Christine changes the famous dynasty of the Lane family by marrying her love, Jan.
When Chris' Dad died, she wanted to just close the curtains and curl up with the stuffed lion he gave her as a child. But the phone kept ringing and people were bringing food, flowers, and hugs. No one seemed to understand her heart was broken and it needed time to mend. She knew people meant well. For Christine, Richard Bolton was a model father and the mold had been broken when he left this Earth. She was his baby girl and promised to always be there.
Chris brother, Danny, was executor so the legal documents and money allotments were safely in his hands. A funeral home had picked up the body, but there still was an urn to pick out and a memorial service to plan. Danny and she needed to notify people and plan what each would say, the music Dad had loved and find some pictures for a video of his life to run since there was no casket.
Chris wanted her children and their children to see this wonderful man pop out of the pictures, news articles, various mementos and awards. Her memories were fresh so she wrote them all down. He had brass balls and spoke his mind. He was a champion for the "little man", the disenfranchised, homeless and minorities.
That put her into action. She took a month off from teaching and put it to good use. No one had been in the attic for a long time and pictures were there. Chris decided making scrapbooks would be a wonderful way to spend this time.
Chris also had a fantasy dream that she prayed would come true. She had fallen in love and the Lane family wedding dress was in a Hope Chest with an "L" engraved on the top in that cobweb filled attic.
Chris was sure the history of the Lane family lived in the attic at their Oak Street house. She thought there was a good possibility that some of the ghosts even visited because every time she went to collect anything, pieces had been moved around.
The attic was fascinating with a wire dress form made to fit individual women. There were hats of every fabric in the style of the period with satin bows, silk flowers, imitation jewels or even brooches and feathers.
Those were the days when women dressed for church each Sunday from top to bottom with button shoes, stockings, numerous undergarments, dresses and completed with gloves and a hat to go out. It was tiring to even think about. There were albums filled with those fashions on family members she had never heard of. Even the stored dressers had built in hat boxes. Quite a few were the "Jacqueline Kennedy" pill box hats like the pink one she had worn in Dallas on that fateful day.
There was even a cooled closet for furs. Women wore furs then, real mink wraps or full length pelt coats that were monogrammed. You could tell the differences in minks by colors and the pelts, how soft the fur was. There was one thing that bothered her the most and that was a white fox wrap, the head had been left on and it was bitting the tail. The glassy fake black eyes gave her the creeps. The whole idea was disgusting. Who in her family had such bad taste? A huge white stuffed owl was next to the fox. Perhaps the same person. Christine wasn't sure she wanted to hear that story.
There were porcelain dolls, train sets, bikes with a large wheel in front and tiny one behind. There was the famous two seater bicycle that Grandma and Grand pops were on when her hat flew off. He went to catch the hat and knocked the jewelry box out of his jacket. When she saw the box he felt obligated to explain or she might think he had another girl. So in the street, in one of his better suits, he dropped to one knee and stuttered a proposal. He was President of the Petersburg National Bank. Grandma laughed so hard as he asked that she had tears rolling down her cheeks. Grand pop was beet red. That evening they began discussing a date. It was the talk of the town for weeks.
There were books and chests of jewelry, old picture albums, letters tied with different colors of ribbons, sewing chests and many wonderful pieces of furniture. An engraved cedar chest with the family seal was her favorite. Chris had to raise the top with all her strength at ten years old. Then the smell of cedar was clean and delicious. On top was a garment bag. She was allowed to open the trunk and look but not unzip and take out the precious dress.
One day her Mom, weary of the constant begging, removed the dress carefully out of the bag unveiling its treasures to her. The wedding gown had been worn by four generations of Lane brides. It was still beautiful, a cream satin covered with Chantilly Lace, tiny pearl buttons in the front, the neck curved down to reveal the bust where the buttons began. The waist had a satin sash. The sleeves were lace and had tiny pink rosebuds three at the wrist. The dress was long. The satin showed in front where the lace came together at the waist band and then tapered down on both sides showing more of the satin and less of the lace. The lace covered the entire back of the skirt in gathers into a lovely train. The back of the top was scooped to show the bride's skin. The veil was versatile; over the years it had required tiny hooks to make it different lengths and a choice of a satin band or a pearl tiara.
The gown appeared to be made for a fairy princess, one with a castle and Prince Charming. She always knew her day would come. It was a perfect size six, her Mom had said. So she needed to eat less and move more. For this reason it was worth losing over twenty pounds. The wedding dress held promise for a couple in love.
Her parents were the only ones that had divorced. It was such a shock because Chris and her brother never remember their parents arguing. One day, Holly just moved out and they saw her only when she flew in to town and the three would have a very superficial lunch. She had remarried and they traveled all over the world. Holly never asked how Ricky was doing.
The Lane brides each had an interesting history. The most wonderful gift to the future was under the gown the journals from each bride. Some had a few pages and two were full.
Chris would daydream about walking toward the person she loved on the arm of her precious Dad. Her great-grandmother Elaine had actually written a column for The Petersburg Gazette. She was the first woman in town to be a professional journalist. She knew the Governor of Virginia and they ate dinner at the Mansion several times a year. Grady Thompson was her husband and he had a thriving law practice in town that had many prestigious clients.
Her quirky column was called "Around Town", and perfect for Elaine since she knew everyone and loved gossip. She had this uncanny ability to write titillating gossip about people and rather then make them angry, they felt important. On the occasion she did upset them, she was charming. By offering a homemade cake and roses, then her natural gift for gab had them laughing. They knew their names would be in the next edition. Everyone loves attention. Just look at Hedda Hopper's success, Elaine's idol.
Grady and Elaine had a unique wedding in the First Presbyterian Church. They were among the first couple to write their own vows that were both sentimental and amusing. Elaine promised to excuse Grady's bathroom noises if he helped with the wash. Of course, Grady was going to hire a maid so he wouldn't have to worry about those things. Elaine would not volunteer that information to her readers because she wanted them to imagine her as "one of them".
Now it was Christine's turn for a wedding. She took the gown to a professional restorer to clean and polish each bead until it sparkled. She had a lot to live up to. After everything was taken care of concerning her Dad's death and a proper grieving time, she called her love. Chris was still grieving after three months but her partner had been helping all along. Actually almost everyone knew her love they just didn't realize it.
Over a lobster dinner at a five star restaurant with a bottle of Dom, Chris proposed and a date was chosen. The ring was her Great Grandmother's that her Dad had given her while he was sick. He knew her fiancée and approved. She knew she was marrying the right person. She put the fragile dress on and the weeks at the gym had paid off. It fit perfectly. A stunning bride looked back at her in the antique oval mirror.
Chris met her beloved when Jan Bonham was caring for her father. Jan was a Registered Nurse certified in Hospice Care who could give Chemotherapy, put in a PICC IV line that carried fluids into the heart area. She was also trained in Psychology and Sociology who truly listened to the whole family and patient with her whole heart.
Jan and her assistant changed and bathed Chris's Dad with dignity. Then there were funny jokes from her other cancer patient, Renny, who was seven-years-old. Jan always had something new to share with Chris' serious accountant Dad who seldom laughed . Jan even brought Renny over several times and the two had a great time playing Battleship and Poker.
He was the most grown-up seven year old Chris had ever met. One day, Chris walked in and heard the two friends discussing how they wanted to die and what death meant to them. It was like two old men that knew they were at the jumping off point and were curious. Not afraid like their families and that is why Jan got terminally ill patients together. They "knew" and wanted to talk to someone who "knew" also. Imagine a seventy year old retired accountant and a second grader having this discussion.
Dad seemed to enjoy simple things now like milk shakes, balloons, cartoons, throwing bread out for the ducks and blowing bubbles. Jan and her Dad read Mark Twain together and Chris had never seen her Dad so content.
When Dad was close to the end, Jan had helped each family member approach him and gave them private time. She just had a special touch that allowed people to express themselves. One of the wonderful things that came out of her being Dad's nurse was the family already loved her.
Chris and Jan stayed in touch. They had already became best friends and then it grew into something more. The first time Jan had touched Chris' hand, the tingling of sexual feelings were already there.
They spent a year filled with joy, exploration, finding common goals and allowing each other private space. That was six months before her Dad's death and six after. Chris had only dated men and was never attracted to a woman until Jan. It was important that her family and friends see how they loved each other. Jan had known she was a lesbian since she was thirteen but had only had two serious love affairs. The time gave them the assurance this was the right path to take.
She had her Dad's blessing in a letter he had written. It was sad as he spoke about missing her wedding someday but said he would find a way to watch. He also said it doesn't matter whom you love as long as you share those feelings. She shared the contents of the letter with her brother and a couple of close relatives. Chris now knew her Dad had noticed an attraction between she and Jan then. Amazing the insight her Dad had so close to death's door.
Her Mom wouldn't accept it or be there. Her Mom wouldn't even discuss it. She met Jan once and called her a "interfering lesbo". That hurt Chris deeply. The rest of her family was more understanding. Her brother, Randy, would give her away. Chris would walk the aisle and make promises to a beautiful Jan in a black lace gown for eternity.
Christine would be the first Lane bride to wear this dress and marry a woman. She was a truly outstanding Lane bride. She would start her journal when the time was right. She had learned so much about living each precious day to the fullest.
By Kathie Stehr