My mother made her own wedding dress. After endless cutting, pinning, sewing, and adjusting the lace and organza, she devoted further tedious hours to hand-sewing hundreds of pearls to the bodice and sleeves. Though not the most elaborate of gowns, it was a work of art by virtue of the individuality and tremendous effort expended upon it.

Several months after my parents' wedding, my father was in the bedroom preparing to clean his rifle. Suddenly, my mother, who was in the next room, heard a gunshot. She called out to my father, asking if he was okay, but he didn't answer right away. She had to call to him a second time before he responded, in a shaky voice: "I thought I shot you." He was so shocked that he hadn't even realized in which direction the bullet had gone.

The unintentionally-fired bullet had torn, not into the next room, but through the closet. Closer examination of the damage revealed an unmendable gash across the bodice of my mother's painstakingly-constructed wedding gown.

Although at first my mother feared this freak accident might be a bad omen (and was quite miffed at my father for destroying the creation in which she had invested so much time), in the many years of arguments, apologies, misunderstandings, and miracles since 1978, they have remained together.

The damaged dress was boxed up and lost somewhere in the attic. By this time, it has probably suffered further damage as a meal for moths and silverfish. The gown's destruction hardly seems to matter any more. A wedding gown is made to be worn only once, unless it becomes a family treasure to be passed from mother to daughter. And I have no reason to mourn the ruined dress; having inherited my father's height, I would have had to have married while in junior high to have fit into it.

The more important legacy --- my mother's skill as a seamstress --- remains intact. I have several dresses born of her efforts, including a yellow concoction of satin and chiffon that I wore to prom. Perhaps she will one day have the opportunity to make another wedding dress, for me. One that she can admire from the outside, and one that guns will not be allowed near.

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