My Dear Mary Ashley,
The other day you skipped into the dining room, pausing from your play to watch me work for a moment. "What are you doing, Mommy?" you asked.
Hunched over my sewing machine, I was intent on finishing a seam. "I'm making a dress for you," I replied, my eyes leaving the fabric briefly to meet yours.
"OK, Mommy," you replied brightly. Then as quickly as you had entered the room, you were gone. I could hear your lilting giggles fade as you skipped down the hall to find your baby dolls.
Yes, my sweet daughter, I was making you a dress. That is the short answer. But I am writing you this letter so that one day when you are grown, you can read this and understand what this project has meant to me.
And it's all because of what you mean to me.
Tonight I finished making my first heirloom dress, a gift for you, my dear. A friend has been teaching me the art of heirloom sewing, and oh what a learning process this has been! We have invested countless many hours into this project. We spent our first morning together nearly a month ago to plan and shop for the dress. As Miss Cathy sketched ideas -- calculating how many yards of fabric, lace and ribbon we would need to breathe life into our vision -- my mind wandered. I could already picture you running down a garden path, giggling and twirling in the dress I would make just for you.
At the fabric store, Miss Cathy and I chose our fabric first, a soft pink satin batiste. Since your infancy, I have loved dressing you in pink, and most days it is your favorite color. So this selection was easy.
Choosing laces was much more difficult. But thumbing through page after page of delicate trim, I was drawn to selections that remind me of you. A length of Swiss insertion was the first piece that caught my eye. Ribbons undulating across the fabric and drawn up in little bows reminded me of the ribbons I have slipped into your hair nearly every day of your life. One of the delights of motherhood for me is fixing your hair. I love every bouncy golden curl on your sweet little head, my daughter, and I love watching it shimmer in the light as I comb it each morning. Whether I leave your hair down or sweep your curls into a ponytail, you know that we are never done until I have slipped a bow into your hair. In fact, my little southern belle, you have worn hair bows so often that when you were 1 and I couldn't find a bow to match your outfit, your 3-year-old brother would not let us leave the house without one. "She has to have a bow," Christian insisted sternly. "She's Mary Ashley!"
With Swiss insertion as our inspiration, Miss Cathy and I looked for more laces to add to the lace band. Among them, a pretty white lace with bouquets of roses seemed perfect for you. So many times you have come running into the house, a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers clutched in your tiny little hand. "I picked these for you, Mommy!" you say with a smile. I treasure each flower you have given me, as well as your dreams to one day have a garden of your own. Along with our laces, soft satin ribbons would add the final details to the dress.
With all the materials in hand, it was time to get started. Each day I learned new techniques of heirloom sewing. I never knew how much work went into the creation of an heirloom garment, but every stitch is thoughtfully placed. Cutting and pulling fabric, sewing laces together, and rolling and whipping fabric edges can be tedious work. When progress was slow, I focused on the intrinsic beauty of the materials.
When you entered the room the other day, I was in the midst of sewing the lace band for your skirt. I enjoyed running my fingers over the lace -- each piece so lovely and intricate. I was amazed watching the lace band take shape one stitch at a time, but then you spoke to me and my attention turned to you. And the sight of you nearly took my breath away.
You see, each time I see you, my beautiful daughter, my heart whispers a prayer of thankfulness. I never could have imagined what a blessing you would be to me, and I praise our heavenly Father that He has entrusted you to me.
So when you asked me what I was doing, I told you I was making you a dress. And I was. But I was also doing so much more. With each careful stitch, I was saying I love you. I treasure you. And I am so grateful for the privilege of holding your hand as you grow up right before my eyes.
With this dress I am trying to preserve this moment in time. Oh, how I wish I could freeze time and keep you my little girl forever! But each day carries you forward, and it seems I can already hear your lilting giggles fading as you skip down the hall to the future that God has planned for you. But with this dress, I hope to give you a tangible reminder that your dreams can never take you so far as to move beyond your mother's love.
Tomorrow morning when you wake up and see my finished project, I hope you will love it. At 5, I hope you will dance and twirl when you try on your new dress. As a little girl, when you wear it, you may realize that your mommy loves you. But only when you are all grown up and you slip this dress over the head of your own 5-year-old daughter, will you realize how much. And on that day, as she lifts her golden curls from the nape of her neck so you can fasten the beauty pins, when she turns her sparkling blue eyes toward you and flashes you a smile, and you feel your heart lurch with all the hopes, dreams and prayers that it can hold, I hope you will think of me.
And then, my daughter, you will know what I was doing that day so many years ago. I was saying I love you. I was wrapping you in a mother's love. All the while thanking our Father and asking his blessings for you. Yes, my dear Mary Ashley, I was doing all this and more.
I was making you a dress.