You know you have a good story to tell and there are so many ways to tell it. A story unfolds differently on paper than it does orally. Maybe 2015 will be your year to save your stories in writing. When my daughter Andrea got married 9 years ago she found a gorgeous wedding dress. But there is a story about getting that dress to fit properly. If I told it orally to a friend it might sound thus, “Andrea’s dress felt too tight on her wedding day and she told me she couldn’t wear it! Her friends helped her relax and solved the problem.” When told on paper the story grew and I was able to include many sensory details and a touch of humor:
The zipper slowly inched upwards; each quiet click as the plastic teeth engaged was a victory. “Let your breath out, tuck your tummy, arms up!” That should have been my first clue. My daughter had dismissed each hanger down the rows of white satin and finally pulled a dress out with a gasp of pleasure. “This could be it!” We had been looking for her wedding dress for months, in and out of shops. We finally decided to try Hope’s Bridal Boutique even though it looked like a big pink barn in an Iowa cornfield. Because it was. Cringe. The ivory satin showed off her tan bare shoulders, was trimmed with tiny pearl beads and had intricate pleats on the bodice. Lovely, elegant. She went to try it on and came out needing help with the zipper. The clerk, a young lady with more enthusiasm than expertise, finally got it zipped up but the stitching looked stretched close to bursting. “Uh, Andrea, it’s a size 6, do they have it in a size 8?” She was twirling in front of the mirror trying to see herself from all angles. Evidently she saw everything but that zipper, those poor plastic teeth clasped in a death grip. Andrea thought it would work. The clerk, eager to make a sale said they could take let it out a bit so I pulled out my plastic.
Andrea went to the fittings and never said a word besides, “All good, mom, love my dress!” The August day finally arrived, hot and sunny, her wedding day. Her best friends came in the church and hugged Andrea, their pretty dresses encased in plastic bags slung over their shoulders. I was fussing with other details so said I would come in later to see them after they put the dresses on. When I finally got down to the dressing room I hung back watching. Laura, the maid of honor was saying, “It’s okay Andrea, let your breath out, tuck your tummy in, arms up!” That was my second clue. Andrea was flustered and starting to hyperventilate. I said, “Andrea, what’s wrong, I told you a size 8 would be better!” Laura was behind Andrea frantically making motions that had to mean, “Mother of the bride…. Shut up. Now!” Finally those brave zipper teeth were clenched together and Andrea gasped, “All good, mom, love my dress!.” The girls looked lovely. The bridesmaids were swathed in classic rose piped in black and Andrea’s dress was appropriately fastened in all the right places. All was well.
They headed down to the sanctuary where the photographer was waiting for them. After a few poses Andrea was looking flushed. She started to nervously fan her face with little jerky motions of her lovely manicured fingers. Her breathing was reduced to panicky gasps. I thought I saw an exasperated look on the photographer’s face but it was fleeting. He was a seasoned professional used to dealing with nervous brides. He calmly suggested the bride take a 10 minute break. The bridesmaids hovered around her like mother hens and gently led her to a little room to the side where they could have some privacy.
I opened the door and they were all sitting in a circle holding hands, awash in a sea of rose and white satin. Andrea’s dress was spread around her, her waist rose up from the froth of beaded satin. Was she hyperventilating again? What was that she just said? It sounded like, “I can’t wear this dress, I can’t breathe, I can’t wear this dress!” Her lovely fingers started that jerky little fanning motion again. I blurted out, “Andrea, you have to wear that dress, you’re getting married in one hour, you know how much that dress cost??” Was I sounding shrill? Laura gave me an icy look that would’ve frozen molten lava. I opened my mouth, closed my mouth, and obediently left the room in full retreat from Laura’s riveting glare.
I sat down and waited. Glancing over at the photographer I gave him an apologetic smile and caught him checking his watch. We watched the door to the little room willing it to open. When it finally swung open, the young ladies waltzed out; calm, cool and collected. Their dresses were smooth, their heads were held high. They were ready for pictures. Andrea’s dress was resplendent and she held herself with regal poise, smiling sweetly for her big day. I was amazed and delighted and watched with all the tender pride and emotion only a mother of the bride can feel. My baby girl was getting married!
After a beautiful ceremony and yet more pictures I peeked in the little side room wondering how in the world Andrea’s too tight dress expanded to fit comfortably. There on the floor was her expensive bra, forlorn stays pointed skyward, its absence creating just the ease to make her day perfect.
Think of one of your favorite family stories and write it down! Or have someone interview you about it. You’ll have fun with the sensory details and end up with a story worth saving!