My trip with my sister and my daughter from Palm Beach, Florida, to a Manhattan wedding gown shop, cannot be understood without further zooming into focus on Marina, my 14-year-old daughter I’ve asked to try on dresses.
Key word: fourteen.
An awkward, beautiful child.
This was the girl I took to Kleinfeld, the fancy store featured on the television program “Say Yes to the Dress.” As the trip approached, I asked Marina if she was excited. “Sure, Mom,” she’d say, shrugging. Marina was more enthused about getting a tattoo on her ankle to represent my fight with ALS than trying on $10,000 wedding gowns.
My sister, Stephanie, had arranged for a van with a wheelchair lift to drive us from the hotel to Kleinfeld. The van driver wheeled me in and strapped me down like Hannibal Lecter.
“I feel like I’m taking you to the dog pound!” Steph said, cracking up.
I laughed too. I knew if I started crying, I might never stop. At Kleinfeld, I was unloaded like a piece of cargo and rolled into a dream. Flower arrangements ten feet high. White grillwork on a Romeo-and-Juliet balcony. An ivory gown and a black tuxedo.
“Wow!” I said. I was wearing a new black outfit. Marina wore jean shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and sneakers. She stood with her hands crossed over her chest, like this was the last place on the planet she wanted to be. The kind Kleinfeld ladies pointed out rooms like practiced tour guides, naming off the designers on display. Alita Graham. Pnina Tornai. With Marina walking beside me, Stephanie pushed my chair up and down rows and rows of dresses, bedazzled gowns that made Princess Diana’s dress look modest.
Marina said not a word. We turned a corner into the storage room, where hundreds of dresses hung in plastic protector sleeves. Marina and I were overwhelmed.
“Want to try one on?” I slurred, touching Marina’s hand.
“OK,” Marina said in her squeaky, unsure voice.
“Tell them the style you’d like.”
Marina stood mute. I felt bad for bringing her. For foisting such an adult experience on a child. And crying, I knew, would only ramp that up a thousand times. So I held back.