They bring in a boombox like a weapon to send us away. Speakers shout out ugly songs, more obnoxious than loud Hawaiian shirts. A twisted face. A gruff voice. Arms crossed. Cigarette smoke clouds our space. Beer swirls with chlorine. Eyes glaze over like frosted glass at the sight of me and mine. There are things that can make the warmest of places feel so cold. Continue reading
Her dress stretched taut over her belly like fabric tightened across a needlepoint hoop. It was her third hiding in there, a girl after two boys. But no matter how many times I had seen it happen (or felt it happen), it could never get old, the chance to witness this moment by moment making, expanding, knitting together of a life in secret.
High chair, car seat, and crib were all tried and tested by two big brothers in their own babyhood, sure things for baby sister. All she really needed was a little pink and pretty in the nursery closet. And so, I hung tissue paper tutus from the ceiling and meditated on the words from the invitation, how the great Designer, He who arrays the lilies in splendor, has a wardrobe picked out for us.
I balanced a pastel yellow romper on the spinning hoop that held relics of family history. I had seen this outfit in recent baby photos and those of two generations past on my sister-in-law’s side. Yes, three generations of mothers had shooed away stains, repaired weak seams, and miraculously kept the outfit in one piece. And they did the same for the children who wore it, in compassion tending to scraped knees and sensitive souls coming apart at the seams. Next to the romper swayed my satin baby shoes, small enough for preemie feet, a token of kindness brought to my mother as she bowed over my incubator. Across the circle’s diameter, loops of yellow fastened my sister-in-law’s sunbonnet to the rack, cotton and lace held together with hidden threads, a head-covering of humility shielding glory of the sun. I rubbed my fingers over the hem of my sister’s pink baby dress. A tiny embroidered doe looked back in quiet strength, that mysterious thing our mother passed down. Nearby, a single leather toddler shoe dangled alone, its twin lost in Grandpa’s boyhood. It hung as a tribute to dedication and discipline, the will to keep running even when you are only half ready.
We lined up for brunch and talked with our mouths full. We decorated little dress cookies in polka dots and floral motifs. We guessed at the origins of the heirloom baby clothes and said our oohs and ahs at new pieces that would someday turn keepsake. And then we gave her something to hang it all on, bringing out all of the good stuff we wanted to see in this baby girl that had so beautifully shown up in her mama’s life already.
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.” -Colossians 3:12
We picked our words and wrote them for keeps on heirloom hangers for baby’s closet. I thought of the hard work my sister-in-law had put in to get her Master’s Degree in Accounting and all the late nights studying to pass the test to become a CPA, how she had saved up to buy herself a Cadillac in college, how she had trained hard to compete in track and field in high school. I knew what I was going to write on my baby wardrobe hanger. This baby was going to know the happy side of discipline, the joy that comes at the end of the pain.
When my sister-in-law packed up her things for the hospital, she tossed in the discipline hanger and a pretty little baby dress. She didn’t know it then, but she had grabbed that hanger for a reason. Motherly muscles clenched short and tight, hardly a break between. She wasn’t sure how to get through it. She was counting on the epidural, but it failed. Contractions stayed strong, rolling over one another. She thought she hadn’t prepared for this. But she had. She looked at the words on the hanger and her thoughts spanned years. She remembered breathing through runner’s cramps, enduring long nights of studying to get the grade, and the sacrifice of saving up for something she really wanted. She had worn this before, this dress of discipline. And she could wear it again now. She could put on the thing God picked out for her, let Him take ragged pain and tailor it into joy.
How to hostess your own Baby Girl Wardrobe Party:
2. Plan your menu. For ours my mom made some delicious varieties of quiche that we paired with a spinach berry salad, ham and cheese tartines with radish, and an orange cake (which I forgot to decorate with the orange slices. Oops.). To drink we had sweet tea and, of course, pink lemonade.
3. Buy enough wooden heirloom hangers so that each guest can decorate one, plus set aside a few extras for decor. Get thin-line permanent markers in orange, pink, brown, black and other colors that match the theme of the party. Print Colossians 3:12 table tents from the free printables below. Have guests choose their favorite characteristic and relate it to mother and baby, coming up with a personal story or words of encouragement. Have them write their chosen word on the front of the hanger and their words of encouragement and their signature on the back. (Optional: Have each attendee share her words as the guest of honor opens her particular gift.)
4. To make tissue paper tutus, follow the instructions for making tissue paper flowers. Simply leave the two halves of each flower separate and you’ll have little tissue paper skirts. Print the GIRL letters from the free printables below, cut them out, glue them back to back and punch holes in the top. Use ribbon to tie wooden hangers to removable hooks on the ceiling, Then tie letters and tutus to each hanger. See photo in blog entry above.
5. Make dress-shaped cookies. (I got my cookie cutter here.) Get small squeeze tubes of decorating gel in a variety of colors from your local craft store. After attendees decorate the dresses, have the guest of honor choose her favorite. For the winner, you may want to have a wardrobe prize handy, such as a fashion scarf, bracelet or hat.
6. Gather vintage baby wardrobe pieces from both sides of the family. Hang them either on a rod across a doorway or on a hoop hanging from a stairwell. (Optional: have vintage photos of various family members as babies attached to the corresponding outfit.) Have guests write down their guesses for who wore the item and what year. Guest(s) with the most correct win a prize.
Click below to download free Baby Girl Wardrobe Party printables!
I have squeezed his shoulder with the Vulcan death grip. I have growled low and almost yelled out “I am Mommy, hear me roar!” I have stared him down and let him know not to cross me.
All this in the middle of the grocery.
He sits next to his little sister, too close for comfort today. They are playing a mean game of footsy and, boy, they are mouthy. I see the scowls on shoppers’ faces, telling me I’m not doing enough. My brain goes like a dot matrix printer etching out my defense. These noisy things in my cart aren’t robots moved about by Mommy’s secret remote control. They are individuals, little people with big wills and loud voices.
We round an end cap and it is our character flaws on display. I want to cry. It wouldn’t be new; I’ve cried in public more times than I can count. I’m a soul born without armor and the makeshift do-it-yourself exterior seems to crack under pressure. I put my hands to the steel curves of the cart and push along.
I think of Rosie Jetson with that round motherly metal, the square smile and those dialed-in eyes, sympathetic, unjudging. If I could be that sturdy…. If I could find that kind of help….
I come to reality with a slap on the face, big brother leaving pink on the cheek of little sister. I don’t know what comes over me, but I feel calm for a minute and find the clarity of mind to put my go-to disciplinary plan in gear.
I look him in the eye, gently this time, and tell him to do the same to her. I point to the mark on her face. He takes the time to show he knows what he’s done, then frames her face with his hands and asks her to forgive.
Just as they hug, I hear a little voice from behind. “You did that just right,” the mystery woman says, “the way you had him look into her eyes while he asked for forgiveness.” I turn toward her, this petite force of grace. I can’t see the smile on her face. It hides behind a homemade medical mask.
My eyes water up at this unexpected word, this healthy helping of kindness from an ailing woman.
I look down at the hem of her charcoal gray frock. I want to tell her about the fire in my chest and the clenching of my fists and my near roar, how I am undone, undeserving.
“I haven’t been so good today,” I admit out loud, the sudden kindness leading me to repentance. Gray hair peeks out from the mesh bonnet that covers her head. She in her plain-people clothing and me in my jeans, we stand still in the lavish truth that “He has not dealt with us according to our sins.”
And I’ve found grace in the grocery store.
(Psalm 103:10, Romans 2:4)