I made this dress with one of the patterns I borrowed from my grandma about a month ago.
I wish I could see the one she made.
Maybe there’s a picture?
Maybe she remembers?
I could tell, tracing over her lines, that she made up the version with short sleeves (Mine is sleeveless). And that she hemmed it to mini length (!).
But what color?
Of course it’s possible she didn’t sew it for herself at all – I’ll have to ask. But for now, I think it’s a fair guess she did. The pattern has a 1968 copyright. My mom would have been too young for it then. My Tía Tricia would have been a toddler.
Taking the math even further, it occurs to me that my grandma would have been right around my age when she sewed this dress. With a baby about as old as my baby. (Except that hers was her fourth).
To think about that is reassuring and humbling, and it seems a little impossible.
Because she is my grandmother, it was easy to take for granted that she sewed out of necessity or maybe economy. But now I think it’s possible – no, likely – she sewed for the same reasons I do. For the pocket of quiet it creates. For the special alchemy.
When I was younger, she patiently stepped in to salvage many of my over-ambitious sewing projects. I don’t know that my skills have improved much since then, but I have stopped fighting the instructions like I know better. (I will admit, in this case, to widening the neckline so I could get the dress over my head without a zipper, and to adding a decorative trim. I stand behind the zipper decision. The trim might have been a mistake).
Once, when she was unpicking some of my half-finished seams at the kitchen table, I said I was sorry for making extra work for her.
My grandpa was there, reading a Time magazine. He laughed and said, “Don’t worry, M’ija. It gives your grandma peace of mind.”
She smiled and shook her head.
(Even now, I am not really sure I understand what he meant).
The fabric I used for this dress came from a thrift store and cost me a dollar. It’s stamped with the label “J. Manes Co.,” a business I couldn’t find out very much about except that it produced fabric throughout the 1960s, which is a nice coincidence.
I had somewhat cornily hoped there would be enough to make something for Alice too. Not that we would ever dress in coordinating outfits. But you know.
Anyway, the scraps left over aren’t big enough for very much, so Alice got a new bow.
Which is just as well becuase the project might have been getting a little Von Trappy.
What does any of this have to do with mothering you, Alice? I don’t know, except that you come from extraordinary people who you will no doubt underestimate. Over and over. Long after you know better. But when you realize (again) that the people you know are more than you understood them to be, your love for them will be a more grown-up love, and yours will be a grown-up heart.