“Don’t worry, honey. I’ll think of something.”
With that reassurance from Mother, my seven-year-old sister bounded upstairs to bed, danced a little jig in the hallway and finally settled down for restful sleep. Mother always “thought of something.”
Mother stood alone by the curtained window. She had been unwell for months. Part of her problem was pernicious anemia, a condition that left her drained and bone-weary. Giving birth to six children in twelve years had taken an alarming toll on her frail body. The years of the Great Depression of the 1930s had ravaged not only our family financially but millions of other families as well.
Little Norma wanted a new dress for Easter. A green one. The hand-me-downs from her three older sisters had been handed-down one time too many. Easter Sunday was “dress-up-day” at our small church in upstate New York. Ladies wore spring hats and colorful voile dresses. Little boys wore stiff, new suits and ties. And little girls sashayed down the center aisle with their crinoline petticoats peeking from under full pastel skirts and tight bodices. It was the one day in the calendar year every little girl wanted a new dress.
Mother crossed her arms and wondered where she could find material to make little Norma an Easter dress. Buying cloth was not an option; there was barely enough money for food. In fact, food was in such short supply that more often than not tomato dumplings or hamburg gravy were served to the less-than-enthusiastic children who gathered expectantly around the large oak dining table.
Finally, Mother walked out on the front porch which was partially covered with orange trumpet vines providing a lattice of protection and privacy. Sitting on the metal porch chair, she began to pray:
“Father, my little girl needs a dress to wear to church. I can make one if I can just get some material. And she wants a green dress for spring. Please, Lord, help me figure out what to do.”
The next morning while Mother was hanging wet sheets on the back yard clothes line, a kind neighbor approached her. “I brought over a dress for you. It’s plain brown but it’s made of excellent material. Perhaps you or one of your daughters could use it.”
Mother accepted the brown dress and thanked her warmly. After a pleasant conversation, our neighbor left and Mother rushed inside.
Little Norma was in school so Mother began ripping out the seams of the brown dress. Her excitement grew as the dress separated into several pieces of fabric.
She talked quietly to herself. “I can bleach the pieces of material, but where will I get five cents for some green Rit Dye? This would make a lovely Easter dress for little Norma. I could surprise her with it.”
Mother carried the pieces of fabric to the kitchen sink where she filled a large pan with water, pouring in the small amount of Clorox still remaining in the bottle.
What she witnessed left her speechless.
Slowly and effortlessly, the Clorox removed the brown dye from the material, leaving it the most delicate emerald green cloth Mother had ever seen. She rinsed the material in cold water and rushed to the back porch to inspect it in the bright sunlight.
It was breathtakingly beautiful. There would be no need for a 5 cent envelope of Rit Dye. No dye could ever replicate this lovely shade of spring green.
She raised her brimming eyes toward heaven. ‘Lord, I know this miracle came directly from You. I can’t explain it otherwise. Thank you, Father, for such a lovely Easter gift for my daughter.”
Two days later, Mother quietly carried a little green dress with puffed sleeves, a white collar, and full skirt into little Norma’s bedroom. Mother hung the dress in the closet, then bent to kiss her sleeping daughter lightly on the forehead.
“Happy Easter, darling.”
Mariane Holbrook is a retired teacher, an author of two books, a musician and artist. She lives with her husband on coastal North Carolina. She maintains a personal website www.marianholbrook.com and welcomes your Emails at Mariane777@bellsouth.net
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