Yesterday, on the day before my youngest daughter’s birthday, I was racking my brain about how I could add a special touch in the midst of COVID times. We had done a Zoom party for the boys the month before and a car parade with yard signs and balloons for a farewell a week ago. There had to be something simple and sweet, yet meaningful, just like my sweet girl, that I could do.
While waiting in line at the pool store for the water to be tested, it dawned on me. I grabbed each color of pool noodle in the hopes of creating a magical rainbow to greet Kate when she woke up to the magic number 11. The rainbow idea lead to a Pintrest search, as most things do, (may I note this is also very Kate) which inspired the addition of some rainbow heart garland.
This time around I have an assistant, Addy stayed up with me into the wee hours creating, hot glueing, messing up, re-creating, until we finally settled on the best we could do with what we had. A new motto for our family in the past several months. This process of late night creating reminded me of the Katie’s 5th birthday when I had a similar lack of sleep in the name of love.
It has been a very long time since I have posted on the blog, over a year in fact, and I have been feeling more vulnerable than ever about sharing my words. Some good friends and I had a conversation earlier this week about what it means to be a badass and about how it’s important to be scared, but do it anyway. So, here we are. I would like to share a little story about some memories, near and dear to my heart, in honor of my sweet girl, Katie Boo, who is always wearing her heart on her sleeve and shining so bright. Happy Eleven. xo
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It was the morning of the evening before her 5thbirthday. My little Katie Boo would be another year older and a pre-K graduate tomorrow. As I was smearing strawberry cream cheese on her blueberry bagel I had an image of her chubby cheeked baby self, sitting in the highchair in the corner of the kitchen, smiling at me as she devoured a container of baby puff’s, inflated stars stuck to her slobbery hand each time it met the plastic tray.
“Are you excited about your birthday tomorrow, Boo?”
“What are you looking forward to the most?”
“The special dress from you.”
I stopped smearing and half smiled at her as I felt my head turn to the side.
“What dress, honey?”
“The dress you are going to make for me with your sewing machine. I can’t wait to see it. I want to wear it to my graduation tomorrow. Mommy, can I open it at breakfast instead of at cake time?”
“Of course, you can.” I said as I added some rainbow sprinkles to fairy bread bagel and presented it in front of her.
There was no dress. For the life of me I couldn’t even being to rationalize why she thought there would be a dress. I have never sewn a dress before.
A few months prior I had heard from a friend about a sewing class that a local mom was running from inside her home. We gifted our oldest daughter a set of classes and a sewing machine for her birthday after she made herself several outfits using duct tape, safety pins and the hot glue gun. I learned shortly thereafter that this mom was starting a class for other moms, held on Mondays, mid-morning. Most of the other moms had school aged kids but I showed up with my little guy, still in diapers, while my girls were off being educated.
While we really couldn’t afford to pay for me and Addy to take classes, or the ridiculous yards of fabric that were required for each new project between the two of us. My creativity was so stifled and I was dying inside, I wrote the check anyway. I told myself it was an investment in survival.
We worked for quite a while on quilts; beginning with one for my oldest. At the time she was deeply into music. She joked about being the next Taylor Swift, singing her original creation “Diamonds for the Doctor.” I can clearly remember the awe that washed over her when we stopped at The Guitar Center on the way home from Myrtle Beach, a few days before school was due to start, to surprise her with a guitar. She wanted to learn to play so badly, but was quickly freaked out by the male music teacher and stopped. She was fascinated with the idea of Paris and tugged on the heartstrings of my inner 90’s child with her deep infatuation with purple and teal as an essential color combo.
I spent the better part of a school day in the fabric store, my indecisive self was paralyzed by the excessive reams of choices. The pressure to make it just right was one I have carried my entire life; I no longer knew who I was trying to impress or satisfy. Reams unraveled partway, layered on top of the back of the cart, my toddler son yelling, “Home, home, mama, home” only intensified the pressure to perform.
The jarring buzz from my phone timer, set to ensure I wasn’t late for pre-k pick-up, again, sent me to my high school gym. Suddenly I saw myself on the basketball court, a bit more relieved than normal because my dad was not there taking mental notes to share with me on the ride home. I had lied about the days and times of my games that week to keep the unwelcomed coaching at bay.
I left with a flannel backing, black with music notes, a fabric covered with French words scratched in cursive, a sweet piece with floating Victorian décor sewing machines, spools of thread, buttons and bodices and several patterns all containing various shades of purples and teals.
After hours measuring strips of fabric, loading bobbins, fixing broken needles, cursing, crying out of frustration, running out of thread, pulling out stiches, wanting to burn the fabric with the cigarette I didn’t have and wouldn’t smoke, ironing binding and praying the sewing machine wouldn’t wake the whole house when inspiration struck at 2 am, I finished. I wrapped it up and have it to her, she still sleeps with it every night.
I assume Addy’s joy, knowing innately the sacrifice that came with this project, the layer of love that wraps her up every night, inserted itself in Katie. Hence the dress.
Finding myself once again in the fabric store, an internal clock set, knowing a dress would somehow appear in a box, the following morning at breakfast. My son a little older now, still in the front of the car, constant chatter about everything in the store. All the fabrics that appealed to him being pulled off the shelves and tumbling to the floor. My frantic fingers scanning Pinterest, “easy dress to sew in an afternoon” filling the search bar. I settled on a pillow case dress and bought enough coordinating fabrics to make fill a small wagon, some ribbon, thread and a collection of matchbox cars at checkout in hopes of entertaining Finn while I got to work.
Around midnight I was struck with an idea and grabbed a headband from the girl’s room. After twirling a torn strip of fabric around the tortoise shell plastic, several frayed layers of material danced themselves into a flower that was then affixed with hot glue. It was 2am before I had finished the dress. Aside from my children it may have easily been the most beautiful thing I had ever created. It was cobalt blue with a bubble gum pink ruffle and satin ribbon around the top that twisted itself into buttercream bow draping where her bony shoulder would be.
Katie wore that dress until it could no longer pass as a shirt with jean shorts. The headband retired with the snap of plastic under a sneaker, which surprisingly invited a rush of tears from the both of us.