Thursday, March 18, 2010

Philly Moms: Dressed in history

Dressed in history

Original post to Philadelphia Moms Blog.

P3160049 My daughter wants to give her baptism dress to her new cousin, Alma.

It’s a dress I’ve been holding on to for years, thinking my daughter might one day want to dress her own daughter in it, so I say no. I mention my imagined future grandchild and weave a pretty good argument in counterpoint to her generous impulse.

You see, the dress has history.

Unlike most Catholics, my daughter wasn’t baptized weeks after birth. I had been away from the Church a long time and had no thought to return (or to have my daughter baptised Catholic).

You don’t know a thing about Latina grandmothers if you think my mother was going to accept that. For a full four years she harangued me to reconsider and come back, and La Morenita (the Lady of Guadalupe) to intercede.

She was persuasive.

My daughter was baptized in Mexico City, in the same church where my parents were married and my older brother was baptized. Alma’s dad, my younger brother, flew down to stand up as my daughter’s godfather and one of my Mexican cousins stepped up as her godmother. My daughter -- dressed in a beautiful white dress my mother had purchased after combing marketplace and department store for the tiniest possible first Communion dress -- went through the ceremony, attention shining in her grey-green eyes.

A month, almost to the day, after my daughter was baptized my mother died.

Now 14, my daughter doesn’t have many memories of her grandmother. A few scattered ones of watching corny old Disney movies with her in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where we now live, and of the lipstick smears my mother left on her face whenever she showered her with kisses. But she remembers my mother every time she catches a glimpse of that dress.

So, my daughter wants to give the dress to her tiny cousin who won’t be able to wear it for a good three or four years and never knew my mother. What’s more, my daughter informs me, she regrets not having given it to her cousin Noor first, back when she was small enough to wear it. Then it’d be Noor -- who, like Alma, was born after my mother died -- passing it on to her younger cousin, my daughter tells me.

Okay, I want to ask my daughter, how did you know? How did you understand that the history of that dress doesn’t reside in the fabric but in the act of wanting to give it?

A grandmother’s gift, passing in an unbroken chain from granddaughter to granddaughter to granddaughter.

I wish I had thought of it. But I guess some things we teach our kids, some things our kids teach us.

So, Alma, here it is. Perhaps when you’re done with it, we can figure a way for Noor to get her chance at it too. Since it’s already too small for her, we’ll have to transform it -- but that’s okay. That’s what happens to love anyway.

It’s never content to stay history.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific little tale...Morgan's quite the winner, isn't she?! I'm so glad.


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