pull up a comfortable chair and sit your inner child down for a tea party and a story.
there once was a little girl named mary beth, and she dreamed of one day meeting a handsome man, falling in love, and getting married and living happily ever after. she was a well-rounded child and had many other interests, but when she was thinking about her grown up life, romance and getting married were a big deal to her, and she spent time in between piano lessons, barn chores, and softball practice, writing and illustrating love stories, planning the details of her wedding, making long lists of first-and-middle names for any number of boy-and-girl children, and designing the gown she would one day wear to walk down the aisle. then she’d run off to collect tadpoles in the pond or build a lego kingdom on the living room floor with her brothers.
her dress designing drawings one day took a bit more shape in the form of a nine-and-a-half inch tall bride made of paper and dressed in lace, fabric, beads, yarn, gauze, and crayola marker make-up. her veil was 12 inches long, almost 3 inches longer than her actual height.
introducing: flat bride!
this bride paper doll was dressed, of course, in white, with a few pink yarn accents at the waist, sleeves, and hair. the skirt was gathered at one side, to reveal a lacy layer underneath, and the lace matched that at her neckline and along her sleeves. her brown hair hung long, and she wore white high heeled shoes. i am pretty sure the lacy fabric for the sleeves came straight out of grandma rew’s attic. i can smell the musty, hot mingling of cedar and moth balls as if i am opening the clackety metal latch and peering up those steep, paint-chipped stairs now.
the little girl was probably 9 years old or so when she made this bride doll. we’ll call her “flat bride.” aside from the obvious flatness of her physical features, which coincide with my own lack of cleavage, you’ve heard of flat stanley, right? no relation. but stay tuned for blog updates about her travels around the world, in the style of the flat stanley travels you may have seen or participated in. also, i am currently formulating flat bride’s travel itinerary, so let me know if you’re interested in hosting her! i plan to post candid thoughts about whatever comes to mind as she goes off to see the world and sends back pictures of her adventures. your only jobs as host are to send me pictures of her time with you, and send her on to the next host on her itinerary. you’re also welcome to guest post if you’re so inclined, and supply your own candid thoughts about whatever comes to mind when you have a nine-and-a-half inch tall manifestation of nine-year-old mb’s romance obsession in your hands. come on, it’ll be fun.
flat bride currently resides in oregon. she was unearthed on a trip to new york in 2014, and the grown up mary beth showed it to her grown up practically-fiance, who laughed and laughed. every now and then, when they talk about the wedding they will one day have, he sometimes brings up flat bride, and the folder full of wedding plans tucked away by a little girl long, long ago, in a land far, far away. he seems to imply that there is very little planning left to do. grown up mb overlooks his teasing because he is the most wonderful prince in all the land.
here is an exhaustive list of the contents of the folder in which flat bride was found: a list of wedding guests, the full lyrics to the song the wind beneath my wings, bridesmaid dress design drawings: one each for spring, summer, and autumn, (though not winter; apparently young mb had already ruled out a winter wedding), with notes on the side about throwing birdseed, and a drawing of a very fancy wedding cake with tiers and pillars and bells and icing roses and a bride and groom reaching for one another on top. it’s clear that little girl mary beth would have chosen wedding colors along the same lines as shelby from steel magnolias: “blush and bashful”; or as her mama, m’lynn would drawl, “her colors are pink and pink.” (actually, one of the bridesmaid dresses has written in the margins: “dusty rose and either candy pink or baby pink.” golly, how would i ever have decided between those two shades! pink was definitely my signature color at one time.)
bridesmaid dresses; there are seasonal considerations, after all
flat bride in profile on the oregon coast in springtime
flat bride decides to take a walk down to the intertidal zone
residing in the same folder are two other items. one is a piece of cardboard on which little girl mary beth had copied down chinese characters from her library books. sixty-three of them, to be exact, drawn in a nine-by-seven grid, some of them with translation, and others without. in addition to her foreign language studies, little mb was also studying geology, using the how and why wonder book of rocks and minerals (copyright 1960), most specifically, the “identification chart of major specimens” on the back cover. two carefully traced copies (one colored in, one half-colored) of said chart are with the book, archaeological artifacts of a girl who was suddenly possessed by the need to draw bridesmaid dresses mid-geological-study. and maybe also foreshadowing her future with a man whose parents took him on geological family vacations every summer of his childhood?
maybe you never dreamed of marrying a fairy-tale prince, and most likely even if you did make a 9-inch tall bride doll, you did not keep her forever and ever and find her again in your thirties. maybe you had dreams of marriage, maybe you didn’t. maybe you are married, maybe not. maybe you did marriage, and have closed up shop in your heart, unwilling to run the risk of it being trampled upon again. maybe that’s how you felt a year ago, but this year cautious optimism stirs. maybe you are foregoing the marriage tradition in favor of a less traditional relationship, maybe something that doesn’t fall neatly into one of the relationship status options supplied by facebook. well, this series is about exploring the tangled web of thoughts that arise on this large continuum of a subject, for me, my flat bride hosts who feel like sharing any candid thoughts, and even for unsuspecting people standing near me who i might chance to overhear on this subject.
“her colors are pink and pink”
because, let’s face it. love is as universal a subject as there ever was. and i think somewhere, deep inside us all, is a wish for a happily-forever-after ending. your archetype for that might look slightly different from mine, but i’ll bet it’s not any less vulnerable than a 30-year-old paper doll traveling in a padded envelope. i’ll also bet it’s every bit as resilient, in spite of all the bumps along the journey.