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I recently had reason to bring out my wedding dress and my first thought was, I have no idea where it is or even if I still have it. My second thought was, sheesh, I have entirely too much stuff.

Naturally I can remember right where it was some 20 years ago, but I am no longer this house’s Keeper of the Stuff with a running inventory going in in my head 24/7. Where’s my socks from forth grade? Do you remember that Christmas card my mother sent me three years ago? Have you seen my keys? I used to be able to answer all these questions, but at some point I decided that keeping track of Other People’s Things used up too much of my available energy.

I eventually found the dress above the hot water heater next to an extra roll of insulation, some old books, and oddly, a box of unmatched shoes. It’s been at least ten years, so I threw the shoes out. There is no doubt in my mind that all the matching shoes lost over the years are now going to suddenly appear and I will regret having taken such drastic measures, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

My dress was a complete mess, covered in dust and spider webs, yellowed with age, and it smelled like cigars. No one around these parts even smokes cigars, but whatever. I decided to just toss it in the washing machine to kill the spiders and the cigars, which one should never do of course. I think I was halfway hoping it would just disintegrate and I would be done with it.

Alas, it survived the wash and came out a lovely ivory or amber color. The yellowing of age is an improvement, it ads a certain touch of elegance. I dared not throw it in the dryer, so I sat there clinging this wet and wrinkled dress and remembering all it had been through.

We didn’t have much money so I made all our dresses for our wedding. I had just gone to the dentist, so my tooth was throbbing something fierce when I went to buy material. We didn’t have a car that would stay running, so we had to catch a ride that day. That dress heard all my cursing before it was even born.

We used to use it for dress up when my kids were small. It was a great princess dress. I kid you not, a litter of kittens were actually born on it because it had slid off its hanger and lay in the back of the closet, a convenient pet bed. I should have just thrown it away at that point, but wait, it gets even better! We actually had a baby goat come right into the house and eat one of the sleeves. He did other things on the dress, too.

I used it as a table cloth at Christmas time. I draped a baby bassinet with it. I mended it and ironed it, laundered it, and cared for it. I let many people try it on over the years, children and brides to be. People dreaming of proms, costume parties, and being in a play. There is something about that dress that just speaks of resilience, a fierce clinging to what is good, and a stubborn refusal to let go.

I think what I like best about that dress is that it knows what is important. It opened its arms up to new kitten life, it snuggled a baby goat, it let children trample on it just to hear their laughter, and it dressed up our table for family celebrations.

I’m really not sentimental about it, it’s a rather ugly dress now, worn out, stained, with a broken zipper, and far too tiny for me to ever fit in again, but it is a reflection of me, of how I’d like to be at the end of my life, well loved and all used up, nothing fancy, but nothing wasted.

It’s a dress of victory, a warrior’s dress all tattered from battle.