119 years separate two weddings I am thinking about. What is different, what’s the same? The fact that people still want to get married is news enough. In 1898, my great-grandmother, Sadie Bowen, of Putnam, Connecticut married Leonard Parker of Bartlett, New Hampshire. This year my daughter, a native of New Hampshire, and with the middle name Parker after Leonard and the Bartlett Parker’s, will be married to a wonderful young man from Connecticut. Circles upon circles over centuries.
I have in my possession Sadie’s wedding outfit from 1898. It is brown and copper striped silk taffeta, hand stitched and adorable. At 21 years of age, Sadie had a 21-inch waist. At her wedding she wore a skirt and a tiny matching jacket with lace collar and cuffs. To top it off she used extra lace for a doily-sized headpiece with maroon velvet ribbons. White was impractical, not in fashion and probably unavailable in 1898 in many rural areas. Leonard asked Sadie for her hand in marriage by giving her a box of chocolates with one missing where sat the engagement ring. By the size of Sadie’s waist, I am guessing she only nibbled one or two of those bad boys.
When wedding dress shopping with Jessy, I think about Sadie making her own dress. I look at my daughter in the 15th dress of the day and near to tears, and I wonder if Sadie cried over her dress. Did she hate brown silk taffeta? Was it all she had to work with? Was she dreaming of grandeur in blue with a hoop and tulle underneath? Did she ever think of scrapping it and making another? Did she look in the mirror and burst into tears?
Did Sadie even have a mirror?
I wish Sadie had written her thoughts down. How I would love to read them to Jessy while she rips off another layer of lace and fluff, cheeks red with exhaustion. Maybe Sadie would say, “It’s all worth it, honey. Keep trying. Get the right one, just like your man.” Or would she say, “For heaven’s sake, just pick one and get on with it. There’s bread to be made.”
All I have of Sadie is her tiny outfit with the perfect loop stitches and the stories my mother tells me which are mostly dates and events. I wish, with her dress, Sadie had pinned a bit of advice from the 19th century. Maybe her thoughts would be heeded, or simply amusing—connecting both time and geography with shared DNA. But the chances that these two young women, choosing a wedding outfit across centuries, may have much in common is too compelling for me to ignore.
Maybe we can reverse the time continuum and give advice back to Sadie: Perhaps, “Eat the chocolate and let out the waist!” or “Don’t let Leonard steal your thunder, Sadie. Go for the blue tulle!”
If I get a chance, I’ll pin a note on Jessy’s dress to a mother-of-the-bride to be in 2136: It will say, “119 years ago, I laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed. Wedding dress shopping with your daughter is the bomb.”