Only a Grinch could hate spring’s arrival. What’s not to like about warmer days, leaves unfurling, grass greening, tulips and daffodils bursting into bloom, lilacs perfuming breezes, and white blossoms exploding on Barbie’s wedding bush. This plant is really called spirea, but for little girls playing dolls, this shrub provides bouquets enough for a hundred wedding ceremonies--hence its nickname.
I hope cascading branches loaded with clusters of tiny white blossoms still trigger little girls’ imaginations. When I was a seven-year-old, the moment our neighbor’s huge bush exploded into a frothy, white wall of flowers, I began constructing bridal clothing for three Barbie dolls and their redheaded friend Midge.
My mom’s ragbag wasn’t safe. If we’d had paper towels or napkins back then, I’d have used them as well. Ones that come in tidy squares would’ve served this wanna-be wedding designer perfectly to make stunning one-use outfits. Without the availability of handy paper products, I creatively turned worn out washcloths, tea towels, hankies, and leftover fabric into long trained gowns and flowing veils. If I could’ve used mom’s nice fabric remnants, those outfits would’ve dazzled kings and queens. However, I knew better than to get into her good stuff.
As it was, I snagged onto any piece of cloth big enough I could use a needle and thread to turn it into a gathered skirt with my gigantic, looping stitches. Once I completed my dolls’ dresses, I looked for filmy material to turn into lovely headpieces and extensions that trailed behind plastic brides and attendants. Sometimes the best option involved toilet paper. It romantically floated behind the bride as she walked to meet her groom.
Nowadays, little girls accustomed to buying couture fashions off the internet for their Mattel fashion toys would turn their noses up at a bride going down the aisle in a terry cloth skirt and a TP veil. However, fifty years ago was a simpler time, and my friends and I thought the ensembles we painstakingly created were elegant.
The highlight was the bouquet. In my neighborhood, at least one resident grew a big, old spirea bush. He or she would permit polite little girls to fill pockets or pulled out shirt bottoms with miniature nosegays that once ornamented those flowing stems.
I suspect that one of the reasons May and June originally became popular wedding months had to do with the availability of beautiful spirea sprays brides could carry on their march to the altar. Who needs a florist when nature provides so richly?
Once our Barbie’s wedding attire was completed to our satisfaction, we’d tuck perfectly sized nosegays into our dolls’ tiny hands to complete the effect. Back in our bedrooms, we’d create a lovely chapel with a colorful ribbon to guide Barbie and her groom to the front of our little sanctuary. Along the way, we’d strew left over flowerets from the tiny bouquets. Each Barbie’s perfectly round bridal arrangement must have dazzled her handsome groom almost as much as her designer gown and creative veil did.
Homemade dresses and seasonal spirea sprays made for many lovely spring weddings. It’s too bad there was only one Ken and that he had to marry each Barbie in a separate ceremony. At least his tiny boutonniere matched each of his brides’ perfect bouquets. No paid florist could have done a better job.