Wedding dress deja vu

I got married in May 1988, 28 years ago. This year, in May 2016, I dug out my wedding dress and did a bit of dress-deja-vu.

The dress was made by my friend Ruth. She was living in Cape Town at the time, and I was living in Joburg. She offered to make the dress as a wedding present, which I was thrilled about (she’s a very talented seamstress), and my Dad forked out for the beautiful heavy satin fabric and the chiffon. So about a month before the wedding, I flew down to Cape Town on what was supposed to be a fitting-and-sewing weekend, but Ruth and I were beeeeg jollers, so instead we spent the whole time drinking tequila, going out to eat and dance, sleeping late, and talking our heads off. On the Sunday, with about 10 minutes to go before we had to race off to the airport so I could catch my flight back to Joburg (when you’re young, you do everything, including catching planes, by the skin of your teeth), we suddenly clocked that we hadn’t done a single thing about the wedding dress. Scratching around, Ruth unearthed a long piece of tatty Christmas tinsel. This she used to measure me – height, bust, waist, hips, etc – tying knots in the tinsel to denote each measurement.

About three weeks later, with days to go before the wedding, my mother-in-law-to-be almost had heart failure when she discovered that not only did I not have the vaguest clue what my wedding dress would look like, I wouldn’t get to even try it on until the night before the wedding, when Ruth and a bunch of other Cape Town friends were due to arrive for the nuptial celebrations. My mother-in-law-to-be dragged me off to Sandton City, where she insisted we must buy a wedding dress for me. She was a difficult woman to resist (that’s putting it mildly), so I trailed after her from boutique to boutique, trying on a series of enormous and enormously expensive wedding dresses. My repeated refrains that I didn’t need a wedding dress – that I already had one, even if I didn’t actually have it with me physically at that very moment – fell on deaf and increasingly irritated ears. “But she’s only bringing it the day before – what if it doesn’t fit?” she said. “It will fit, don’t worry,” I told her. “But what if you don’t like it?” she asked. “I’ll like it, don’t worry,” I said.

I really wasn’t worried at all – I knew I’d love it because I was 100 percent confident that Ruth knew me well enough to make something I’d love; and I had not the slightest concern that it wouldn’t fit me – Ruth may have measured me with a piece of Christmas tinsel, but I knew she’d get it right.

And she did!

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Above: left in May 1988; right in May 2016 (it strikes me that perhaps I should have ironed the dress before doing the deja-vu!). Even though the marriage only lasted 7 years, I knew I’d never get married again, and I still wear my original wedding ring (albeit on my right hand) – it’s visible in both pictures.

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Above: Left in 1988 (cigarette in hand!); right in 2016.

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Above: Left in May 1988 (with my darling dog Bella); right in May 2016 (with my darling granddaughter Jessie). That round bracelet is a silver spoon that my father hammered into a piece of jewellery for me.

Jessie’s swing

Having a littlie in the family was a great excuse for me to buy a tyre swing to hang from a sturdy garden tree. Our family had one in our first house in Parkview, Johannesburg – it’s now etched in family lore how my then 7-year-old brother, playing Tarzan, tried to leap from a branch onto the swing and missed, breaking his arm in three places.

This swing – Jessie’s first – was oriented differently from the one I grew up with, horizontally rather than vertically, but it did just as fine a job. When the adults weren’t having a go, Jessie got full use of it almost from day 1. Here she is, at three months old, in a makeshift cradle made out of Balu’s basket, the net we usually use to keep flies off food, and a kikoi – the gentle rocking in the warm spring air was a perfect soporific.

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And here she is almost three years later, on the same swing.

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Various parts of the swing gave way over time, and I patched it once or twice, but finally it had to be retired. As Jessie was getting older, I bought her a hanging rope ladder to replace the swing, and my friend Troy helped me put it up. If you look closely at this photo, you will see what a fantastic fuckup a poorly planned DIY collaboration between two apparently intelligent people can produce.

 

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(We untangled the rope ladder from the ladder eventually.)

 

And Jessie loves it.

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The charm of the chant

I don’t have the best memory at the best of times, and I long ago realised that if my life were not to spiral into chaos and disarray, I would have to always have a way other than organic of remembering things. For this reason, I’ve always kept both a real-life (by which I mean not electronic) diary that goes everywhere with me, and lists, particularly grocery lists and to-do lists.

When I’m under stress, as I’ve been for the last few weeks, my memory gets much worse, and my brain’s word centre also struggles – for some years after my mom died, for instance, during which I was under near-unbearable emotional strain, I completely forgot certain words when I was trying to write (a problem for someone who makes her living this way), and my brain automatically filled in “missing” words for me in speech, although not always the right words, which caused confusion often and sometimes hilarity (although I never found it hilarious myself, because having your brain do things that you don’t instruct it to is actually quite frightening).

Anyway – the other day I took myself, my dog and my faltering brain off for my customary 5km route-march around the village. I needed to get a couple of things from the local Pick n Pay on the way home, and also empty my postbox (we don’t have street deliveries in our little town, necessitating regular visits to the bank of postboxes sited outside the Pick n Pay). So, instead of writing a short list (which seemed like overkill, even for me), I made up a little chant, “Milk, bread and clear-the-box”, which had a good meter for walking.

On my way out of my property, I came across my little band of fowl milling about in the driveway – Cornelius the rooster, and the three hens, Goldie (so-named because of her colouring), Double (because she lays double-yolk eggs) and… hmm: no Cocopops (a little black hen).

So, in passing, and because I talk to my animals all the time, I said, ‘Hi, you guys. Where’s Cocopops?’

Then, without waiting for an answer (obvs), I walked on, repeating my little walking mantra: “Milk, bread and Cocopops.”

Which is why I ended up back home with cereal I don’t want or need but without my mail.