The Rockwood Files: Opening the box

rockwoodfiles2-205x300By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I stood there for five minutes holding a pair of scissors, staring down at the big white box that had been in our hall closet for more than 14 years. Encased in a plastic sleeve, the box has moved with us over the years, and it always finds a place in the deep recesses of the closet we use the least. Today I took the scissors to it.

The box held my wedding dress, and I nearly talked myself out of opening it. After you get married, one of the first things on your married “to do” list is to get your wedding dress “professionally preserved”—which means you pay a ridiculous amount of money to a dry cleaner who cleans the dress, stuffs it with tissue paper and seals it up in a special storage box where it will stay – much like Sleeping Beauty – until a day far, far into the future when your daughter might possibly want to wear it at her own wedding.

As I pressed the blade of the scissors into the seal, part of me expected to hear a bridal alarm siren go off. “Security breach! Seal has been broken!” But all I heard was the steady slice of tape surrounding the box.

I opened the lid and gently scooped up the familiar gown as tissue paper floated to the floor. The light still hit the beading and the faux pearls just enough to make it sparkle, and the ivory silk was as lovely as always. I slipped the gown onto a dress form, which is like a headless mannequin on a wooden stand. Then I stood it in the corner of my bedroom, took a few steps back and admired the way the A-line skirt flowed out around the base. It felt like an old friend had walked into the room.

The day I wore that dress was the first time someone called me Mrs. Rockwood. It was the last time I danced with my big brother, who passed away two years later. I wore it on the day I made the most important decision of my life – a day that led to three more joyous days in hospital delivery rooms when we held our babies for the first time.

I unboxed the dress today because a front-page story in the newspaper made me realize that keeping special things “preserved” is just an illusion. The article reported on the horrors that people in my home state endured after a tornado ripped through their small towns. The front-page photo showed a 17-year-old girl sifting through rubble, holding onto a graduation cap she found among the ruins of her home. She hadn’t even had a chance to wear it yet because graduation was two weeks away when the tornado leveled her family’s home and killed her father and two of her sisters.

That heart wrenching photo made me realize that, as much as we want to preserve the special things in our lives, we can’t always do it. Our lives, much like the delicate silk of a wedding gown, are fragile and temporary. Plans, treasures and even people can be blown away in minutes.

It’s a humbling reminder that life and all its trappings should be embraced and enjoyed. No more saving the pretty bath salts for another day. No more storing the good dishes in a high cabinet. No more assuming we can encase special parts of our lives in protective plastic, to be enjoyed sometime in the future.

Here’s hoping we’ll all revel in even the small moments of our lives and pray for those who are picking up the pieces of theirs.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography