call out. I hand wave them to a quieter side street close by and our cars switch places. I am thinking fast. I never use the interstate much; old car, not much gas, working girl, all spare money spent on music. I think I remember how to get there. We twist and turn through the fan streets. Surely they think I am taking them on a wild goose chase, but what choice do they have? They are trusting…ME!! Completely forgetting about the Belvidere Street on ramp only minutes from the Mosque, I am taking them to the Boulevard Street ramp. It really is fine though because they will have lost no time, we’re going in the right direction. We get to Broad Street, only a few blocks more to the Boulevard and I-95. We need to turn left. There is a lit no left turn signal. I wave to them to turn anyway as I am doing, certain a cop is going to ticket us any minute even though there is absolutely no traffic anywhere. We are lucky. No cop, interstate ahead. We scoot onto the on ramp, as they do. They wave as they zoom past us in their snappy new car that can move. We consider following them. But, we have no gas, we have a pathetic car for a chase, we go home. We cannot let it go. A few hours later, we have a plan. We call the Baltimore airport and explain that we need to page Mary Travers. We have a message for her. They page her (this is 1967). Mary comes to the phone, surely thinking something is wrong with her family. No, it’s the crazy girls from Richmond. How can we get in touch with you? She is civil. She gives us an address. That’s our Mary.

After Donny and I get married we see them together in Richmond and we even chat with Mary through the window of her dressing room. Us outside in that same tiny parking lot standing on tip toe on the loading ramp that lets you get fairly close to the barred window. Close enough to shout.

We take the kids to see them before we move to North Carolina, again at the Mosque.

And we see them one more time at Wolf Trapp in Virginia in the mid 90’s. Donny has the cool story this time. He hung out with Paul, for real. I am taking a cranial-sacral training course and as PP&M are going to be in town we get tickets to the concert. Donny has time on his hands while I am in class. Here is his story about how he spends that time…with Paul Stookey! “In one of the local handout papers I read that Paul is teaching a songwriting class the afternoon before the concert, and I go to it! There are only 5 or 6 other people there, and mostly we just talk about music.” Can you imagine? You and Paul and a handful of other people, sitting around talking about music. How cool is that!

Thank you Peter, Paul & Mary. I cherish the road we traveled together.


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