Children and Animals

If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way.”—Mark Twain

Greetings Dear Ones!

You might not believe it, but we are swamped (again) in the shop.  It’s almost as bad as prom season. I explain to a man that it might be a few weeks before we can get his five suit jackets tailored because we have so many wedding parties and bridal gowns with immanent deadlines to do ahead of his order.  It seems like half the county is getting married on September 20th.  His brow furrows in befuddlement.

Weddings?” he asks. “Really??? People are still doing that?”  The combination of his stunned look and the ambiguity of his question hits me sideways and breaks me into giggles.  I don’t bother to clarify whether he means “I thought June was the month for weddings; who gets married in the Fall?” or “Really? People are still dressing up in thirty yards of silk and lace, eating cake with too much icing, and promising to love each other truly until Death grants one an end to the how-to-squeeze-the-toothpaste debate?” (From the Bottom! Insists Prudence vehemently. What kind of Neanderthal would ever do otherwise?)  I just nod. He shrugs.  “Ok then,” he sighs with reluctant acquiescence, “call me whenever they’re done.”

Yes, it’s Wedding Season in full tilt.  If there’s one thing that New England does almost as well as cider donuts and pumpkin lattes, its starched white steeples etched against cobalt blue skies, every shade of fire in the maples and oak leaves, and stunning old mills with waterfalls as the backdrop of wedding photos.  Throw in a horse-drawn carriage and some pumpkins and Cinderella-for-the-day could not be happier.   The photo opportunities will be perfect, especially when all the Ugly Stepsisters’ gowns (the gowns are ugly, not the stepsisters!) are hemmed so that their big feet and horn-like toenails with chipped summer pedicures don’t show. With all that magical pageantry going for it, you would think people would not have to involve children or animals in the matrimonial circus.   


People hosting and planning weddings are usually amateurs under pressure and they have forgotten the number one rule of Show Business: Never Work with Animals or Children. Especially children your siblings have given birth to!  That is, unless you WANT your rental tuxes returned with their pockets glued together by sweaty gummy bears.

Don’t think I am saying that children don’t belong at weddings. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Weddings are about celebrating Family—of course they should be there!  It’s the best chance ever to mingle with fun cousins and get into just enough mischief to get a glare from an Aunt or Uncle but not a spank from your mother.  Children should be there to snitch olives off the hors d’ouvres table and sneak sodas and compare bike-riding scabs. Totally.  Just not in matching silk outfits they are expected to keep clean for formal pictures.   

One family of sisters comes into the shop to get SIX tiny, matching white dresses—each with about ten yards of tulle and a huge satin bow—tailored for six little girls under the age of four.  These sisters have a favorite brother who is getting married to a naïve woman who thinks it will be Just Adorable to have all the little niece-in-laws in her wedding.  (Have I mentioned that the ceremony is scheduled right smack at nap-time?)  The grandmother, who is in the shop to help wrangle the little ones in and out of their dresses, confides “I don’t know what she is thinking! They might as well set six live ferrets down at the end of the aisle and hope one of them makes it to the altar.”  The mothers look stressed out.  One child is climbing the grandmother like a jungle gym, another is eating crayons.  One has stripped herself of her clothes and is now wandering the shop.  One won’t take her dress off; the other won’t put it on.  These sister want to love their brother’s deluded bride, truly, they do… 

Another young bride comes in and says we need to make a waistcoat for her dog—she wants it to have a little pillow for the wedding rings attached to the back.  He also needs a matching bow tie.  He is going to be the ring bearer.  This makes total sense to me.  You can train a dog to do things.  They will have much better luck getting a dog down the aisle than six toddlers missing nap-time.  In fact, why does this chick even need a husband? If you want someone who will listen to you every time, do everything you tell them to do, and always be there for you for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, a dog is really your best bet.   Unless, of course it is a Jack Russell! But I’m not sure Jack Russells are actually dogs—they are more like tiny, spiteful people who made a wrong turn in the karmic cycle of rebirth and came back in fur pajamas with a serious Attitude problem.  But I digress…

Funny, I have yet to see anyone ever have a cat be a ring-bearer. Does anyone do this? A veterinarian once told me that cats have 32 muscles in their ears—all devoted to ignoring commands from you—that can locate the sound of a tin opener sixteen miles away. People think cats are un-trainable but that is not true.  You can train a cat to do anything it wants to do in the first place.  I’ve heard tell that you can even train them to use a proper toilet instead of a litter box to relieve themselves. Without getting the seat wet, or leaving it up!  What adult male human can manage that?

Cats figure in weddings more than you know.  For one thing, they are irresistibly drawn to wedding dresses for some reason.  We warn every bride who comes to collect her finished gown—“Don’t let cats near this!” They love to climb the dresses, nestle in the layers, and the plastic covering we put over the gowns is a major suffocation danger.  We warn every one--the Dog owners look mystified. Cat owners nod knowingly.

I am in the dressing room with a nervous bride and her mother for a first fitting.  The mother is pointing out all the places where the beading has come a little loose on the gown and will need to be tightened.  To me, the dress, though “new” looks a little shop-worn—like too many people have tried it on.  Maybe it was last-year’s model.  Maybe they got a deal.  I don’t judge; I just make mental notes or put pins where I see things that need to be mended or tweaked.  The bride, who has been twisting and turning to see herself from every angle, suddenly notices all that I am noticing and turns to her mother.  “Was this like this in the shop?  I don’t remember all these loose beads.”  The mother looks like a balloon that has been slowly filling up with water.  Finally, she gushes:

“Ok!  I didn’t want to tell you this but I had the dress lying out on the dining table because it was too long to hang in the closet.  I figure it is safe to tell you now.  The cat has been getting up on it. She LOVES it. Finally, I put the dress in its garment bag to protect it and it’s a good thing I did.  The cat threw up on it. Don’t worry; it didn’t get on the actual dress.  Just the bag and I washed that…  Wha-at!? Don’t look at me like that!  It’s FINE.”  The mother turns to me.  “I’m so glad you’re here. I did not feel safe telling her this alone.” She turns to the daughter, who looks like she has smoke coming out of both ears, “Really, Darling.  Don’t be upset. It’s FINE.”

It’s true.  There is something about animals and wedding dresses.  There is something about the pristine that just attracts the dirty.  I have made several wedding dresses for friends and family over the years.  To my HORROR, one of my dogs once lifted his leg on the bottom edge of one of the dresses as it rested on the mannequin in my sewing room. I had to cut that entire pattern piece out of the dress, buy more fabric, and remake the dress.  (If you are reading this, and I once made a wedding dress for you, don’t worry—it was probably, hopefully, ABSOLUTELY  not YOUR dress!)

Regardless of the specific details, Weddings are about celebrating a new Family Union.  We come together creatively and collectively to make a memory—though in all honesty, one Spouse will never remember and the other will never forget precisely on WHICH calendar day this Memory occurred.  But from this day forth, Children and animals are really what it is all about—why not involve them from Day One? They bring chaos and chaos brings Opportunities.   Opportunities are where we choose our Fabulousness or hideousness for the growth of our Souls.  I have been talking with my children a lot lately about how “we have no more Problems… Problems are a thing of the past.  What we have instead are sudden New Priorities!”  

Involving Children and animals in a formal celebration will provide a lot of New Priorities for their handlers.  (Priorities that probably involve paper towels and wet-wipes.)  Ultimately—each wedding leads to new birth—more children, more animals—more of Life seeking Itself.  They might not necessarily be those of the Bride and Groom, but trust me, New Life will result!  Just ask all the pregnant bridesmaids I’ve been fitting lately! Apparently, nothing makes a woman more fertile than ordering a three-hundred-dollar dress in January and pledging to stay a size 10 until October!

Be Merry and Well, my darlings!  Remember that Mirth is your shield against all ills.  When Chaos presents its choices—choose Love! It’s always there. I promise. I love you all so much!

Yours aye,