they say a picture is worth a thousand words . . .
little girls in little dresses -- there's just something special about that, isn't there? i have saved a few dresses from each of my girl's baby and toddler days. they are tucked away with some other favorite things from those quick, tender years -- these dresses now in boxes, up on high shelves in the back of deep closets. and with three daughters i can see this is only the beginning. there is a storage closet off one of our rooms and it also plays host to a great number of dresses. baptism gowns, holiday finery, father-daughter dance dresses, recital tu-tus and now, even a few formals -- memories held draped on plastic hangers. i know there will be many more dresses hanging there before we are finished here. my mom also had a closet like this. she, too, had three daughters and couldn't easily part with a few of our special dresses. taffeta and silk and sundresses all beautiful and still and almost forgotten.
a few years ago, i traveled back to ohio to help my parents clean out their home in the midst of a downsize and move. my mom struggled that weekend with what to do with all these dresses. how does a mother give away a dress worn by a daughter? a dress which might have made her little girl look like a princess --- or possibly too grown up? a dress which might have even brought tears to this mother's eyes? how do you stuff that into a garbage bag and haul it off to goodwill with a random assortment of old dishes? i would suggest parting with some of these sooner than later. later, to me, seems harder. my sisters and i are all scattered out of state now -- and i think saying goodbye to a dress might have been easier while we were still in my mom's house, bickering over boys and leaving messes in her kitchen.
during that weekend back at home, i found one of my own toddler dresses which my mom had saved. and though impossible, when i held the dress, i could almost remember wearing it. the sprinkle of flowers on blue seemed somehow familiar -- i'm sure from a picture. but i traveled back to georgia with this tiny, faded blue dress in my suitcase and after sharing it with my family (no way mom --- i can't believe you wore this!), it, too, is now in a special box on a high shelf. i am not sure what will become of all these girl gowns and frocks, but i will hold onto them as long as possible. they remind me. they remind me of who we were and how small they were and how far we've all come -- mothers and daughters, alike. i don't have any desire to save those size 2 designer jeans which no longer fit...but i will save the dresses. they are treasures.
this past weekend, i hurriedly put bella into a dress for church. i tugged it down over her shoulders and quickly buttoned up the back. all the while rushing, as is our usual sunday morning routine. but as she turned around to face me i kind of gasped when i took in the full measure of my girl. this dress had gotten lost in her closet all summer. in fact, she hadn't worn it since last year. and as she stood there in the middle of her room in the midst of that dress, i felt my heart flutter. this was the dress she wore a year ago last summer while visiting her orphanage. talk about a special dress -- memories flooded over this hurried mama and i knew without doubt, this dress would go into that special box and be saved.
the first picture above is bella in the dress visiting the orphanage in china. this was taken just a few days after we got her. she was precious. elf-like. already our darling girl, but sad and so serious that morning. so sad that day while visiting the place she had lived for more than two years. she clung to us, wanting nothing to do with the staff she had known so well. instinctually, she knew she belonged to us. it was uncanny. i'll never quite be able to understand how quickly this bond developed. but i am certain, it had nothing to do with us...this was God, like we had never before seen Him. this dress reminded me of that morning and that orphanage and that serious little girl...and the miracle of her in our arms.
the second picture was taken this morning. it has been almost 15 months since that orphanage visit. she is a different girl. first of all, she is growing! much to my delight, the dress was too short and jeans were needed to complete the outfit. it is the same dress. she is still precious and even more our darling, but the joy is incredible. unmistakeable. oh, boy does she belong with us! she is right where she belongs. and i am reminded again, this still has nothing to do with us...this is God, like we've never before seen Him. there is nothing magical about this dress...not at all...but it brings back the mystery of that china morning and the miracle of every morning. and someday this small dress will take its place in a box, on a shelf, in a closet ... another dress stored and another memory treasured.