Earlier, I wrote about some of the projects I started in my attempt to make myself a more well rounded person (i.e., not simply an intellectual dork, but an intellectual dork covered in glitter and sporting a brand new hot glue burn.) I haven't made much progress yet, unless you count waking the spirits.
The decision to cut up my grandmother's dress wasn't an easy one. She died rather unexpectedly when I was only about 17 months old, so I only knew her through the things she was associated with. Because my otherwise curmudgeonly grandfather saw her as a saint, his house was a shrine of sorts. Literally, nothing was moved after she died. For thirteen years, the same plastic covered the windows that she had put up the winter she died. For thirteen years, the knickknacks sat in the exact same and went undusted. A candle burned under her picture above the fireplace, and a plate was always set at her place at the table. When my grandfather died (I was in 8th grade), all of her clothes were still in her closet and none of her make-up or perfume had been touched.
When I was younger, I used to relish the very rare times when my grandfather would allow us to venture upstairs and I would get to look at her bridal crown and her wedding gown. I thought that maybe I would wear her dress some day- it seemed to me everything a bridal gown should be. It was a simple ball gown, ivory satin with a row of tiny buttons up the bodice. After my grandfather died, I finally got to try on the dress. I was only 12 or 13 at the time, but I got stuck in it. I realized then that I would never wear the dress. But we had it cleaned and preserved, boxed it up, and put it into storage.
I never got around to making anything for Little Man's baptism, but I wanted to do something for Mo.
I started by ripping the dress apart. It wasn't too difficult, because the threads were so old, they pretty much dissolved without much effort. The dress had a funny smell-- I thought from either the cedar chest it was originally stored in or from the dry cleaning. It wasn't silk, so I tossed the pieces of the skirt into the washing machine.
Nothing really could have prepared me for what happened when that material got wet. You see my grandfather was a cigar and pipe smoker. Big, fat, nasty old cigars. We would go visit him once a week and come home reeking. Blech. Now when I put the pieces of satin into the washing machine there was no trace of smoke in them. Once they went through a wash cycle, my entire kitchen (that's where the laundry closet is) smelled like cigar smoke. The pieces of fabric smelled like cigar smoke. My hands after touching them smelled like cigar smoke. It was as though my grandfather, pissed that someone had disturbed something that was his, came back with a vengeance. I washed them in cold. I washed the fabric in hot. In all, I must have done at least 10 wash and/or rinse cycles. And the fabric still faintly smelled of smoke.
I was kind of panicking. Here I had already destroyed the dress and if it reeked of cigar smoke, there was no way I could make it into a blanket for a baby. I finally gave up and put the pieces out on the line to air out in the sun. When they were dry I couldn't smell the smoke anymore. Strange.
My grandfather wasn't exactly the warm and snuggly type. He was actually more of the gruff and downright scary type. I can imagine he'd be pissed that I tore up the dress. It didn't matter that he was mostly nasty to her while she was alive. I have this bad feeling that he wouldn't be happy that the dress is now in pieces in my living room.
My mom always said that she didn't believe in ghosts, but knew that if she ever moved into his house he'd find a way to come back and haunt her.
I think she just may have been right.