We were newly married and living on art and love. In other words, we were broke and had crappy credit. I was only 24 when Maryrose was born. I stretched meals for a family of 4 on $50 a week and sometimes didn’t even have that. As soon as she could walk, Rose started dancing. She didn’t need music, she made her own by taping her feet as she spun, always looking down to watch her dress spin. My kids only wore dresses because they fit for so much longer, starting below their knees and ending well above and by that time they were faded and worn. Every dress Rose tried on was twirl tested, to gage the princess potential, but nothing she had spun very well and I knew this disappointed her.
For Easter the year she turned 5, I set out to find a dress she would be proud of, but there was nothing in our budget. Finally, I decided to just make her one. I went to Macys and studied how the expensive dresses were made. We didn’t have cell phones then, so I relied on memory and a couple quick sketches made while standing at the rack. Walmart had the best prices on fabric and she held my hand and practically jumped rather than walked into the store. She was SO excited. We looked around and agreed on a delicate lavender material with darker purple flower petals. I didn’t know how to sew, but borrowed my mother-in-laws sewing machine, confident I could figure it out.
Rose never doubted me. I cut and pinned and tried it on her and sewed and refigured and tried it on her again. This went on an entire day while she sat next to me patiently watching the entire time. If she left, it was never for long, before she came skipping back to check on the progress. The wait was killing her, so I finally gave her some fabric to cut on while I worked. She practiced wrapping it around different stuffed animals. The second day the dress was finally done with one exception. Early that morning before she woke up, I went to Walmart alone and found a little purple and pink butterfly patch. When I got home I sewed it inside a pleat inside the front of dress. No one could see it. I didn’t show it to her until she finally put it on. It was our secret. No one would know it was there, but when she felt the butterfly inside the fold, it would remind her how much I loved her.
She wanted to wear that dress every single day. It spun and twirled perfectly, she was so proud of it. She told me after wearing it constantly for months that she didn’t want to ever grow up. When I asked her why, she said her spinning dress would no longer fit her. We both sat in silence and pondered this a bit. Even she knew the day would come it didn’t fit and life would become so complicated a spinning dress would be the last thing on her mind, but I told her not to worry I would always make or buy her another.
Years later long after the butterfly dress was packed away and she was driving, she stopped by my office and brought be a cupcake. A few days later I found a hastily scribbled butterfly on a post it note, taped behind the photo on my desk. Recently Rose got married. She looked so beautiful in her wedding dress and as soon as she put it on, she did a little twirl that made my heart glad.
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