Me and my little sister, circa 1963
The whir of a sewing machine was a familiar sound growing up in our little farmhouse. Mom often had a sewing project underway. But with the arrival of December, all ordinary thoughts of sewing were set aside for the all important Christmas dresses that my sister and I would wear to the Christmas Eve concert at church.
As Little Sister and I would dream our way through the Eaton's Christmas Catalog, where page after page brimmed with beguiling pictures of wondrous toys and treats, Mom would begin her own kind of dreaming as she pored over the section which highlighted little girls' dresses. She was looking for inspiration for this year's project. Then would come the trek to the fabric store to pore over pattern books, ponder and touch colourful bolts of fabric. I loved the smell that greeted us when we walked into a fabric store -- with its mile-long aisles of cloth in every colour imaginable, not to mention the millions of buttons to examine and all manner of other interesting notions like ric rac and lace.
The sewing machine sat ready on the end of the kitchen table amidst scissors, tape measure, and stick pins. Sheets of ecru tissue rustled as each pattern piece was carefully laid and pinned to the fabric. Anticipation filled the air. It was always an exciting moment -- a little nerve-racking for Mom -- when we’d hear the snip of scissors pinking their way through layers of tissue and fabric. Soon threads littered the floor and we’d hear a whoosh as the hot iron pressed the wet cloth laid over a newly sewn seam. We didn't have a steam iron in those days.
We'd sigh impatiently as Mom pinned and twirled us around atop a kitchen chair; we were always a little nervous about all the pins holding the pieces together. Stand still, she'd say, as we'd fidget! And then the day would arrive when the last twirl came as Mom checked hems and seams one last time. We'd swirl our skirts out and it was such a proud moment to stand in our newest finery on Christmas Eve, when, with the rest of our Sunday school class, we'd recite mostly memorized poems and warble through partly familiar carols.
So many Christmases since those childhood days ... but no matter how many come and go, recollections of those lovingly handmade dresses and annual concerts in the old country church are as carefully wrapped in whispery memories as any treasured ornament.
As a young girl I didn’t fully recognize the love my mother had for me. I didn’t understand then the love (and sacrifice) that went into these beautiful dresses. The wonder of it is that these gifts of love were wrapped up in the celebration of the One who came to earth express the love of a heavenly Father to our love-hungry world. Who would have thought that the whisper of tissue paper on velvet would echo that love to this little girl?
First written for my dear Mom in 2006