May I preface this by saying that the moral of the story is that goodness can be found wherever you look for it. Always. Even when one’s dress splits to nothing but a pair of knickers in the middle of a very classy wedding.
Howdy folks. I’ve missed you terribly. I’ve been carting a baby and a LOT of luggage through the great, wide open expanse that is Western Australia. It’s the only state of Australia I had not yet seen, and I always love a good wedding, so as we boarded the plane at the beginning of our trip, I was happy. There were a bunch of us on the flight over so we swapped seats and babies and Freedom From The Children passes like a good village should. Once we arrived, we threw our bags in the back of the car and set off for a week of endless possibilities.
I don’t know about you, but I love road trips. I love wide open spaces and the stillness of countryside. I love watching red dirt whir past me and I love the smell of grass and ocean and traces of fire mixing together like an expensive perfume. Australian countryside reaches in and grabs me by the soul. It slows my thoughts. It settles me somehow. Every time I’m in the middle of nowhere, I think to myself that I really ought to go there more often.
We passed through quiet beach towns. Pristine coastlines nestled in next to us, bright and fresh as clean laundry. Quaint vineyards appeared, one after the after, beckoning us in like a home cooked meal after months at sea. For days, we did little else but slow down and soak in.
*we look away for one second and she had already clambered into the lap of a stranger
And then wedding day arrived.
It was beautiful.
Saturday 30th march, 2013.
The day we celebrated the wedding of our friends. Otherwise known as the day I ended up in the female toilets somewhere in the middle of the Margaret River, naked but for Joel’s suit jacket.
Now you guys, I try. I really do. But the whole effortless thing? It’s hard to pull off. I’m not even sure how it happened, actually. The nakedness. Joel said something about buying clothes from an op shop something or other what do you expect. Anyway, I couldn’t quite hear him above my rapidly rising panic. Because you guys, you trust clothes, don’t you? It’s a blind faith like, say, religion, since you put your welfare in the hands of something outside of yourself, something that can’t be controlled, but still. You trust that when you put clothes on your body they are going to stay there.
Yes, you do.
As soon as I felt my dress split, out near the dance floor, out among the oh-so-many people, I grabbed my friend in horror and demanded she inspect the damage. It wasn’t good, she told me. It wasn’t good at all. She bundled me off to the toilets, and I only wish I had brought my camera with me because the next forty-five minutes was priceless.
She yanked and pulled and jabbed the zipper. She cursed and yanked and pulled some more. The zip, it seemed, had frozen in its crappy little tracks and my friend could neither get me out of the dress, nor mend it. I stood in front of the sink, bent over at a forty-five degree angle, holding onto its sides, trying to remain calm. More yanking. More jabbing. More okay, breathe in‘s. More I can’t breathe in any further. More my thumbs are about to fall off. More gripping of the sink. Ten minutes, no change. A stream of women had wandered past us on their way to the toilet. Soon, we had collected a small gathering of women. About eight of them, total strangers, huddled around me to inspect the activity. My knickers were in full view. Not sure if I mentioned that.
One woman took over.
I’m a zip expert, she said, as if there is such a thing. Give me a try. My friend stepped aside and the group of women watched on, offering advice, making sympathetic noises, calling other people in to help. I stood there, my back to them, bent over, wondering how this scenario might end. Another ten minutes of yanking and the blasted zip would not budge. She told me her thumbs were hurting. I told her thanks for trying.
Another woman. This one was a little bossier.
“Right. You“, she exclaimed, pointing to a lady in a red dress. “Get me some butter”. She pointed to someone else. “You, find me some scissors”. She looked back to me and said, “We’re gonna get you out of this thing.”
Other wedding guests kept entering the bathroom, now crammed with women peering at a bent near-naked woman. Some of them averted their eyes and covered their mouths and gushed “Oh I’m so sorry” before quickly leaving, as if we were engaging in some kind of inappropriate group behaviour. I called out after them, no, no it’s fine, please, don’t mind us. But they were quick as panthers, those ladies. Gone in a flash.
“No butter”, the red dress lady said.” No scissors”, the other one chimed in. “But I found a knife”.
And so it continued. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I was cut out in one swift movement.
Now what? I said.
Now you have to take the dress off so we can get the zipper back on.
Now friends, I am pretty comfortable in my body, but I have my limits. And standing naked in front of strangers in the middle of a classy wedding was one of them. I am a mother now. Joel was summoned. His jacket was handed over and quickly put on and there I stood, dressed like a low-end hooker with a LOT of leg on show. It only just covered my backside, that jacket. Wedding guests kept coming, on their private little way to the bathroom, and there was nothing I could do but smile at them as if this here was a perfectly normal picture. Nothing wrong with this scenario, my smile said. Nothing to see here.
An older lady, a seamstress apparently, took my dress and spent another ten minutes trying to get the zip back on. “It’s no use”, she said. “The zipper’s bent. It won’t go back on its tracks. We’re gonna have to try something else.”
I looked around me and suddenly no longer cared that my dress was broken. I no longer worried about how I might have looked and how little clothing I had on. I didn’t care how things would be fixed. I looked around me and all I saw was a red tent. I saw women – total strangers – stopping to help. Stopping to offer what they had. Advice, sympathy, their thumbs, doesn’t matter. It’s all just a form of love, isn’t it? I wondered if I would have done the same. I wondered if I would have gotten out of my own little head and my own little life to help a stranger out? These ladies, they detoured from their plans even when better things beckoned for them. A dance floor, more champagne, the company of friends, fun. They were in there with me, these eight or so women, helping a sister out. I was humbled. And a little close to heaven, since these kind of situations always brings me closer to the connections we have with one another. I stood there thinking how much I love women. When we put aside our comparisons and judgement and grabby little ways, we are wells of such deep care. We care. Is there nothing people need more than to be cared for?
Eventually, safety pins were found and I was pinned back into that dress so tight it had no chance of coming off. I hugged these women, since that’s what I usually do, and thanked them for helping. It was the highlight of my night. The highlight of my trip, in fact.
Friends, may we care more. May we just step off our path every now and again to help a sister get back on hers. Broken dress, broken heart. Doesn’t matter. It’s all care, in the end.