About 100 years ago, an old woman sat by a dim light stitching white silk and lace by the feel of the fabric, her eyes having failed her. The gown she sewed was to be worn by a new baby boy. While rejoicing in the arrival of her grandson, she may have felt some remorse while moving needle over fabric. The gown he should have worn had been buried with his sister before she made it to her first birthday.
I wonder if the fabric felt stiff and tight in her worn hands. I wonder if her eyes, though nearly blind, gave her just enough sight to see her grandson in it. I wonder if she cuddled that babe in the gown her hands made, putting aside the sadness of a lost child and rejoicing in the arrival of this new member of the family. I wonder if she even had a glimmer of an idea that nearly a century later, another little boy would slip his arms into the now delicate fabric to share in the ritual of baptism connecting him to a community, a family and a lineage that reaches back to the hands who made that gown.
My grandmother’s grandmother made the gown my two sons, myself, my sister, my mother, my uncle, my grandmother and great-uncle wore for our baptisms. As I cradled my little man this weekend, I was overwhelmed by the connection this gown gave me to the mothers in my family. My great-grandmother, grandmother and mother all held their precious babies before God, wrapped in this beautiful gown, to say thank you for this most wonderful blessing and pledge their best in raising their children. Did they all feel the same wonder, innocence, hope and love that I did? Did they all marvel at the overwhelming responsibility? Did they all feel the same unbound joy?
This gown that has survived the generations, that has clothed the newest buds on our family tree holds the past, present and future in its delicate folds. Just as each of the mothers held the past, present and future in the babies that wore it.
I can only hope to one day hold the children of my children in this same gown, passing along the lace, its history and the hope for the future stitched into it by the hands of my great-great grandmother.