Easter dressThrough my childhood, my mother sewed all the clothes for her three daughters.

Our early Spring ritual was to drive to Hancock’s fabric store near our house. I’d look over Mama’s shoulder as she turned each page in the pattern books — McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity — to find the dress I wanted her to sew just for me.

Then we wandered through the store touching bolt after bolt of cloth — lavender, aqua, flowered — until we chose the perfect one and took it to the ‘scissors lady’ at the counter. Two yards, please, I would tell her in my most grown-up voice.

My favorite dress is the one she made by hand when I was three. It was the palest blue organza, with a huge cloud of a  petticoat and a big bow at the back. She sewed impossibly tiny white lace on the puffy sleeves and collar. Little French knots dotted the hem.

She would always finish sewing our dresses late in the night before Easter Sunday. When I woke up, my new outfit would be hanging on my closet door. Freshly ironed and ready to be slipped over my head.

One year, she wrote a note and pinned it to my new dress.

Janice Lee,

This new outfit is for the outer you. I hope that when you wear it, you remember it’s what’s inside that is most important. Let your light shine on Easter Day and every day.

Love, Mama

A few years ago I was digging through an old cedar chest and came across a zippered plastic bag. Inside was the Easter dress I wore when I was three. The lace had turned tea-colored, but every French knot and ruffle was intact.

I realized two things when I washed and ironed that tiny, exquisitely crafted dress.

1)  It took my mother over an hour to press it.

2)  She was, and still is, an amazing woman.