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Humor Column: The tale of the traveling wedding dress

Humor Columnist Pat Van Dyke. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

By Pat Van Dyke  
Humor Columnist, Canyon Lake Insider 

Society urges everyone to “let go of the past and go for the future.” That is good advice but there is one time that you will have to dive back into the past: the day that you remove your wedding dress from your storage area and consider long and hard what you are going to do with this piece of history.

The storage box, and I use the term “storage” very loosely, in which I kept my wedding dress has been stored in several different storage locations during our 53-year marriage. When we were first married, it was stored in the basement of a 100-year-old home in which we were living in Holland, Michigan. There I lovingly placed my wedding dress and veil in a sturdy white box with tissue paper between each fold. As former Californians, it was there that we learned about musty basement smells and molds that attack everything that enters the area.

Pat’s traveling wedding dress. Photo by Pat Van Dyke.

During the next three summers, we would change our residency four times to serve various churches and then return to the seminary for the new semester. My “Wedding Dress and Veil Box” followed us each time, whether it was Holland, Grand Rapids, Hudsonville, or Kalamazoo. It was then that I noted that my “sturdy white storage box” was beginning to weaken and shored it up with transparent tape.

When we moved to Illinois four years later, our storage was again located in a basement, but the house was only a few years old so the “basement smell” had not ripened. My wedding dress remained in the sturdy box with tissue, but it was placed in a corner next to the 100-pound bag of potatoes that a farmer had generously given to the two of us and we ate daily. It was there that we learned about the delightful smell of rotting potatoes and unexpected weight gain from excessive carbohydrates.

Five years later, we returned home to California: Canyon Lake to be exact. We have lived in three homes in Canyon Lake and the site of our storage area changed three times. My wedding dress also found a new home: a sturdy brown shipping box, at first clean and strong but soon covered with transparent tape, masking tape, strapping tape, and finally the strongest tape of all: black Duct Tape! The box began to look as if it contained highly explosive materials. Just seeing it would make repairmen and movers tremble!

Just as our bodies changed from somewhat trim to rather flabby, so did my wedding dress box. For the 18 months on Wild Rice Drive, it was stored on the top of dozens of boxes waiting for our new home on Point Marina Drive to be completed. During that time, it took dozens of trips from one pile to the next, fell to the floor only to be pushed against the wall by a wayward lawnmower, and then finally found a place under the box of cheap aluminum pots and pans which was next to a box filled with aging National Geographic magazines.

The box started to become a bit flatter, and our bodies continued to get a bit thicker!

Our next move was to Point Marina Drive where we lived for 28 years. My wedding dress found its home in the “storage under the stair.” Not only did my dress find its home there, but so did a sump pump which was used to lift the water from the downstairs bathroom to street level.

Somedays the sump pump worked and some days it didn’t. Not working was followed with Pastor Pete or me yelling down the stairs, “Is the sump pump working? I doubt it because it smells like Grandpa’s dairy!” As dairymen’s kids, we didn’t know if we should embrace the smells of our growing-up-years, or remedy it by shutting the door. Meanwhile, the stench from the sump pump filled the box.

It was here that I learned to recognize the sound of a zipper under distress. Several years after moving to Point Marina, I retrieved my wedding dress to wear to a women’s function at church. As I put it on, the zipper began to strain and finally broke, tearing the seam below and splitting the back of the dress.

I had to face the fact that those years of potatoes had created a problem: a “huge” problem due to the fact that part of my body had gotten rather “huge.” For years, I had believed that my wedding dress had an undergarment that was extremely “roomy”; but for some reason, either the “great room” wasn’t as great as I thought it was, or that someone had remodeled that great room into a totally inadequate patio. The back of my wedding dress now resembled a car with a convertible top.

I had to make a difficult decision: lose weight or repair the dress or stuff the dress and veil back into the box and just keep moving the box from place to place. I decided to “stuff the dress” into its comfortable cardboard box minus any tissue paper, purchase “Gorilla Tape” (said to be the strongest tape possible) and place the box back under the stairs.

Fifteen years ago, we moved once more; this time a “street over.” We are now on Boat Haven Drive and I’m sure that my wedding dress has found its final resting spot. The cardboard box is now flat, the dress zipper is still broken, and the back is still split.

As an amateur sociologist, I did find one blessing regarding my now pungent wedding dress and veil. I love discovering facts about the Amish. One interesting fact is that an Amish bride will wear her wedding dress as a “Sunday dress” for some time after the wedding and then will safely place the dress into storage waiting to be placed on her body after she dies. I like this idea and I figure I’m already ahead of the game. My wedding dress is already split up the back and will fit perfectly!

Prior to joining Canyon Lake Insider, Pat Van Dyke was a humor columnist, reporter, and photographer for a local newspaper for four years. She graduated from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and earned a master’s degree in educational administration from California Baptist University. She was a middle/high school teacher for 20 years and a middle/high school principal for 14 years. Van Dyke and her husband, Pastor Pete, have resided in Canyon Lake since 1977.

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