They were just about done cleaning out the closets and the attic when they found it. It was made of white eyelet. The sleeves were long and puffed with a cuff that gathered the sleeve tight on the wrist and closed with snaps. It had a tie that was long enough to fasten at the waist in a bow in the back. The bottom was decorated with a ruffle of more eyelet fabric and the gown was fully lined. The neckline was squared out with eyelet bust gathers to softly enhance the bust line. They unfolded it and put it on their old maid aunt's dress form that had been used in their aunt's work area. The gown was as pristine as the day it was completed.
They wondered whose dress it was as it was obvious it had never been worn. They decided to try asking their mother, if they could track her down. She was always flitting here and there and was hard to pin down, but they needed to know whose gown it was before they decided what to do with it.
After several days of playing telephone tag with their mother, the girls, Maggie and Joan, finally were able to catch up with their mother. She finally called from Côte d'Azur, while in between parties. She told the girls she had but a few minutes before her special friend, Jon Luc, came to escort her to a ball they were attending.
Maggie and Joan quietly told their mother of the wedding gown fashioned out of white eyelet and asked her whose it was. There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone and then a long drawn out sigh. Their mother, finally broke the silence and said in a soft, whispery voice they had never heard before, "It was your Aunt Beth's gown." The girls were stunned. Tough old Aunt Beth's gown? Aunt Beth, who in their eyes was the most independent woman they'd ever met? Aunt Beth, who never met a man she couldn't best?
The girls asked their mother who Aunt Beth was going to marry and why it didn't happen, but their mother said she had to go as Jon Luc had arrived. Their mother promised to call them the next day and said she would explain. But as always, their mother forget about Aunt Beth the moment her newest "special friend" arrived and didn't call the girls back and didn't return their calls.
Maggie and Joan were enterprising young women and they decided to see what they could find out on their own. They just had to know why Aunt Beth had not gotten married. Aunt Beth had always lived in the same town and was known as a bit of a firebrand when it came to female supremacy. The thought of Aunt Beth getting married just didn't fit Maggie and Joan's image of Aunt Beth. Still, if mother said it was Aunt Beth's wedding gown then there was an interesting story behind it.
The girls decided to search on the internet to see what they could find out. Fortunately for them they found articles about Aunt Beth from the times she had led protests for womens rights and the self righteous speeches she had made. There was noted a particular incident where Aunt Beth had smacked the mayor in the nose when he got too familiar with her. Aunt Beth had to be bailed out for that incident. There was a man by the name of Lawrence Beck named in the paper as her attorney of record. So with that tidbit of information Maggie and Joan decided to search for this Lawrence Beck and try to make sense of the mysterious wedding dress.
The girls went to the local legal aid office to see if anyone knew how to get in touch with Mr. Beck. They reasoned by the dates provided in the article that they found on the internet that Mr. Beck must be in his 70s by now. Imagine their surprise when the young man in the legal aid office not only knew Mr. Beck, but was his grandson, Lawrence Beck the first. L.B., as he was called, told Maggie and Joan they could get in touch with his grandfather at Shady Pines, the local nursing home. He recommended that they get there around 9 as that was when his grandfather was most alert. The girls decided to visit Mr. Beck the next day as it was already going on 4:30 that day and so they waited, wondering just what they would find out the next day.
The next day bright and early the girls made their way to Shady Pines. The nurse in charge told them not to excite Mr. Beck too much as he rarely had visitors except for his grandson, L.B. twice a week. So Maggie and Joan quietly made their way down the hall to Mr. Beck's room. When they arrived at his room they were surprised to see Mr. Beck sitting at a desk furiously writing a letter and muttering under his breath. The girls knocked on the door quietly and Mr. Beck looked up in astonishment! "Mauve and Beth? What brings you here?" Maggie and Joan just looked at each other. Mr. Beck had called them by their mother and aunt's names.
Mr. Beck struggled to stand. He realized after a moment that these girls were not Mauve and Beth. Was his mind playing tricks on him yet again? The girls tentatively identified themselves to Mr. Beck as Maggie and Joan Anderson, the daughters of Mauve and nieces of Beth Anderson. Mr. Beck said, "It's like traveling back in time to the 1960s! You have the look of your mother, Joan and Maggie is the spitting image of your Aunt Beth.
The girls just looked at each other dumbfounded. They just could not see the resemblance to their mother or aunt at all. Still, time has the tendency to change things and of course Mother had had all that plastic surgery so maybe they did resemble their mother and aunt.
In any case, Maggie and Joan asked Mr. Beck if they could sit down as they had some questions to ask about their Aunt Beth. Mr. Beck was gracious and said he'd be glad to answer any of their questions. Maggie decided to take the lead and talked to Mr. Beck about her Aunt Beth's sudden death and the discovery of her wedding dress. Mr. Beck sighed and said, "I heard of Beth's death but I just could not face attending the funeral. It was just beyond what my heart could take."
The girls looked at each other and again wondered if Mr. Beck's connection to Aunt Beth was more than client and attorney. Mr. Beck removed his glasses and started to clean them with his starched white handkerchief. He said, "You girls probably don't know this but Beth was engaged to my older brother, Frank. Frank started bringing her around when I was just 10 years of age. I fell for her hard like a ton of bricks and so did Frank."
"Beth and Frank dated for a few years and on Christmas Day in 1969 Frank proposed and Beth accepted." Maggie and Joan just stared at Mr. Beck, their mouths open in shock. Mr. Beck said, "Oh don't be looking like that. Beth wasn't always a firebrand. As a matter of fact, Beth knew all there was about making a man feel wanted, needed and loved." Maggie broke out of her shock first and asked, "Then why didn't they get married?"
Mr. Beck sat down and then with a long drawn out sigh he said, "Beth and Frank started planning their wedding right away. Beth found the perfect pattern for her wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses and started sewing. Then it happened. Frank got his draft notice and off he went to Fort Lee for training prior to being shipped to Vietnam."
"No one was more supportive of Frank than your aunt. She shipped packages to him and his buddies every chance she got and continued to work on her wedding gown and completed the bridesmaid gowns as well. I was old enough by then to escort your Aunt to church on Sunday and help out when she needed help with something. Before Frank shipped out he asked me to make sure and take care of Beth and I promised I would."
By now Maggie and Joan were afraid to find out what happened. Mr. Beck looked at them and said, "I wish I could tell you something different than what I'm going to say, but I can't. Best to just come out with it already. Frank got his papers to come back stateside. He was due to be home in just three weeks and told Beth to finalize the wedding plans with the church. Beth did just that."
"Frank was in touch and was set to arrive the very day of the wedding. He called Beth the morning of their wedding day and told her he'd be there waiting for her when she walked down the aisle."
"Well, several hours passed. Beth and her attendants were waiting in the powder room at the church. Time passed and still no Frank. After an hour had passed beyond their wedding service, Beth figured something had happened to delay Frank.
Just when she was getting ready to announce a delay, Jim Taylor, the local sheriff walked into the vestibule and asked Beth to sit down. He said, "I'm so sorry Beth. There was no way I could get Frank out. The taxi burst into flames and I couldn't get near it. Beth stood up and walked to the front of the church. She announced what had happened and that the wedding would not be taking place."
"Four days later Frank was laid to rest in the local cemetery. Beth gave their wedding bands and her veil to Mr. Eaton, the local undertaker to put into Frank's casket. She didn't shed one tear in front of anyone. She just stuck out her lower lip and dealt with it with more dignity than I've ever seen in my life."
"From that point on Beth was all about her business. She raised many a ruckus in the name of equality for women and went toe to toe with that ignoramus mayor. I bailed her out and continued to do so every time she was arrested. She continued to sew and became well known in the tri-state area for her trousseau collections. I continued to take care of her legal needs up to the day that she died. I had promised Frank I would take care of her and I did so in the only way she would let me."
Maggie and Joan were quiet. They thanked Mr. Beck for telling them about Aunt Beth and Frank. They both kissed him on the cheek and promised to visit again soon, however, that was not to be. That night Mr. Beck slipped away in his sleep, to join Frank and Beth.
Maggie and Joan decided it was only fitting to donate their aunt's wedding dress to the local museum along with her dressmaker's form for display purposes. They could think of no better way to pay their respects to their Aunt Beth.