I packed away my babies' baptism dress today.
Months and months ago, I found an archival-safe box and acid free tissue paper at The Container Store and bought it just for this purpose. It has been on several to-do lists that I've generated in the last few months, and every time I open Alec's closet, I see it in there, waiting patiently for me to attend to it.
Yesterday I washed the dress and matching lined jacket and dried it on the lowest possible setting.
Today I stuffed it with the tissue paper, carefully folded and arranged it this way and that and finally popped the lid on, sealing that stage of my life.
I sewed the dress myself while I was pregnant with Michaela, unsure if we were having a boy or a girl. I remember going to the fabric store, pouring over the different patterns, trying desperately to be realistic about my sewing abilities, but loving dresses that were way above what I could reasonably accomplish. I loved the long gown styles, and even though Dan is super traditional, he was okay with a son wearing a baptism dress. I remember picking out the fabric and the ribbon and the trim, which is a satiny brocade, suitable for either a boy or girl. It was a dress of promise, of devotion, of formality.
I worked on it off and on during the pregnancy and then had to finish it by December, when Michaela was baptized on Christmas Eve eve. I remember getting ready for the party we had after she was baptized; the flowers and the favors and the food and joy of bringing my child to God. I remember how excited I was to be up in front of the church, sharing her with my church family. It was a ritual I had seen dozens of times growing up and now, here I was, finally in that same space and loving every minute of it.
After Michaela was baptized, I washed the dress and hung it in her closet, patiently waiting for the next baby to come along and wear that dress.
Three and a half years later, Jenna Alicia came along and I went all out. She was baptized in August, and I spent a ridiculous amount of money getting beautiful custom invitations designed and printed for the baptism and celebration. I had the baptism dress professionally photographed and it was the centerpiece of the invite. It was gorgeous. I remember the joy of that day, a warm August morning, with our friends standing next to us as her Godparents, and the excitement that we were tying our families together forever. And then the overwhelming poignancy of having my brother assist in the baptism itself and preach the sermon of the service. What a gift, to have him there, holding my child and blessing her, and all I could think of was how many hours we spent playing matchbox cars together growing up and now here we were, consecrating a child related to both of us to God, performing a ritual and a sacrament together.
We had a party afterwards at our house, and I remember watching Michaela open the gifts. She wore a beautiful pink sundress and every time she watched the video of the baptism, she always noted how pretty her shoes were.
After Jenna was baptized, I washed the dress and hung it in her closet, patiently waiting for the next baby to come along and wear that dress.
Four and a half years later, Alec John came along and we could plan another- our last and final- magical day with that dress. We decided to have the party at a local country club, and it was the best choice we could have made: the setting was beautiful, decorated for Christmas, with inch of newly fallen fluffy snow covering everything outside. I was relaxed and joyful on that December day, again blessed with a happy and healthy child, again able to bring him in front of my church family to become a child of God's. And this time, my brother baptized him and lead the worship service, and when we stood up for the baptism, Alec, in the baptism dress, was surrounded by his uncles and aunts and sisters and parents and all their love at the font.
The party was fun and delicious and elegant and full of love and laughter for everyone. Michaela, now an old pro at this baptism thing, carried Alec around and showed him off. The girls wore their Christmas dresses, made of red velveteen and satin, and looked beautiful and happy. When the party wound down, and we pulled away in the car, listening to Christmas carols on the radio, I looked around to memorize that moment in time because I was so happy and full with my three babies riding in the back seat.
And when it was over, I hung up the baptism dress in Alec's closet and waited to pack away the dress for my grandbabies to wear. Today was that day.
I thought of all these things while I was wrapping it in the tissue paper, carefully arranging the sleeves and the jacket and the ribbon tie. The memories of special days and blessings from heaven. The joy of family and the gift of faith.
And I wondered what our lives will be like when I open the box again.