A few months ago, my sister Connie called to tell me that she had our mother's wedding gown and wondered what we should do with it. I told her to send it along and I'd think of something. After doing some research on Etsy, I hit on the idea of making keepsake pillows for her granddaughters and great-granddaughters. After the gown arrived, I took a deep breath and began painstakingly removing the floral appliques that decorated the neckline and sleeves. It felt a little sacrilegious to be taking it apart, but I soldiered on, removing 44 satin-covered buttons and the tiny seed pearl flowers from the headband that held her veil. I also removed the delicate ruching below the bustline and the gathers from the top of the sleeves.
Barbara Ann Lake and Paul Frederick Baehren, were married on December 26, 1943 at Washington Congregational Church in Toledo, Ohio. They were quite young, with my mom only 19 and dad 21. He was completing his medical degree at the University of Saint Louis Medical School, so she joined him there. After living in Toledo, Tennessee and Georgia during his internship and residency, they returned to Toledo with their three young children (Peter and David would come along later) and lived there for the rest of their lives.
I began by cutting two 13-inch squares of fabric to cover a 12-inch pillow form. Some lace, spools of ribbon and pearl trim were purchased. I decided to place a diagonal strip of fabric on the pillow top. Lace was stitched on either side and then pearl trim sewn on, attaching the strip to the fabric. Then I carefully hand-stitched the floral applique and seed pearl flower to the opposite sides. Using the venerable sewing machine with which I made my own wedding gown nearly 50 years ago, I stitched back to front, turned it right side out, stuffed in the pillow form and closed the opening by hand. One pillow got the button loops from the back of the gown on one side of the strip. Others got the ruching strips and gathers from the sleeves, topped by a round applique edged by lace and pearl trim.
Online, I found beautiful satin roses (imported from China). These I stitched in the center of each pillow atop a satin ribbon bow with long tails, the idea being that wedding rings could be tied to them if the pillow was used by a ring bearer. Soon, I'll be presenting them (in person or by mail) to Alison, Hannah, Emily, Emma, Sarah, Anna, Lena, and Jenna. I hope they will, in turn, pass them along to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren as a special memory.
My mother tended to be rather unsentimental, but I hope she would have smiled at having the gown worn on her wedding day preserved in this way. My father, on the other hand, would have cried happy tears to have this legacy passed on to his granddaughters and great-granddaughters. I'd like to think of these pillows as a tribute to their 63 year-long marriage.
Next week, the TV series Nashville ends after six seasons. To me, there's never been anything like it: great acting, exceptional music from Nashville songwriters and filmed on location. Only a few of the actors had prior singing experience. Gorgeous Connie Britton had to learn how to sing for her role as Rayna James, the reigning country diva threatened by a younger singer (Hayden Panetierre). The music was so good, I would rush out to buy the CDs after each season. Later, many of the cast went on tour together, playing to theaters across the country packed with adoring "Nashies." My former boss Lori and I attended one concert in Philadelphia and after I moved to Dallas, my daughter Hannah and I saw them again.
This is where I confess to being an aging groupie. I fell in love with Charles Esten the first moment I saw him. As the conflicted, anguished alcoholic Deacon Claybourne, he had multiple romances until finally marrying the love of his life, Rayna James. Incredibly handsome, he was very talented as a singer and musician. As a birthday surprise a few years ago, Hannah took me to Nashville. We went on the ABC Nashville bus tour to see the exteriors from the show (I know, really corny). Then we went to the Grand Old Opry, where Charles Esten was the closing act. We also saw him at Billy Bob's, a huge Texas honky-tonk. Hannah bought me a T-shirt and an autographed photo to hang in my office. Andy thinks I'm completely nuts. I don't care.
Then the roof fell in. ABC cancelled the series after four seasons. An anguished chorus of Nashies protested and it was continued by CMT for two more seasons until they, too, dumped it in favor of cheaper reality TV. Ugh. When one of the streaming services picks it up, I'll probably binge-watch it all again.
There's another reason to love Charles Esten. Grateful that the youngest of his three children with wife Patty survived leukemia as a toddler, he's raised millions for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. As a former development officer for a children's hospital, this touched my heart, as there is so little research money available for pediatric cancer. I hope he keeps singing, playing, acting and writing music for a long, long time. He's a class act.
My Toledo childhood was a very happy one. I roller skated around the neighborhood, climbed trees in the school yard and played jacks. A recent message from a classmate put me in mind of the friendships I enjoyed as a kid. Kathi, Kendy and Kathy were the closest. We walked to Ottawa Hills Elementary School each day, a half-mile trek from my house. I particularly remember a sidewalk cut-through to the school lined with fragrant lilac bushes. We often played together after school at someone's house. As long as we showed up for dinner, our mothers didn't care.
Like me, Kathy Barnum was the oldest of three, with a brother and sister the same ages as mine. When my mom announced that she was pregnant with my brother Peter, my siblings and I marched over to Kathy's house to inform Jeanne Barnum she needed to have another baby and soon, so our carefully matched families would continue to align. She laughingly declined this request, of course. Tony Barnum was a pilot flying small aircraft out of Toledo Express Airport. He would take us up in his plane and fly over the neighborhood so we could pick out our houses, all the while, filling the cabin with smoke from his big cigar. One Easter morning, my mom received a panicked call from Mrs. Barnum because their dog Maggie had consumed all the Easter candy, so she borrowed some from our baskets to share.
Kathi was a bit of a wild child. Her very religious parents were strict and she was always trying to find ways around the rules. Her mother dropped us off at the movies, believing that we were going to see something appropriate and we went to Teahouse of the August Moon instead. When we got a little older, Kathi and I loved to go to A&W for root beer and French fries while discussing our latest boyfriend problems.
Kendy was quiet and friendly. Her dad, a doctor like mine, had been stationed in Puerto Rico and the family lived there for a time, something we thought very exotic. Kendy had a horse named McDuff and was so in love with him, we teased her about marrying the animal. I remember having long conversations about what first names we liked best for potential husbands.
As high school began, we each found our own paths, but stayed casual friends. Recently, I've been in touch with all three through Facebook and email. How lucky we were to have such a good start in life, blissfully unaware of the problems of the world.
After Tuesday's three-hour unsuccessful wait to replace my driver's license at the Texas Department of Public Safety, I returned to make another attempt. Arriving three minutes before the office opened, I encountered a line of 35 people waiting to get in the door. Sigh. Already baking in the hot Texas sun, we were allowed in a few at a time to punch our type of request into a computer and get a numbered ticket. I take a seat and settle in with my iPhone to read the morning news and play games. A lady comes around to ensure that you have the correct documents. She makes a long-winded speech regarding what documents are needed for each type of request. This includes a warning that if there are a lot of folks not in the seats, the fire marshal may pay a visit and shut the place down. Right.
It's now 9:45 and I'm still waiting. The fellow next to me.now on his third visit to the office, has already been dismissed because he lacks a Texas registration for his vehicle. This puts me mind of another visit. Hannah had asked me to take her 83-year-old mother-in-law Annie there to obtain a ID card. She was no longer driving, but needed a picture ID to board a plane. We had proof of residence and her old driver's license, but when we talked to the agent, she asked if she was married. Annie replied that she was widowed. The agent then requested her marriage license. Huh? She wouldn't budge about this requirement, so back we went to Annie's apartment to retrieve the document, which it turns out was laminated to a heavy piece of glass. Both of us are now ready to bite through a chain, but we return, present the item and go off with a temporary ID card, with me badly in need of an adult beverage.
It's now 9:45 and I'm still waiting. There's an interesting cross section of Texans here. Some have brought their small children and one fellow even had a small dog with him. I watch as the flat screens display the numbers being served. Finally, mine comes up and I dash to station #1 and present my documents. Everything goes swimmingly until it's time to pay the $11.00 fee. She will not accept my temporary debit card because it doesn't have my name on it. Grrr. Off I go to a nearby convenience store to withdraw cash, purchasing a box of Tic Tacs to make sure I have correct change. At least, I could go back to her without waiting. Now I'm street legal, with a temporary paper license to go in the new wallet I purchased yesterday. I'm fairly certain that this will be the signal for my lost wallet to turn up.
Like any other weekday, we showed up at Hannah's house to help get breakfast into Noah and take him to preschool. Lena, between summer camps, was headed with her BFF Olivia for an overnight at the Westin Hotel with Mom - a reward for her being accepted at the highly competitive Kimberlin Academy for Academic Excellence. But I digress. Hannah invited me to join them for lunch at the Galleria, a huge upscale mall. After dropping Noah off, I busied myself with cleaning a bunch of receipts and papers out of my purse. After we enjoyed a chatty lunch, I headed to the Clinique counter at Nordstroms to purchase new cosmetics. I went to pay and NO WALLET!
I checked the car in the parking garage. Nope. I hurried back to Hannah's house, certain that I had forgotten it on the kitchen table. Nope, not on the table, the counters or in the recycle bin where I had disposed of the papers. Then I returned home and called the restaurant and mall security. Nope. I called Hannah and she didn't have it. Andy and I returned to her house and conducted a wider search, thinking Noah may have walked off with it. Nope. Andy carefully re-checked the car. Nope.
There wasn't any untoward activity on my debit or credit card, but I froze them just in case. I filled out an application for a replacement and grabbed my voter registration card and birth certificate.Then we headed for the Texas Department of Safety, a squat little building near the courthouse. Big mistake. The parking lot was full and so was the waiting area. I gamely put information into their computer which spit out a numbered ticket. During the three-hour wait, some of us figured out that the L on tickets means long and S means short. I was S3070, and they were on S3049, so it would at least another hour. Not having had lunch, I decided to split and try a less busy day.
I'm sure there's some explanation that my beautiful Michael Kors wallet (a gift from Hannah) seems to have vanished into thin air, but other than theft, I sure can't figure it out. I keep hoping it will magically appear. When the July 4th holiday is past, I'll have to request replacements for the few credit cards I possess, a library card, health insurance cards, etc. and inform every company that direct debits my account each month that I have a new number. What a pain. Oh well, as my mother liked to say, "That's life, kid."
For the past month, our two oldest grandchildren, Booker and Lena, joined 80 other kids at Rowlett Summer Musical Camp, each day learning songs and steps for their parts in a production of The Wizard of Oz. They came home excited (and sometimes exhausted), eagerly showing off their dance moves. Both kids had watched the movie multiple times, as well as The Wiz to get in the spirit of things.
This weekend came the payoff for all their hard work - six performances of the musical by three different casts at a high school auditorium. Older kids got the plum parts of Auntie Em, Miss Gulch, the Cowardly Lion, The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, Glinda the Good Witch, the Wicked Witch of the East, and of course, Dorothy. Other cast members were trees in the forest, crows bedeviling the Scarecrow, monkeys and palace guard, as well as the Mayor, Coroner and the Great and Powerful Oz. Our two budding thespians got two parts each: Munchkins and Ozians, who appeared in several places during the 90-minute show. Booker was one of of The Lollipop Guild, as well.
With recorded music and minimal scenery, all the kids did a fantastic job. Of course, we were almost entirely focused on our two, who were totally into the experience, singing, dancing, gesturing and using facial expressions to great effect. It was great fun to see little Noah's reactions as he pointed to the characters on stage . Lena enjoyed putting on stage makeup each time, but Booker wanted no part of that! They both loved joining hands with their cast mates and bowing to the audience at the end to great applause.
I'm sure this won't be the last time the two of them take the stage, but it was exciting to see their first time under the lights. I'm trying to picture Noah being disciplined enough to do this in a couple of years. Hmm, maybe not.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.