This week I turned 40, to my teenagers 40 is oooolllldd, to me it's only a number...timed by 20. There's a new saying in our home....40 is the new 20, I may have gotten older, but with age comes a deeper appreciation for things that are truly important, like loved ones and memories.
I few nights ago I couldn't sleep because I was worried about finding a special dress, the dress my oldest 4 daughters wore on their first birthday. Two of them were also baptised in it and my niece wore it when she turned one. To all of us it was a special keepsake. So I decided it was time to pull it out and get it ready for our soon to be 5th daughters first birthday party. After digging through her closet and a 1/2 dozen upstairs drawers, I called my mom in panic..."MOM, I can't find the dress!" She knew instantly which dress I was referring to. The pink, 2 layer, multi-ruffled, could be on the top of a cake, adorably cute dress. My mom in her hopeful Christian calm voice said "don't worry, we'll find it". That night I couldn't sleep.
Later the next day she came over to help, while she played pizza play-dough with the kids, I carried on my quest like Indiana Crazy Woman Jones. Who knew a little storage area beneath a tiny stair case could hold so many boxes. A few hours later my heart sank as I finished going through the last box, it wasn't there.
This dress was to be an heirloom passed on to each new little girl in the family (or boy, if mommy or daddy wanted to torture him at his wedding). All I kept thinking about was that big fluffy dress and where it was hiding. What if I couldn't find this lost treasure, what if it was mistakenly dropped off at my favorite consignment store??? Maybe there was a way of tracking the customer down? Finding a needle in a haystack sounded more hopeful, but I was a mommy on a mission, determined to find this dress.
I went so far as to bring a picture of it to the consignment store owner. "I would have remembered a dress like that", she said, "It's adorable!" I think she could tell by the look on my face that her words shot a spike through my heart. She checked my account on her computer, no pink dress. The dress would be very hard not to remember, it's the kind you might see on a prized porcelain doll. My stomach filled up with knots.
Then I remembered the last time my mom came over to help me sort through baby boxes. It was 1 year ago, I was a week away from giving birth to my 6th baby (daughter # 5), we both thought it was time to donate years worth of clothing I had kept. Most of them had been passed on to each new daughter, some I was saving to make a memory quilt, some I was keeping because I didn't have the heart to get rid of it. So we gathered them up, labeled and sorted through them, one or 2 boxes for consignment, a dozen or so for charity. Could I have mistakenly folded the dress up and put it in one of the charity boxes, mistaking it for a keepsake box?
Visions of my daughter's baptism came to me like a famous poster (Man holding Baby), she looked so angelic in the arms of my brother. Her tiny feet dangling over the baptismal font, while the poofy pink dress surrounded her like heavenly clouds. "An Angel in Arms", the title might say. Tears welled up in my eyes. What am I going to do if I can't find it. What if I did accidentally donate the dress??
The answer.... 20 years ago this month my first daughter wore that dress, and 20 years later my youngest daughter will wear another. That night, after the kids went to bed, I sat on the couch with my head in my hands thinking about the pink dress, and how none of my grandchildren would ever wear it or see it up close. My husband reminded me that I had forgotten something, it wasn't the dress that gave me those wonderful memories, it was living my life that did.
The sentimental hoarder in me took a deep breath, I smiled at my husband and thanked him. He was right and it was then that I was able to let go of the memory of that dress and welcome new one's in. I finished planning my daughter's birthday and had a wonderful FULL nights sleep.
First thing in the morning I went to that same consignment store to drop off another box, as I walked in the first thing that caught my eye was a white and ruffly dress, no it wasn't
'THE' dress I had scoured our home for, but a used one on display. It was just as beautiful as the one I so desperately wanted to find the day before. As I walked up to the cashier, I thought about the family who gave their dress and how we would make some wonderful new memories with it.
This weekend our family will celebrate our daughter's first birthday, we will watch her as she tears at the wrapping paper and plays in boxes instead of her new toys and we'll laugh with her as she smears birthday cake all over that new used dress.
I'm 40 now and even though I've lost some weight and that 20 year old pink dress, I know the memories are here with me and more importantly so are the loved one's I've shared them with. I'm thankful for the 40 years I've had and I'm looking forward to the one's yet to come.