Peggy coughed lightly, fanning away years of dust from the crumpled box she retrieved from the dark, dank attic. This better be those Christmas lights or I give up, she thought to herself. Pulling frantically on the flaps, she was dismayed—but only for a moment—that no old Christmas lights or tree ornaments stared back at her.
Instead, a puffy dress—once beaming white, but now yellowed with age—sprang from the box as if it had been waiting to jump out and yell “surprise!” from behind a couch as the guest of honor at a party finally arrived. Well, it’s been waiting a long time. This box had been sealed shut for at least fifty-two years. Surprise!
That’s not what made Peggy chuckle of sweet memories, though. Her eye followed the hem of the button-down dress as she pulled it out, reminiscing on that wonderfully chaotic night.
How’s that for memory-strengthening, Dr. Dean! I’m a ripe seventy-two and I still remember my wedding! Ha! She felt a soft plop on her foot as she pulled her dress out and looked down.
“Oh, Bart,” she smiled, picking up the bowtie.
She wanted her wedding to be perfectly romantic, as most young brides dream their wedding to be, and she remembered her father walking her down the aisle to her very soon-to-be husband, who was wearing the most atrocious silk orange and blue bowtie she had ever seen.
During her moment to share her well-thought-out and deeply romantic vows with Bart, she could barely utter three words at a time without giggling hysterically. The wedding colors were forest green and silver for heavens sake!
“Wedding nerves,” her auntie Clara had said knowingly, patting the arm of her own third husband and casting a dismayed look at the bride and her hysterics. She knew all about wedding nerves, apparently.
Bart smiled lovingly at his giggling wife, patiently waiting a whole five minutes for Peggy to finish her fit and dab her eyes with the kerchief the maid of honor graciously supplied.
It was a truly hideous tie, and even more so now. A few stains had distorted the color of the crumpled, silly looking thing. It was a hit at the wedding, though! Peggy’s side of the family and friends tilted their heads curiously at his decision, smiling funnily at him in his beautifully creased black suit and crisp white shirt. Was he mad for choosing such an outlandish bowtie? Was it an inside joke? A strange cry for help?
Bart’s family had smiled knowingly at him and patted him on the shoulder, giving him tender hugs and whispering words of encouragement.
“Nobody even notices it, dearie…not next to you and your stunning dress!” bellowed Peggy’s cousin Ann-Marie. Such an optimistic woman, even though it was an absolute lie. Everybody noticed it, and even more so when it was no longer secured in place along his neck.
A few drinks in her at this point, it was even more hysterical that it magically vanished! She watched Bart in a new fit of giggles scour the floor with his mother and a few other relatives. It turned into a party game! Where’d the bowtie go? Who can find it first?!
They all ended up searching the place for it, completely ignoring the dance floor. Women lifted their long dresses as they tiptoed around, scouring the floor and men bent low to lift tablecloths and inspect underneath. Children were spoken to sternly, in case one of them had taken and hid it for their own little game. Seeing their innocence, they were then promised a prize to whichever child found it first. Their eyes dazzled with greedy excitement as they took off, pushing each other over and climbing on top of counters and peering into tall vases, determined to be the one to win the prize.
It was auntie Clara who eventually found it, gasping in disgust and horror as she lifted it in a ladle from the punch bowl. “Preposterous!” She had cried, sitting down crossly with her still empty cup.
“Wonderful luck!” Bart had said, pecking his new wife on the cheek as he placed the clip-on tie delicately in his tuxedo pocket.
Peggy ambled to the living room, cradling the old bowtie in her hands.
“Oh, Bart! Look what silly thing I’ve found!”
Bart, sitting in the sagging seat of his favorite Lay-Z-Boy chair one of their children had bought him for Father’s Day—Peggy couldn’t remember which of the three children. One point for you, Dr. Dean—glanced up from his newspaper. She plopped the bowtie on his lap, and he reached around his big belly to pick it up and inspect it closer.
“Amazing,” Bart had roared, a smile sweeping across his face as he flipped it in his hands, “I haven’t seen this in ages! Where did you find it?”
“In a box in the attic, looking for those pesky little Christmas lights! It’s been in there for fifty-two years, tucked in with my wedding dress! Can you believe it? I remember it like it was yesterday!”
“No,” Bart said to himself, lost in his own memories.
Now, Barts memories are sharper than Peggy’s. He knew she only knew it’s been in that box for fifty-two years because each box in that attic is labeled with the year in which it was stored. Peggy was so organized in her young adult days, chasing after their three children and preparing them for school and sports activities, running around town and launching charities and organizing parent parties. As the children grew out of their toys and clothes, Peggy placed them in a box and marked the year on the side with a big, fat, red marker.
Then the children flew the coop to assume their own adult lives, and Bart watched his wife slowly lose a few marbles over the last few years—Dr. Dean called it early signs of dementia—and he wondered just how much Peggy actually remembered of that day in 1969.
He watched his nimble, petite wife smile and saunter off into the kitchen, humming along to Jingle Bell’s as her short white hair bobbed along her chin, swinging to the melody.
Bart agreed the tie wasn’t the best-looking tie you've ever seen. A little tag on the inside, right next to the clip had a blue H.G. written in it. It had smeared, but was still legible. Henry Gert. The cozy little town of Yorkshire’s dentist. Loving husband to Beatrice Gert. Avid lover of baseball and pistachios. Bart’s father.
He was a spunky man, and loved to make his patients laugh. Especially the children who were scared of the tools on his dental tray. He would distract them with fun-colored bowties, one of which lit up when you pressed a button. Another spurted water if you squeezed a ball that you'd hide in the sleeve of your jacket. Bart’s favorite was one where you’d press the center of the bow tie, and it would start singing and dancing. Henry had died unexpectedly from a heart attack the year before he married Peggy.
Bart’s tiny mother had walked into the dressing room before the wedding, holding the bowtie with both hands and happy tears in her eyes. The shiny orange and blue bow was one of the tamest bowties his father had ever acquired. It was perfect for the wedding.
“Your father is here today and watching over us,” his mother had said, clipping it to the front of his collar, “and he is so proud of you.”
It earned a few chuckles here and there, and his lovely new bride giggled at the sight of it. Bart couldn’t help but smile at this. His father was always making people laugh. He really was there that day. He could feel it in each hug and smile from his family, all happy to see a bit of Henry on that joyous day.
“Where’d that eyesore go?” bellowed a drunk uncle of Peggy’s during the reception, pointing at his shirt front. He had looked down, and saw nothing but his plain black and white tuxedo. No bowtie. He searched with his mother, keeping a calm expression so as not to upset his giggly, bubbly wife. He smiled at her as he looked under tables and chairs. Soon, everybody was looking. And when Bart says everybody, he means everybody. In fact, his fussy Aunt in-law, Clara Dellatis—no, that was her second husband’s name—Clara Beatrude was the one to find it in the punch!
“Your father was the typical jokester, after all. Of course he would be playing a funny little game today,” his mother had said, dabbing her eyes gratefully as Bart cradled it in a napkin and stowed it carefully in his pocket. He pecked both his mother and bride on the cheek and smiled upwards, silently thanking his father for the wonderful addition to this beautiful day.
“Oh my goodness,” Peggy said, coming up behind Bart reclining in his chair, “I know that bowtie! You wore that at our wedding, didn’t you?”
“Yes, my lovely bride. I certainly did,” Bart smiled up adoringly at her.
“Ha! Amazing! Anyhoo, I think I’ll take a look around the attic for our Christmas lights!”
“That sounds wonderful, darling. Let me know if I can help,” Bart said as Peggy kissed him on his balding head and glided upstairs. He leaned back in his recliner, holding his bowtie in his hand as he presumed reading his paper, the front page a beautiful shot of this past weekends fourth of July parade and fireworks.
He smiled down at the memory his sweet wife had brought him, and silently thanked his father for being there that day, making it unforgettable.