Monday, December 31, 2012

Free falling rage

It’s the last day of 2012 and I’m listening to Tom Petty sing Free Fallin’—how appropriate as our lawmakers continue to duke it out to negotiate some sort of last-minute deal to avoid falling down the “fiscal cliff.” I say let us fall. What the hell? It’s just political game playing and I don't want to get caught up in their silly game.

My overriding image of 2012 has been the year of rage, a time when rage has become a way of life.
Rage on a big scale that affects masses of people. Rage on a small scale that affects individuals.

On a small scale, just days ago I witnessed first-hand a silly, yet frightening example of a man whose rage was pointed toward me. I was pulling out of a spot in a parking lot, in the dark, in pouring rain. A man walked in front of my car and started gesturing. I wasn’t sure what he wanted, so I stopped. His gesturing became more animated. Then he began spewing obscenities and started kicking the bumper of my car. He wanted me to pull out faster. He was an enraged adult who looked like a bully of a little boy.

Earlier this year I sat through the trial for the murderer of my little brother Mark. My brother, who was unarmed and trimming the shrubs in his yard on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, was shot in the back at point-blank range by his enraged next-door neighbor. My brother’s dog had walked into the neighbor’s yard. And when he had the opportunity to address the court, the murderer just spewed more rage about the county’s Sheriff’s Department and not an ounce of remorse for taking my brother’s life. The murderer was found guilty of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
And then I raged at God. I was enraged with him for letting my nephew Jasen—the son of my murdered brother Mark—get badly injured in a horrible car wreck. Jasen broke bones, spent weeks in a coma, and is struggling to recover from traumatic brain damage. When he regained consciousness, he kept asking for his father. The memory of his father’s murder had disappeared. I didn’t like feeling that kind of rage but I didn’t know what else to rage against but a God who seemed unjust and unfeeling.

And we re-elected a president. The focus of the election got ugly, directed by a bunch of silly bullies who were raging against the other side, trying to impose their wills and their points of view on the American people. That rage has carried over and created a situation where those with political power in our country can’t get past their rage, their self-righteousness, their indignation to do what’s right for the country. I see them just like I saw the raging man in the parking lot­­­­ kicking at my car, like silly little bullies trying to get their way. It is an undignified way to govern a nation.

Then Newtown. There’s nothing to say other than the word Newtown. I can image that for many years to come that single word will resound as a symbol for how the rage of one young man resulted in a horrific tragedy, unfathomable pain for families and for the nation as a whole.
December 31st—New Year’s Eve—has been a landmark day in my life. For many years it was a day to celebrate. It was the day my former husband and I met on a blind date. After 30-plus years of celebrating it with him, as a kind of anniversary for us, our marriage ended. It ended in part because of his rage. I’ve never known a man so full of anger, so torn up, psychically entangled in barbed wire. He has since died and, when I think of him, I think of love entangled in rage.

I would like to believe that 2013 could be a better year, that we could somehow find a way to get past the rage and live in peace. It’s probably beyond our flawed human nature. But I can only hope. And pray.

Happy New Year! My God be with all of us and bring us peace.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Madonna and child

It's Christmas! Joy to the world! So there's a website I like that has a wonderful collection of images of paintings throughout several centuries. And today I decide to look through some of the Madonna and child paintings. It seems that at a certain point in the history of art, all the major artists felt compelled to paint their own versions of the Madonna and child. Some are beautiful, sacred, inspirational. Others are just plain weird. What in the world were these artists thinking?

Like this one--gives me the creeps. The other "babies" are just odd. They look like dwarfs playing miniature instruments. And baby Jesus is wearing some sort of disk on his head and he looks like he's devouring his mother.

You see a lot of this full frontal nudity. It seems a little disrespectful of the Divine Infant. Couldn't they have used the swaddling cloths to hide his privates? Note that Mary and Joseph are fully dressed with cloaks and things and the baby is totally naked. He's going to catch the death of cold.

What's with the baby Jesus's abdomen? Does he have some sort of odd infant six-pack? He looks like Nero, about to burn down Rome. At least he's discreetly covered.

This baby looks like some sort of alien life form. I'm not feeling the awe here.

Okay. Is this baby Jesus dressed in a gladiator outfit? It's either a gladiator thing or some sort of tutu. Come on--he had to be a manly baby. I'm not into this look either. Doggone. Mary should have had a shower, registered at Babies R Us and gotten the little guy some decent clothes.


I have to say this one is my favorite in the level of horror. Baby Jesus has to be the world's largest infant. I think Mary deserved sainthood just for agreeing to give birth to this child. And remember--it was natural childbirth in a cave because there was no room in the inn. Holy Mother of Christ!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

"A love like this the world had never known . . ."

It’s Christmas Eve. I went to an evening worship service, drove home in a frigid rain, and heated up the leftover half of a Chipotle chicken burrito for dinner. I know it sounds rather pitiful, but it’s okay. I’ve got a fire in the fireplace, Christmas songs playing on the iPod, and a glass of red wine. I read all three Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus and then read part of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. And I tried playing some Christmas songs on the banjo. It’s okay. I’m alone on Christmas Eve, but I’m going to make it. I’m not going to freak out, gnash my teeth, or cry. It’s really okay.

Well, I might cry a little because I miss my dad and my brother, because I miss Mike. But I’m not dwelling on the sadness, I’m going to bask in the blessings.

So let me count just a few of the major blessings:

I talked to my nephew Jasen this morning on the telephone. A few months ago we didn’t know if Jasen would survive. He was in a horrible car wreck—broken bones and traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for weeks. But he’s home now, still healing, and he has come so far. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

My kids and all five grandchildren are doing well. Thank you, Lord.

Mike became a Christian in the weeks before he died. Let me repeat that just to remind myself—Mike became a Christian! I am still in awe of the power of God. I am still amazed at the surprises he has up his sleeve. So when I cry about Mike being gone, I can also be so grateful for God's wondrous work. Thank you, Lord.

The blessing of knowing that God sent his own son to be our savior—how amazing is that?!! Nothing I do EVER could repay God. Nothing could be enough. So I don’t have to worry about earning my salvation. It’s done. God loves us, he loves little old me. That’s a great big love. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

Merry Christmas. And happy birthday, Jesus. Thanks for coming down here with us.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Be careful what you wish for

The Mayans predicted that the world was going to end yesterday. It appears they were wrong. Or at least I haven’t noticed that the world ended. Maybe I’m missing something—I’m not always totally attentive.

I wonder if the winter solstice and the failed end of the world made things go wacky and caused me to have a strange dream last night. I dreamed that I asked God to let me rewind my life and let me go back in time and spend just one day with Mike. God granted my wish. But perhaps I should have been more specific with the timeframe of my wish. The day I got to spend with him was a day in the final weeks of his life.
He was living at Edenwald, in the nursing unit, under hospice care. He and I didn’t talk about anything particularly heavy or memorable. We were just together. But I carefully observed details about him. How his hands looked, his arms, how his face had changed when he was becoming so thin and wasted. I kept looking at his hands, amazed that a person’s hands could change so much in only a few months.

I woke up, crying softly. I didn’t expect to spend that particular day with him, yet I was somehow still grateful that I got any time at all.
Tonight I put on the fingerpicks that he wore on his right hand when he played guitar. I remembered how his hands looked before he got sick and how beautifully he played. And I miss him.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sally Simpson

I had never seen anyone as old as Sally Simpson. She couldn’t tell me how old she was. She couldn’t speak. She was confined to her bed in a dreary nursing home, steeped in the stench of urine and stale institutional food.

I was a young teenager, a volunteer in a nursing home run by Catholic nuns. On my first visit to the Sacred Heart Home, one of the nuns assigned me to Sally Simpson, to bathe her and comb her hair. Sally was immobile; she just lay in her bed, little more than a skeleton. Her skin was dry and ashen, loosely hanging from her gnarled bones. And she was covered with bedsores. The nun quickly showed me how to bathe Sally and left me alone with her.

Fifty years later I can recall details about Sally's body, how her breasts were nearly non-existent, how her pubic hair had turned white, how I twisted her few strands of long white hair into a knot at the nape of her neck. Nearly afraid to touch her, afraid of her fragility, I carefully washed her, redressed her, and tucked her back into her bed. It was a strange intimacy with an ancient woman I didn't even know. And I have no idea if she was even aware of my presence.

For all these years I have been haunted by the only facts I knew about Sally Simpson—that she had never married and that she had been a nurse. Her aloneness was stark. A woman who had spent her life caring for others was lying in a bed in a dreary nursing home, covered with sores of neglect, unable to communicate.

When I went back to the nursing home one week later for my volunteer work, I learned that Sally had died not long after my visit the previous week. At the time I was shocked and saddened, horrified to think she died so soon after I cared for her. But now, fifty years later, I have a different perspective. I am relieved that she died then, and I am comforted knowing that she was clean and her hair was tied in a knot at the nape of her neck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Faith like a mustard seed


Luke 17:5-6: The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."


And I say to the Lord, “Lord, please give me faith.”

There is so much trouble in this broken world. So much that it is beyond description, certainly beyond understanding. I ask God to explain, I ask him for some sort of understanding of his plan. Please, Lord, help me to understand why you have heaped upon us pain after pain after pain. And then I realize that understanding is too much to ask for. I need to simplify my plea to God. So I just ask him for faith.  Please, Lord, give me faith. I don’t need you to give me an incalculable amount of faith because you have said that even faith like a grain of mustard seed is enough. The simple presence of faith is all I ask. Faith that can give me courage to stand up to evil. Faith that can give me the conviction to speak the truth, to call out the name of Jesus even when I may be despised or mocked for being a Christian. Faith that allows me to hold on to hope and love when my heart is broken. Faith to realize that this earth is not my home, it is not all there is, there is something much, much better that one day will be mine if I just persevere in faith. In this little bit of faith that is enough to move mountains.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bark awards

I won the Kings Manor cookie exchange today. Scratch that--it's the holiday treat exchange. Actually I won two major awards--best cookie and best container. Sadly the prize was not a large lamp in the shape of a leg, rather two certificates, suitable for framing.

First the containers--vintage blue/green glass canning jars that I found at a thrift store. With little tags that I made to look like chalk boards, tied with twine.

The "cookies" that weren't really cookies? Bittersweet chocolate bark based on a recipe developed by my daughter-in-law Rachel. (You can find the recipe with suggestions on variations on her blog at

I used a mixture of Scharffen-Berger bittersweet chocolate with a little Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate thrown in. (I needed a lot of chocolate!) I followed Rachel's recipe and instructions. For my version I added roasted marcona almonds, chunks of coconut (not shredded), and dried montmorency cherries. I added some cinnamon, smoked chipotle chili powder (Penzey's), and a pinch of cayenne pepper into the melted chocolate. After adding the fruit and nuts I topped it with grey sea salt. I threw a handful of loose roasted almonds in with the pieces of bark just to fill the spaces in the containers.

Now I'm going to have to start the thrift store search to get more vintage canning jars for Christmas 2013. And another recipe. I have time.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Twenty children shot in their school? Little kindergarten children shot with an assault rifle in their classroom? Teachers murdered? The school principal murdered? There is no explanation, no way to understand. Along with millions of others, my heart breaks for the families affected by the horrible killings in Connecticut. I cry out to God to fix this troubled world, to comfort those whose pain began today and will never end. This at Christmas. There is no real peace in this troubled world. This is not our home. Lord, hold us tight, help us. Please help us.

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864, at the height of the Civil War. And still so true today.

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas story

Went to the church Christmas party tonight. I got a $50 parking ticket. Aggghhhhh! Other cars were parked on the street where I parked, it was dark, and I saw no sign prohibiting parking at that time. I needed to purge my stupidity from my head. So I got to thinking about the pageants we used to do when I was in grade school at St. Camillus back in the day before color television and digital recording and $50 Arlington parking tickets. And I wrote my own Christmas story. The story is fiction but many of the details are true. I'm just not saying what's true/what's not.

Bridgette Marie Does Christmas

Bridgette Marie Donnelly wanted nothing more than to play the angel in the school Christmas pageant. In second grade she had been a bit of a disciplinary challenge for Sister Ignatius, flipping baseball cards with the boys, letting her dog eat her homework, and disrespectfully mouthing off. She even got the attention of Monsignor O’Donnell when she wore red socks to the First Communion rehearsal. The girls had been explicitly ordered to rehearse in the shoes they would wear on First Communion Sunday. Everyone knew they had to wear all white—white dresses, white shoes, white socks, and of course, white veils. Bridgette Marie had no intention of wearing red socks with her new white shoes for the real First Communion day, but she wanted to save her clean white socks for Sunday. And besides, she just wanted to be a little bit of a rebel, even when she didn’t know what a rebel was. After all, much to the dismay of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her given name was not the standard Irish Bridgid, but rather a bastardized, French version of the name. She was only permitted to be given the name in baptism because of the Marie attached to it.

So she started off the school year in third grade focused on being really, really good so she would be chosen to be the Christmas angel. A third grade girl was always the angel. It had to be third grade girl because at Christmas the second graders had not yet received first Holy Communion. And fourth grade girls just were not suitable to be angels. No one dared say why a fourth grade girl could not be chosen to be the Christmas angel, but it was whispered that some of the fourth grade girls were beginning to develop breasts, and everyone knew angels did not have breasts.

She knew she’d have a good shot at winning the angel role. Mary Catherine McCarthy had fair skin and golden ringlets, but she was so awkward it was likely she would fall off of the ladder where the angel stood. (When Mary Catherine McCarthy was in her twenties, she became the mistress of a Congressman and got involved in a bit of a scandal when the much older Congressman left his wife of 30 years to marry Mary Catherine.) Maria Torina loved the Blessed Mother and knew the Baltimore catechism inside and out, but she had raven black hair, and everyone knew angels were blonde. (Maria grew up to become a sex therapist.) Mary Annette Johnson could have had a shot at the angel role, but no one had ever seen her father and it was rumored that her father wasn’t even a Catholic, so Mary Annette was not angel material. (Mary Annette emancipated herself and moved to Paris when she was 16 and she made a fortune in pharmaceutical sales.) The students at Our Lady of Sorrows School were held to a high standard.

The school principal, the draconian Sister Philomena, had the final say on which girl would be chosen as the Christmas angel. Even Monsignor O’Donnell dared not interfere with Sister Philomena’s decision. Sister Philomena summoned Bridgette Marie Donnelly into the office.

“Well, Lady Jane, I suppose you know why I have called you here.” She didn’t give the girl a chance to respond.

“Something tells me I could be making a big mistake but I have chosen you to be the angel in this year’s Christmas pageant. You know that only the role of the Blessed Mother is more cherished than the Christmas angel. You, of course, are not eligible to be the Blessed Mother. The Blessed Mother must be an 8th grade girl who intends to enter the convent. Only such a holy girl can portray the mother of Our Lord Jesus.” As always, she bowed her head when she said the name of Jesus.

Bridgette Marie looked down at her lap and softly said, “Yes, sister, thank you, sister.”

“Off you go, missy. Don’t you dare disappoint me.”

“Yes, sister, thank you, sister.”

Bridgette Marie Donnelly walked down the hall, directly into the girls’ bathroom and upchucked.

Every day after school for two weeks, the children practiced their roles in the pageant. Bridgette Marie’s role was simple. She had no lines to speak and she didn’t have to enter or exit the stage. She just stood on a ladder behind the Christmas tree, looking with angelic awe at the baby Jesus (an oversized rubber baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes). At home she tried to practice looking with angelic awe at her Chihuahua Marvin, but Marvin didn’t appreciate being wrapped in swaddling clothes and wriggled free. Marvin was a lousy substitute for the Divine Infant.

Her mother constructed an angel costume with sheets, gold Christmas garland, and coat hangers. But to compensate for the homemade angel costume her mother gave her a home perm and bought her a new pair of shiny white patent leather angel shoes.

The day of the pageant arrived. Everyone was in their designated place—Mary, Joseph, the rubber baby Jesus laid in the manger, the shepherds, the three wise men, and some 5th grade boys dressed as animals. Bridgette Marie stood proudly on the ladder behind the Christmas tree. As the narrator recounted the story of the Savior’s birth and they all sang Christmas songs, Bridgette Marie stood looking down with angelic awe on the baby Jesus. But then, for an instant, she lost focus, looked up from his holy face, and saw Sister Philomena pacing back and forth in the back of the auditorium, nervously twisting the rosary beads at her waist. Bridgette Marie's knees started to shake. Her shiny new shoes began to slip on the rung of the ladder and she felt herself, as in a dream, begin to slowly dive forward into the Christmas tree. Then the Christmas angel loudly cried out, “Jesus Christ!” It wasn’t a reverent proclamation of the savior’s name. It was the cry of a 3rd grade girl with blonde ringlets, dressed in a homemade angel costume, as she and the lighted Christmas tree crushed the rubber baby Jesus laying in the manger.

Sister Philomena screamed--such an unearthly sound had never been heard coming from a nun. The audience laughed until they were full of the joy of Christmas. For some, it was the best Christmas pageant ever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chicken Ragu

This afternoon I went to the gym and pedaled on the recumbent bike while watching Rachael Ray cook. I finished my workout, trying to make a mental shopping list of what I needed at the grocery store to make what she cooked while I pedaled. Food I can remember; nearly everything else is a blur. So I got what I needed on my way home and cooked it. I adapted it somewhat. She was making a crostini thing as a side dish with mushrooms and spinach. I added the mushrooms to the ragu. Here’s my version--a nice dish for a cold winter night.

Chicken Ragu

1 pound crimini mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ pound pancetta, a couple thick slices, finely diced
1 ½ pound boneless chicken thighs, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
1 medium to large onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Marsala
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes
1 pound whole-wheat or whole-grain rigatoni or other short cut pasta, cooked according to package directions
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Handful basil leaves, torn

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in sauté pan. Sauté until mushrooms are brown and set aside.

While mushrooms cook, begin chicken ragu. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the pancetta 3 to 4 minutes then add chicken and brown evenly 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onions to the chicken. Grate the carrot and stir in with the rosemary, bay leaf, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are soft.

Add the Marsala to chicken and vegetables, stir and reduce a minute then add tomatoes and crush with wooden spoon. Add cooked mushrooms. Simmer a few minutes to thicken and combine flavors.

Toss the pasta with the chicken ragu and cheese. Garnish with some torn basil and serve immediately.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Variation on a theme

For a couple of years I've been baking an oatmeal cookie that's well-loved but sneaky. (Big secret here. Don't tell anyone--they have cumin and cayenne in them.) But I've been pondering variations on the oatmeal cookie theme and developed this recipe that I baked for the first time today. I like them. I may tweak the recipe some, maybe get bold and add more pepper. I thought about adding chopped crystallized ginger, but didn't do it this time. I'd love feedback if you try it--let me know what you think. I'm also without a name for these little darlings. Maybe I'll just call them Fred.

Oatmeal Date Pine Nut Cookies

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup dates, chopped
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
½ cup pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a bowl sift together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Add chopped dates and toss to cover dates in flour. In a large bowl beat butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add fresh ginger, egg, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and slowly beat until just combined well. Stir in rolled oats and pine nuts.

Drop tablespoon-size pieces of dough 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes, until light brown. Cool cookies on baking sheet for one minute and transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes 4 dozen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Requiem for a wedding dress

Yesterday, once the fog burned off, it was a glorious early winter day. Outside the sky was blue, the air was clear, and I spent the day sitting on the floor in my mother's storage unit. Yep, sat on the concrete floor in the windowless basement of her building, cleaning out the accumulated junk in her storage "cages."

My sister and I pulled out everything in the cages, sorted, and reorganized. We got rid of the marble cupid statue and the broken Christmas lights, a dozen throw pillows, and a variety of other things that once were treasures. We stuffed my car full and donated everything at the Salvation Army thrift store. I brought home my father's watch and wallet (yes, I cried). I also brought home a variety of old Bibles, missals, catechisms, and a crumbling file of my grandmother's recipes. There are some things that hold no value at the Salvation Army store, but are priceless to me.

Purging my mother's things, trying to decide what held value and what didn't, reminded me of a piece I wrote a while ago about my wedding dress.

Requiem for a Wedding Dress
Truth is I chose the wedding dress for her, for my mother. “Look at this one, honey, it’s so romantic,” she sighed.

It had been featured in one of those glossy bride magazines and she loved it at first sight. It was pure white embroidered organdy, with long, sheer sleeves and a train. We found it at Jelleff’s, a downtown department store, long since closed. Although I tried on many dresses over several trips to several stores, it was wasted time. I probably could have been satisfied with another dress, but I wanted my mother to be happy with my choice. So, in the spring of 1967, my mother and I chose her perfect dress.

Why we did not consider the heat and humidity of Washington summers, I have no idea. John and I were married at high noon on August 26th. We had monsoon rains for the entire week before the wedding and, just before noon on our wedding day, the sun finally came out with a vengeance. It was very hot, very humid, and I was wearing an organdy dress with long sleeves. We had the reception at my parents’ house. The house was not air-conditioned. I wilted but I was gloriously happy because I married the man I loved. My favorite picture from that day is a photograph of us dancing on my parents’ brick patio—I am beaming at him, dancing in his arms while trying to hold the train of the dress.

On the Christmas following our wedding, as a gift, my mother had the dress preserved in a special box that was supposed to slow the aging process. For over 30 years the hermetically sealed wedding dress moved with my husband and me, from apartment to apartment, then from house to house. During one of the moves, the plastic protective seal was punctured and the dress slowly began to turn from white to yellow. Like the portrait of Dorian Gray, the dress in the attic was deteriorating. The marriage may have appeared healthy to the outside world, but it too was deteriorating.

Thirty years after it was worn for one joyful day, the dress became the symbol of my broken life. Over those years, the young man I loved slowly crumbled and slipped away from me. Anger and depression ate away his spirit and he left the marriage, hoping that a drastic change would heal him. The marriage ended in a tangle of lawyers, legal documents, and at least one broken heart.

The divorce agreement required me to sell the house. Thirty years worth of accumulated possessions had to be pared down to fit in my small townhouse. Thirty years of serving dishes, brownie uniforms, GI Joe equipment, and useless Christmas gifts. My friend Nancy, the poster child for simplicity, said, “If you haven’t used it in the past year, get rid of it.”

But what about the wedding dress? I put it in the giveaway pile, then had second thoughts and took it out again. Could I just unceremoniously dispose of my wedding dress? I considered some sort of Druid burning ritual to release its evil spirits but feared that I could incinerate my house in the process.

I tried to get my daughter Jennifer to agree to wear the dress one day. “Face it, Mom, I’m three inches shorter than you and three sizes smaller. No offense, but it really isn’t the dress I would choose.” Besides, she might want a white dress, or even off-white, crème, beige, bisque, but not grimy yellow.

I had gone through several rounds of sorting through everything. It was the week before the move and I was taking one last trip to the Salvation Army donation site. I grabbed the box containing the wedding dress and squeezed it in the back of my truck. When I arrived at the Salvation Army site, I handed the box to the attendant and never looked back. I had no remorse, no tears; it was time to move on. I felt good, clean, determined, like an exterminator had just removed the cooties from my life.

But my mother was crushed when I told her what I had done. “How could you thrown away that beautiful dress?” she said, “I loved that dress.”