by Cheryl Russell

("A Continuous Thread" has been published online at Cold Glass and Romancing The Christian Heart, and is currently online at Christian Paradise.)

The clicks and thumps that came from outside my trunk jolted me awake. The hinges squealed in protest as the lid creaked open. Cool fresh air rushed in, forcing out the musty air trapped in the trunk. I blinked as a sudden burst of golden light exploded around me. Although the light was filtered through an envelope of quilts, it was still blinding after the trunk’s total blackness. I jerked when I felt hands behind me, lifting me. The quilts shifted, and gave me a glimpse beyond my cocoon. The brief look told me I was in a bedroom that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. A sudden turn caused a wave of dizziness to wash over me and I was relieved when I was placed on what felt like a bed.

The sunlight grew brighter as the quilt layers were peeled away. My eyes traveled around the room. The poster bed remained in the same spot I had last seen it, between the windows. A breeze wafted into the room. New blue gingham curtains billowed and the scent of lilacs permeated the air. The familiar wallpaper had faded and the full-length mirror hanging on the wall wore a crack in the lower right hand corner. The trunk still squatted at the foot of the bed, its spot since Faith’s wedding many years ago. The trunk’s flat, raised lid was the last thing I had seen before I was swaddled in quilts and placed inside.

My gaze settled on the three faces hovering above me. Three identical sets of hazel eyes looked back. I recognized the first and second faces, but the third was a stranger. I saw their hands reaching for me and I stiffened. I held my breath as my sleeves, which had been crossed over my bodice, were straightened out and placed on either side of me. Hands gently lifted the lower part of my bodice and pulled my skirt free. I closed my eyes and stretched my fibers as much as I dared. I wasn’t as young as I used to be, and didn’t want to hurt myself by overdoing it. I felt the fibers in my back twinge as kinks worked themselves out. It felt wonderful to be outside of the trunk, at full length again. I opened one eye a bit to observe the three women still bending over me. The youngest one spoke first.

“It’s beautiful Grandma!” she said as she lifted me up. She stood in front of the full-length mirror and placed me under her chin. I felt my skirts drop to the floor and sway their way into place. The young woman pressed an arm across my lace bodice, holding me against her.

In the mirror, I saw Grace reach out with a wrinkled, calloused hand. I felt fingertips brush against my sleeve. “Yes, Hope, it is a beautiful dress”, Grace replied, eyes crinkling as she smiled. “How well I remember the day I wore it!”  I smiled and closed my eyes. As the women talked, memories of that sunny October day in Kansas began to flow.

The sun had warmed my shoulders. Not one cloud cluttered the deep blue sky. The gentle breeze had caused my skirts to swish back and forth. Well-wishers and family had packed the little white church on the flat Kansas plain. A shiver raced up my spine as I remembered the deep voice of Jeremiah and the soft one of Grace repeating their vows. The day was exhausting, but happy. The celebrations continued long into the evening; even after Grace and Jeremiah had departed. I remembered the rough plank seat of the wagon as we bounced over the rutted road, the sounds of fiddles and banjoes wafting behind us. At the new farmhouse, I was wrapped in old quilts and packed away in the trunk built for Grace by Jeremiah.

Even though I was out of sight, I made myself a part of the family by listening to life as it went on outside the confines of my trunk. I heard cries of pain that changed to joy when new life entered my world. I worried over drought and rejoiced when crops were plenty. I shed tears as some of the little ones left their parents long before it was time. I shook just a little and thumps filled my head when the voice I came to know as Faith would sit on the trunk swinging her legs, knocking her feet into the sides. Many talks between mother and daughter were conducted that way; Faith sitting on the trunk thumping her foot in a mindless rhythm, while Grace’s voice would answer from various parts of the room. As Faith grew, her thumping on the trunk ceased, and my world grew a little more silent. I was unseen, but still very much a part of their world.

As the memories fade, I glance around the room again. My eyes stop at Faith. She had moved away from Grace and Hope, and stood by herself in a corner of the room. A look of happiness crossed her face as she watched her daughter fuss over me. But as I watch, her lower lip begins to tremble and her eyes shift away from me and toward the floor. Watching Faith, my smile fades as the past rushes forward once more.

One early summer day my trunk’s lid was thrown open. I was swept out and set on the bed. The quilts were thrown back and I felt my bodice become wet with tears. Sobs shook us as Faith buried her face in the soft folds. Faith wouldn’t be able to wear me for her wedding. Ethan had died on a beach called Normandy and wasn’t returning home. Faith had cried herself to sleep that night, clutching me until Grace had put me away in the trunk once more. I had never felt such grief. I had listened to grief before, but was never a part of it. My heart ached and it had been a relief to return to the isolation of my trunk.

My solitude was interrupted several years later by a man named Samuel. On a late June afternoon, Faith and Samuel had exchanged vows under the rose arbor in the backyard of Faith’s childhood home. The scent of roses, carried by the soft summer breeze, wafted through the yard. Faith’s strong clear voice and Samuel’s quiet one had answered the minister’s questions. I felt the same sense of joy, hope and happiness that I had felt at Grace’s wedding.

Afterwards, I was wrapped in my quilts and packed into the trunk again. I slid to one end of my trunk as it was carried at a sharp angle; I knew I was going up a flight of stairs. Muffled voices told me I was in a bedroom. A thump shook me as the trunk was shoved against something solid. A “don’t slam the trunk into the bed!” let me know I sat at the foot of a new bed. A brief flash of light as the lid popped open and I was straightened out. The darkness settled over me as the lid closed and I was left alone, but not lonely. The sounds of a new family growing up around me filled my solitary world.

Movement in the corner of the room brought me back into the present. Faith stepped out into the room and approached her daughter and mother standing at the mirror. Grace glanced at Faith’s face and saw the small tears at the corners of her eyes. I saw Grace reach out and give Faith a silent squeeze on her shoulder. Faith wiped a quick hand across her eyes and gave her mother a small smile.

“Are you sure about this Hope?” Faith inquired.

My heart raced as Hope dropped the arm holding me to her side. I held my breath, then released it when it became apparent I wasn’t going to fall to the floor. I swung to and fro as Hope tried to gesture and speak at the same time.

“Oh mother! How can you ask me that?  Of course I want to be married in the same dress as you and grandma!”  Hope’s spin towards Grace made me dizzy.

“May I wear it please?” Hope asked her grandmother.

Hope almost crushed as me as Hope hugged Grace when the older woman said  “Yes.”

Now today is Hope’s wedding day. I am removed from the closet and taken off the hanger. Amid much chatter and fuss, I am slipped over Hope’s lavender scented blond hair and settled on her shoulders.

Outside, I look around, taking in the sights and sounds of this third generation wedding. The aspens on the mountainsides are golden splashes. I watch the sunlight dance across the waters of Glacier Lake. A cool breeze creates ripples upon the water’s surface. Glancing beyond Nathaniel’s shoulder, I see a dusting of snow on the distant mountains. I turn my attention to the ceremony and listen as the old familiar promises, mixed in with new ones written by Hope and Nathaniel, are spoken. Tears well up as I realize what a gift I have been given. I am a continuous thread through three generations; binding three brides together in a way that can never be undone.

Three generations.

Three weddings.

One dress.           

Cheryl says: "I have been writing for several years and have been published online at www.worthfinding.com, www.Christianparadise.com, Cold Glass and Romancing The Christian Heart. I have also been published in The Storyteller, a print magazine." Contact Cheryl.