Right about this time 31 years ago, I was at my mother-in-law’s house, standing in the little room off the kitchen, stomach quivering. Everyone in the house was hustling and bustling about, except for my poor mother-in-law, who was nervously working her way up the 100 buttons on the back of my wedding dress. It didn’t help that her son – my husband-to-be -had just called to let us know he’d locked his keys in the car and needed one of his brothers to bring my set to him so he could make it on time to the church.
Mom finally reached the top of the dress.
“Oh, Margaret,” she said. “There’s one loop left! You must have miscounted when you sewed them on.”
Yes, I’d made my own wedding dress, but certainly not because of my prowess as a seamstress (I have absolutely ZERO ability in that area) but out of sheer stubbornness. The prices tags of the wedding dresses in the style I wanted were far beyond reach – at least beyond my reach. So, I figured out how to piece one together for myself. And then I did my veil. Then I figured out how to piece together the four bridesmaid dresses, and all the silk flower arrangements for the wedding party and banquet tables. Yeah, I can be that stubborn.
Being that stubborn, I knew with exact certainty that there were precisely 100 buttons and 100 little elastic loops sewn to the back of my wedding dress. Believe me, when you sit up all night sewing tiny pieces of elastic cord into loops, you don’t easily forget how many there are. That doesn’t even take into account the tedious job of attaching them to the back of the dress, one by one. But I digress…
I took a deep breath. The first crisis of my married life: How to tell my almost-mother-in-law that she’s…well…wrong?
“Mom” I began gingerly. “I, uh, uh, I’m really sure there are exactly 100 loops and 100 buttons. I counted them three times after I sewed them all on to be sure.”
“Well, let’s see,” Mom replied trying to stay calm. I felt her fingers working their way up and down my back, examining each loop and button.
“Oh, dear,” she said with a tint of shake in her voice. “You’re right. I missed a button way down at the beginning. Do you think we could just leave it that way? Your veil would probably cover it.”
I knew Mom was right. The cathedral-length veil would cover the entire back of the dress, and more. But, as any bride, I wanted everything to be perfect. I sighed, trying to figure out how to sweetly, convincingly, ask Mom to redo all the buttons.
Then, Mom lost it. The Queen of Calm (as I’ve loving referred to her these many years), got frazzled. That’s it. I thought to myself. Now I’ve done it. I’ve messed with my mother-in-law.
“Clare!!” Mom called out. “Get over here! I can’t do this! Hurry!”
My lovely almost-sister-in-law and Maid of Honor rushed into the room.
“I’ve done the buttons wrong! You redo them, please!” Mom said in exasperation.
“Are you sure?” Clare asked incredulously. “Let me see.”
She examined my back. “Oh, man. You’re right.”
I stood there, wondering what on earth had ever provoked me to put 100 teeny, nerve-wracking buttons on the back of my wedding dress. I needed my head examined, but not just then because we were going to be late for the wedding.
Clare set about her task, first undoing and then redoing each button, both of us counting out loud so it wouldn’t get screwed up again.
“One hundred,” Clare breathed in relief as as reach the last button at the top.
“One hundred,” I repeated.
One hundred buttons, four children, one miscarriage, one daughter-in-law, two houses, a handful of dogs and other miscellaneous animals, who-cares-how-many cars, a treasury of friendships, innumerable successes, multiple failures, dozens of family vacations, several illnesses, a couple of trips abroad, bundles of raucous laughter, a quarter cup of sadness, an immeasurable amount of joy, God’s constantly-flowing graces, unbounded love, and 31 years later, here I am. Here we all are – Fenelon Clan.
And not a single regret. Nope, not even the 100 buttons.