Get up and run outside. Dig in the mud; talk to the worms; kill bugs on a whim. Mess up your hair, your shoes, your knees, and no, Mom, I have no idea how I got that skinned knee/ hole in my jacket/ grass stain on my pants. No, I’m not describing my life with two little boys; I’m describing myself as a little girl. I was a tomboy, and I loved it. At least, I got to be a tomboy for 6 ½ days a week. Sunday mornings were another story. My Easter reflections are especially memorable in a dress.
On Sundays, we dressed to the nines to go to church. For me, that meant a fancy dress, white tights, uncomfortable shoes, and combed (!) hair set with coordinating barrettes or a dreaded headband (the hard, too-tight kind that leave permanent marks on the sides of your head). I would do my best to mess up my look between home and church (a 5-minute drive), and more often than not, my mother had to re-do my hair or straighten my dress in the parking lot.
And, more often than not, my dress was beautifully handmade by my grandmother. A fact that I had zero appreciation for.
My grandmother was a self-taught seamstress (“was” because though she’s still with us, she can’t see well enough to sew any more.) She learned to sew children’s clothes when my mother was little, and she kept it up for her granddaughters. She often used patterns, but not always. Her favorite thing to do was to visit a high-end children’s clothing store at the Broadmoor Hotel and copy what she saw there. She learned how to hand-tat French lace. She bought fine fabrics that were soft and delicate, yet washable. And no one was better at creating a dropped waist with a silk sash.
A Tom Boy’s Easter Reflections
Every year I got a new dress for Easter and another one for Christmas. There were many other dresses in between, but those two were the most important, the most labor-intensive. Lace and batiste in spring; velvet and taffeta in winter. And always, always, the dropped waist and knee-length skirts. The problem was that this continued into my early teens. Dressing like a Madame Alexander doll is cute when you’re 7. It’s a sure-fire recipe for embarrassment when you’re 13.
At 13, the item of clothing I longed for the most was a store-bought dress. I wanted something “normal” and frankly, more grown-up (or at least adolescent). I’d had enough of the batiste, the velvet, the silk sashes, and the enormous hand-made collars. I even had to wear a couple of those to school dances because why buy a new dress when my grandmother put so much time into that one? (I spent those dances trying to disappear into the shadows, which is hard to do in lemon-colored batiste.)
When I was about 15, I finally got the dress of my dreams. It was a cheap, cotton-knit, Made-in-China number, had natural waistline, and absolutely no embellishment. How I loved that dress and its complete ordinariness. I wore it as often as I could.
I had a good couple of years of total sartorial rebellion (including wearing pants to church. Pants! To church! Horrors.), but my grandmother and I reached an understanding when I was a senior in high school. She asked if she could make my prom dress, and I relented, as long as I could design it and choose the fabric. Together we planned out a flapper-inspired number in embroidered gold silk that my dad bought in Thailand in the 1970s. It was gorgeous, and I loved it. (Sadly, a car accident meant that I never made it to that prom, but that’s another story.) We collaborated on a few more dresses while I was in college before she stopped sewing altogether.
My mother has a few of The Dresses, including my prom dress. I was both sad and relieved when I realized that having two boys meant that they would probably never be worn again. On one hand, I won’t be forcing a young teenage daughter to wear hand-tatted lace. On the other hand, these beautiful testaments to my grandmother’s skill and talent are collecting dust in a closet. (Metaphorically, Mom. I know your closets are dust-free.)
I was unexpectedly brought back to my Easter reflections when my oldest child asked why we never had store-bought bread or cookies. I just said, “Because I like it better.” But my unvoiced thoughts were, “Your food is all homemade! Crafted with love, not in a factory! Homemade things take longer, but they’re so much better. Don’t you know that?”
Of course he doesn’t. And neither did I.
What are some of your Easter reflections?
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