Island Life, Word Birds & Process
In 1942, on Christmas Eve, my parents were married. My dad was a soldier, my mother a nurse. Leave was at a premium and it was the only day available. They were together, in love, for thirty-six years, until Daddy died, too young aged only sixty-one.
With rationing still in place, and fabric expensive, a great many wartime brides had to improvise in order to create their wedding dresses. The fabric of choice was parachute silk. Some of it was repurposed nylon silk but a few lucky brides were able to get hold of the real thing.
The following is a true story.
It hung on the back of the wardrobe door.
The silk shimmered. A slight movement of air caught the hem. It lifted, rippled and fell back into place. Her fingers still itched from pushing the thimble against the needle. She took such care, the single drop of blood that fell made a tiny red heart and she sewed it into the cuff of a sleeve.
She’d been lucky – real parachute silk was like gold-dust. When he’d handed her the parcel – a trade with a mate from the parachute unit – the smile split her face.
It took her three weeks to make her wedding dress, sewing the long seams by machine, hand-stitching the hem and cuffs. Tiny pearl buttons taken from an old cardigan fastened the dress at the back.
In wartime, even a wedding was no excuse not to make do and mend.
Pulling the dress over her head, she gasped as the silk slithered along her arms, across her hips and down her thighs, pooling at her feet. Fastening the froth of veiling to her dark hair she stood in front of the mirror. She looked so beautiful, two doves came to the window just to gaze at her.
Letting out a slow breath, her finger touched the place where the secret heart lay and she made her best wish.
Outside the church, under a cold Christmas Eve sky, her best friend handed her a silver horseshoe.
She breathed in the earthy scent of the chrysanthemums: another winter gift to wartime brides.
‘I won’t need luck, but thanks, it’s perfect.’
‘Come on then, kiddo, he’ll be waiting.’
‘I’m worth waiting for.’
After the ceremony, in a room set aside for pictures, the photographer waved them closer together. She thought how handsome her new husband looked, in his freshly dry-cleaned suit and with a buttonhole borrowed from her bouquet.
As she slipped her hand into his, she felt him curl his fingers around hers.
‘Your dress, it’s lovely,’ he whispered. ‘You look beautiful.’
‘You look like Frank Sinatra.’
As they smiled into the camera, he brushed her fingers again. ‘You wait, I’m going to buy you a bunch of mums every Christmas Eve for rest of our lives.’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Forever.’