I didn't work the five months before Sydney was born. I'm not entirely sure what I did to keep myself busy since I didn't have any children or a job, but I think the house was probably really clean, the meals well prepared, and the laundry was all caught up. Those were the days.
I also remember that I occasionally watched daytime tv because...why not? One afternoon I watched an episode of Oprah where she was talking about photography or birthdays or mothers or all three, I don't remember. But I remember a segment about a mom who took a birthday picture of her kids, and every year she'd use the same prop: a hat, I think.
The whole idea inspired me to do something similar with Sydney, and I knew exactly what prop to use: a dress that was sitting in a closet at my parents' house. The box had been marked, "Nancy's Hippy Dresses" and there was in fact a fabulously hippy dress in that box that I had never had the guts to wear, but had always thought was really cool. How amazing, I thought, would it be to have my daughter wear the same dress that had once belonged to her grandma?
When Sydney turned one, I pulled out the dress and started the tradition.
The first three years I couldn't convince her to wear the dress, but I did get her with the dress.
Sydney decided she loved wearing the dress, and could hardly be persuaded to take it off.
Sydney wanted to keep wearing the dress even after her birthday, but I know how little girls and dress-up dresses are, and this one needs to last at least until Syd's 18.
Last summer, after the birthday photoshoot, I decided to see if I could find an original photo of my mom wearing the dress. She and I scoured through albums, although she couldn't quite remember if the dress actually had belonged to her afterall. I felt a momentary surge of panic. What if the dress was just some random dress, belonging to a stranger?
We leafed through the 1974 album and towards the end of the album we saw this:
The dress hadn't belonged to my mom. It had belonged to my grandma. Here she was, sitting next to my aunt and my mom, wearing the dress at a party. It's the only picture we have of her wearing the dress.
I asked my grandma if she remembered the photo or the dress, but she didn't. Who even knows exactly why the dress was saved in a box to begin with; it just was.
The fact that the dress belonged to my grandma and not my mom did not disappoint me. In fact, I thought it was pretty amazing that the dress had somehow been saved because my grandma didn't save anything, especially clothes. If you knew my grandma you would know it is no small miracle that any article of her clothing that was older than a year managed to not find its way to the Goodwill. The woman was stylish, people. Old clothes did not hang in her closet.
This year, I pulled out the dress again.
I held the dress that once upon a time my grandma wore. I put it to my face, felt the fabric on my skin, and even put the dress on (it turns out hippy dresses are very forgiving of pregnant figures). I didn't feel some magic closeness to my grandma through the dress, but I smiled as I imagined her wearing it. Imagined her smoothing out the folds, zipping up the back, tying it. It was hers--even though she was not a hippy at all--she had this dress. And it was stylish enough for her to wear it to a party.
And now thirty-six years later, her great-granddaughter is wearing it, twirling in it, telling me how much she loves the dress and could she please please please wear it to church even though it has half a dozen pins in it in order to keep it from falling off her.
Every year, when we celebrate Sydney's birthday, I plan on photographing her wearing the dress her great-grandma once wore...the dress that somehow got saved in a box marked "Nancy's Hippy Dresses," a box I discovered one afternoon more than a dozen years ago.
Every year, we'll celebrate Sydney, my grandma, and the dress that miraculously got saved.