"I am not getting a wedding dress. Instead I want a wedding bathing suit." So starts my niece, CMR, in reply to my mother who asked her if all of the women in her life could go with her to Kleinfeld's to pick out her wedding dress when she is ready to be married in 30 years or so.
To understand the genesis of this line of questioning posed to a 9-year old, one must go back in time 12 hours earlier to the Kohl's in Fayetteville, NY.
With CMR in the backseat, I was driving to my sister's house in rural NY to spend the night when I realized I had left my pajamas at my mother's house, now 15 miles away. I knew a pants-free sofa bed night with my other niece, the Divine Miss M, was unacceptable. So I told CMR we'd need to take a few minutes to stop so I could buy some pajama pants. So, at 8:47 PM we roll into the Kohl's parking lot and head in to buy a cheap pair of jammie pants.
After finding an acceptably soft pair of sleeping pants for under $15 we we were headed to the registers to check out when CMR was distracted by girlie dresses. This itself was odd. CMR is generally not a girlie girl. She makes fart noises in her armpits, wishes they dissected more things - really anything - at school, and claims she'd rather be friends with the kids everyone else calls 'nerds'. So the in-store detour from women's pajamas to party dresses for 'tweens was a surprise. I decided to roll with it (a) because there was nothing we HAD to be home for, and (b) I wanted to see what happened.
After 4 minutes of frenetic browsing she had two dresses over her shoulder - a flowy pink number with sequined flowers under the bodice, and a polyester white dress with an asymmetrical hem and lots of ruching. She turned to me and said, "Now can we try them on?"
"You want to try them on?" I replied, somewhat disbelieving. I've never known CMR to enjoy shopping for clothes, and she especially hates the trying on part.
"YES!" and she made a beeline for the dressing room. Aunt Clownface gamely followed, wondering what amazing thing would happen next.
She chattered with me like I was her best girlfriend as she slipped into the first dress. She curtsied, twirled, and primped in the mirror. But it wasn't the right dress - too big.
Next came the white dress, a polyester number with black straps and a built-in bolero jacket. The white dress transformed this tomboyish 9-year old, who entered the dressing room in faded lack yoga pants, kiddie-sized barn "muck boots," and a fleece jacket over a purple t-shirt with sequin butterflies on it.
She ogled herself in the mirror, gushed about how pretty she felt, and was inspired to play an extended air guitar set in the dress which ended with an impressive split.
She begged me to buy the dress for her.
We hadn't planned to stop at Kohl's, nor had we planned to buy a party dress. In fact, CMR has no parties on her size 8 agenda. But she loved the dress, and, more importantly, she loved herself in the dress. So we made a spit shake deal - she'd pay me half the cost ($22.40 marked down from $56) AND if her parents said "no" she'd have to return the dress.
All the way home, she said repeatedly "I hope they say yes to the dress! I hope they say yes to the dress! I hope they say yes to the dress."
We arrived home by 9:25 PM and CMR immediately asked if she could try on the dress for her parents. While she changed, under the supervision of her 6-year old sister, I explained the conditions of the spit shake to her mom and dad, and told them the story of the unexpected shopping trip.
Then, with a drum roll played out on my thighs, CMR was introduced to her parents in her fancy party dress. It was impossible to ignore her excitement, and they "said yes to the dress."
She wore the dress to mother's day brunch the next day. Everyone oohed and ahhed over CMR's fancy dress. Together, she and I relayed the story of the dress adventure to the gathered crowd. When we got to the part where CMR was praying her parents would "say yes to the dress," my mother interrupted and said, "CMR, when you get married, will you let EVERYONE come to Kleinfeld's with you to pick out your wedding dress?"
My sister smirked and said, "CMR doesn't want a wedding dress when she gets married. She has other plans. CMR, why don't you tell them your plans?"
"Well, I am not going to wear a wedding dress. I'm going to wear a wedding bathing suit."
All of the adults in the room cocked their heads quizzically.
"Go on CMR, tell them why," prodded her mother.
"Well, instead of having a wedding aisle, I'm going to have a Slip n- Slide. In my wedding bathing suit I'm going to SLIDE down the aisle, pop into my husband's arms, and then we'll kiss."
The adult heads remained cocked as my sister added, "This plan started out as a wedding via water slide."
"Yeah!" CMR continued enthusiastically. "I was going to go 'whoosh' down the water slide and at the end, in the pool, I would end up in my husband's arms and then we'd kiss and be married. My husband and I will have already built a beautiful house with an in-ground pool and that's where we'll have our party afterwards."
I loved hearing my niece, who has fully entered the confusing world of pre-teens, chatter on about her ideal wedding plans. I love that she has these dreams, and they are so characteristic of a nine-year old mentality. I've never had wedding dreams that I remember and listened to her with the curiosity of a loving anthropologist. I loved being a catalyst in the chain of events that triggered her plans being revealed to her family, and being part of the circle that gave her a dress that made her feel so special.
Being an aunt is great.