Why I Took My 14-Year-Old Wedding Dress Shopping

A mom takes her daughter on the trip of a lifetime: "What do you do when you glimpse a moment you will not live to see? Breathe, I told myself."

By Susan Spencer-Wendel with Bret Witter from the book "Until I Say Good-Bye"
Her fingers paralyzed by ALS, Spencer-Wendel typed her memoir on her phone using only her thumbs.Courtesy Susan Spencer-WendelHer fingers paralyzed by ALS, Spencer-Wendel typed her memoir on her phone using only her thumbs.

Marina had picked an A-line dress. Or, more precisely, the ladies of Kleinfeld had picked it for her. Marina was too stunned to do more than nod. As she took the gown into the dressing room, I tried not to think of my little girl on her wedding day or of her as a baby in my arms. I tried not to think of her with her own baby in her arms one day.

I tried not to think of Marina right now, embarrassed by her mother’s plans. By things she could not and should not yet understand.

I am leaving money in my will for Marina’s wedding dress. Stephanie has promised to bring her back to Kleinfeld to purchase it.

“No stark white!” I said to Stephanie. “Ivory. Not too much tulle. Think lace.”

“Think royalty when picking a dress,” I counseled Steph as we waited outside the dressing room. “Think Princess Kate. Sophisticated. Elegant. Think long sleeves. They make dresses more formal.”

Marina came out. Strapless. Flared. She looked like a 14-year-old girl in the middle of a giant cupcake, ready to tackle the quarterback.

“I don’t like poufy,” she said.

That’s my girl!

“How about trying on one with long sleeves?” I asked her.

The ladies brought out a dress with long lace sleeves, an Empire neckline, a ruched fitted waist, and a long, smooth silk skirt.

Marina disappeared into the dressing room. When the door opened, she looked a foot taller and a decade older. I could clearly see the beautiful woman she will be one day. I simply stared.

What do you do when you glimpse a moment you will not live to see?

I dipped my head. Breathe, I told myself. I looked up. I smiled. Marina smiled back.

I worked my tongue into position to speak. “I like it,” I said.

In that dress, Marina stood straight, radiant, and tall.

“You are beautiful,” I whispered, my tongue barely cooperating. I don’t know if she heard me. We took some photos. And moved on. A memory made.

  • Your Comments

    • Sharon M

      My sister passed away from ALS and our family can really relate to this story. Thank you for sharing it with us. Marina has to be a wonderful daughter to give her mom this beautiful memory.

    • Emily Nonnemacher

      beautiful. bless you and your beautiful Marina.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/UM6F54YIEW2PVAFUUV6ZKAUT6U Island Girl

      sad