I want you to return with me to the very small town of Occoquan, Virginia, where Handsome Husband and I were a few weeks ago. Handsome and I were staying with some of our tribe (so-called because I don’t know what the proper terminology is for our daughter’s in-laws, whom I really, really, like). The four of us took the day to venture into the small and lovely town for the day, and we ended up splitting off, guys in one direction, and we girls in another. The town is similar to New Hope in PA, where I have often been, with quirky little shops, and we wandered aimlessly until we stopped in front of a sign that stood outside LaBella Bridal Consignment Boutique. What caught our attention was what it said. “Military Ball gowns”
In and of itself, it’s not that intriguing a sign, but we were curious. Did that mean actual, designated military ball gowns? As in, you know, uniform type? Had something changed in the military, and now they required that women’s gowns be coordinated..uniform gowns? Gowns that were, maybe, all camouflaged? Was this a special thing for women in the military? Or did it mean gowns FOR military balls? We decided to find out -and it led us into a beautiful world of not just gowns, but the gracious welcome of the owner, Ellalynne Brayman.
There are times in life-you’ve all experienced it-when you just connect with someone newly met. In the course of conversation with Ellalynne, she told us that she has, in the past, gowned brides whose loved ones due to deploy to a war zone, at no cost to the bride. She hosts a “dress up” day each year for local women, with snacks and champagne, trying on all the luscious dresses in her shop, hair and makeup, the works.
Ellalynne is tall and elegant-she could easily be a super model in her build and carriage and beautiful features. (No surprise there-she has actually been a model in the past!) Her smile is warm and lights her face. Her soul is just as beautiful as her outside. Her greeting was genuine, and she inquired as to whether we were locals or visiting. Before long, I was sharing our story of being Happily Homeless and she was telling us her story of being from Sierra Leone, and what led her to this corner of the world. She spoke of her mom, who taught her fashion sense, and showed us a picture of her. Of course, anytime I speak with a woman about her mom, and find out that her mom has died, I go into Tapestries of Hope mode, and before I knew it, we were all 3 of us getting weepy, and, well, just connecting, about our moms, about being women, about supporting women, about grace and courage in life. Too soon, another customer ventured into the store, so we said our goodbyes, but not before we all exchanged lovely hugs.
I realized, after Angie and I left, that I hadn’t taken the time to get a picture of her, and I really like having pictures of people who have touched my life along our traveling way. So a bit later, we returned to the shop, and were greeted as warmly as the first time. Upon hearing my request for a picture, Ellalynne promptly took us to the back room of the store where hung wedding gowns to fit any fantasy, and sat with me on a plush chair, as Angie snapped our picture. We spoke a bit more, then, with hugs and more hugs, continued on our way.
What we discovered later, when we rejoined our husbands was that they had gone to the same shop, looking for us, and had their own conversation with LaBella’s owner, and she told them that she had found two new sisters in us. I was so touched hearing this, as I felt very much the same way, and it gives my heart a glow remembering back to our meeting, as I write this.
If you’re in need of a wedding gown, a gown for a special occasion, or you just want to have a lift to your day, and you’re in Occoquan, VA, then go to visit Ellalynne Brayman at LaBella Bridal Boutique. This is a woman who is making a difference in the lives of so many, and she’ll welcome you, I have no doubt, with the same grace and soul that she did me and Angie.