It was spring of America’s Bicentennial year. It was the year my step sister married her husband. Like this year, Easter must have been late. The wedding came before Easter as their anniversary celebration did this year.
My sister’s wedding was a big deal. She did it up right! Everyone was beautiful. The bride was radiant as all brides should be. Dressed in a powder blue tux, her husband was the dashing prince. Her huge wedding party did not include me. I was asked to be the guest book attendant. That meant I got to choose my own dress, as long as it was blue.
Granny dresses with pinafore ruffled sleeves were popular. I knew how to sew. I liked to sew. In my little trailer home I made a floral blue pinafore granny dress. I had little room for a sewing machine. Nevertheless I would sit for hours constructing garments for myself and my children. Then it was economical to sew. I loved the idea of creatively constructing something unique to me. There would never be another creation just like mine.
As Easter neared, I tucked that pinafore dress away in the closet. The world still dictated that your Easter dress was something you had never worn to church before. I had a plan. Like so many other designs that float in my head, I was going to wow them this Easter. I was going to show the world that I had some talent. I was going to show the world that even though I was a single mother living in a trailer and on welfare, my kids could look great on Easter.
I had lots of patterns for little girl clothes. My little girl was going to steal the show on Easter. Her beautiful blond hair was coming in but still too short for the pig-tails that would become her trademark. I used the same pattern that I had from another jumper I had made for her. On a muslin yoke, I embroidered flowers and the words, Jesus Loves Me. Oh how I wish I had a picture of that dress. I can see it in my heart. I had labored to put flowers on the muslin yoke. I had prayed as I embroidered Jesus Loves Me. I often sang her to sleep singing Jesus Loves Me. I wanted her to know she was loved by Jesus even though abandoned by her father.
In a few hours I had crafted a dress just like mine for her to wear on Easter. It was a mother-daughter outfit just like my mother had made for her and I but a few years before. I made a matching bonnet. I had made many bonnets for her. I was so happy to have a little girl to dress in beautiful frilly things. Her outfit was completed with white gloves, white patent shoes and white shirt. But the look was not complete.
It wasn’t unusual for me to get an idea late Saturday night of an outfit for my children to wear for church the next morning. I would labor all night to complete my idea. I already had new shoes and trousers for my boys. I probably had begged someone for help to buy them. Then the Saturday night light bulb went off. As soon as they were bathed and in bed with a bottle of Diet Coke nearby, I took out the sewing machine.
I spread yardage of fabric over the kitchen table. I took out my scissors. There was just enough of the floral blue fabric to make the yoke of two boy’s western style shirts. The rest of the shirts were muslin since it was cheap and available. I always struggled with button holes so I pounded in snaps. Our unity as a family was clear. We matched.
My children don’t remember those days in that trailer. I wish I had a picture of us together in our matching Easter outfits. I wish they remembered the look on people’s faces as we walked into the sanctuary that Easter Sunday. I wish they heard the comments of shock that the welfare mother had talent enough to make the most beautiful Easter outfits.
But I remember. The way we were: