Friday, March 4, 2011

The Forty Year Old Prom Dress

The earth is coming alive again. Like fireflies on a dark summer night, spots of color grab my attention. Bright yellow daffodils and soft purple crocuses provide a welcome respite from the drabness of winter.

It is spring, when a young woman’s thoughts turn to…..prom, of course! Although her Senior Prom is still a couple of months away, this weekend my oldest granddaughter begins her search for that perfect dress. After all, she explained, the dress color must be chosen in time for her boyfriend to place his tux rental order. Talking about her shopping plans and the price of prom dresses these days took me back to my own Senior Prom.

…to the dress.

If you are female, you know what I am talking about. That one dress you see that just begs you to buy it. The one you dream about wearing.

My dress was peach, my second favorite color at the time. As much as I longed for it, I don’t remember any details about the dress other than the color. And the sense of loss and sadness knowing that I would never have it. Quite simply, it was not in our budget. There was no way possible my parents could afford to buy the dress so it stayed on the mannequin in the window. Faced with little to no money for a prom dress, I decided to do what any seventeen year old female would do. (Well…think I’m stretching things a bit there!) I would make my own dress. After all, I was taking Home Economics and we were learning how to sew. Key word? Learning!

My Mom and I went shopping for the pattern and material. Since I was only learning how to sew, I chose a simple a-line dress. I found a soft white voile material with small red pin dots and white silk for lining. A red velvet ribbon at the empire waist would be the crowning touch. With visions of walking into the dance in my own ‘designer’ dress, I promptly carried all my treasures to Home Ec. The first step was to lay out the pattern, cut out the correct pieces for the dress I wanted to make, and then pin them to the material. No problem. The second step was to duplicate those steps with the lining material. BIG problem! It was very slippery making it a challenge to correctly attach the pattern pieces. Then came sewing the pieces together….

I was in way over my head. My frustration grew with each passing minute and along with it, my sadness. However, all was not lost. My Home Ec. Teacher, Mrs. Stafford, came to my rescue. She helped me pin and cut and sew, piece by piece. She walked me through putting the zipper in properly. She even coached me through slip stitching the red velvet ribbon trim. Actually, the dress was more her handiwork than mine. It turned out exactly as I pictured it in my mind and even though I did not get to wear the peach fantasy, I still felt like Cinderella dressed up for the ball on prom night.

I don’t know why my conversation with my granddaughter triggered this memory. I haven’t thought about either dress in years. But within this recollection, I uncovered a priceless treasure that had nothing to do with what I wore to Senior Prom. It was the love of Mrs. Stafford who saw a young girl with dreams of being beautiful on prom night. Who, she knew, could not afford the dress of her dreams and did not have the sewing skills to change pattern pieces and material into a simple but charming dress. She just quietly stepped in and helped me in such a way that, at the time, I didn’t realize just how much she was doing.

Mrs. Stafford died not too many years after I graduated. I never got to tell her how much her unselfish gift of her time and talent meant to me. I wonder how many other selfless acts went unnoticed. Did she realize the difference she was making in our lives? Did anyone stop to tell her thank you? I certainly hope so.

While I am saddened to think that, perhaps, she didn’t see the results of her love and attention to all the girls she taught, I am also encouraged. Encouraged to know that even though I may not receive a visible marker that I have made a difference in another’s life, it doesn’t mean I haven’t. Many times that seed has to grow for forty years before a chance conversation will trigger the memory, revealing the treasure.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people… Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)


1 comment:

  1. Molly this is a beautiful story. I'm thankful for people in the world, like Mrs. Stafford, who reach out and help those with needs, with dreams, with visions.

    Have a blessed weekend.


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