Dreams and Dresses

When the sonographer first told me I was having a second daughter, I had a brief moment of … not disappointment, exactly, because I was so happy about everything else the baby had – a four-chambered heart! a brain! the requisite amount of fingers and toes! – so I couldn’t be disappointed. But I think I had sort of wanted a boy, just so I could have one of each: my beautiful headstrong daughter and my idealized obedient, doting son. The brief sting at not having a son lasted about as long as it took me (which is to say about 5 seconds) to have the realization that two daughters meant matching dresses.

But Ruby is insanely picky about clothes, and she has to wear a school uniform five days out of the week, and Georgia already had so many clothes both from Ruby’s hand-me-downs and generous friends and family that it was impossible for me to justify buying two brand-new matching dresses for the girls, just because. I would’ve done it for Thanksgiving, maybe, or certainly for Christmas, but Ruby spent those holidays in St. Louis with her dad’s family, so there didn’t seem to be any point. Finally, though, it was Easter, and I was ready.

I have a particular Southern weakness for monogrammed clothing, so I went immediately to Etsy and had Ruby help me pick out two super-cute summery blue-and-brown sundresses, which I ordered with their names stitched across the front. They arrived a week later, and I loved them. Ruby hated them. The embroidery was rough against her skin, she said, and the straps were too “scrunchy,” and she wasn’t going to wear it for love or money – both of which I offered.

“You will wear it on Easter,” I said ominously.

“I will not,” she said and flounced off.

I tried to forget about it. It is hard to really gauge accurately how Ruby will react to anything on a particular day, so there were about even odds that she would wear it without a fight versus having an elaborate tantrum, and I didn’t want to waste time worrying. I would deal with it the day of, come what may.

A few days before Easter, a package arrived at my house addressed to Ruby from my former in-laws, Ruby’s St. Louis grandparents, her beloved Nana and Pops. Because Ruby was at her dad’s that weekend, I set the package aside for her, figuring it was full of Easter goodies.

When I picked her up on Easter morning, she was in chocolate-and-jelly-bean-fueled good spirits, and she said she was going to wear the dress as an Easter present to me – and also my mom had promised to take her to a movie if she complied. As the hours till our scheduled brunch with my husband’s family ticked closer, though, and the sugar crash set in, Ruby got increasingly recalcitrant.

“I hate that dress,” she said. “It. Is. Scratchy. I don’t care that it matches Georgia’s. Let her wear it, and I will wear something else! You can’t make me!”

I sighed. There are many parts of parenting that are so much more rewarding than I ever thought they’d be – a sleepy whispered “I love you,” a tight tearful hug on the first day of school, even watching reruns of “Full House” together – but there are just as many fantasies I had of motherhood that turned out to be absolute bunk. It seemed that my pastel Easter daydream of daughters in matching dresses was going that way, and I was just about to give up on the notion rather than drag an angry, tear-stained child to brunch when I remembered the present from her grandparents.

“Hey, Ru,” I said, thinking distraction might help. “Let’s stop thinking about the dress for just a sec and see what Nana and Pops sent you. I bet it’s candy! Maybe we can eat some candy before you put on your pretty Easter dress I bought you, huh?”

She made a face – I never fool her, not for a second – but the lure of an unopened present was too strong, and she agreed.

When we tore open the package, it did contain candy ­ – but it also contained not one but two gorgeous handmade monogrammed matching Easter dresses. My former mother-in-law is a talented seamstress, and she had made one dress for Ruby, her adored granddaughter, just as she has made her many dresses before. But she had made a second smaller dress for Georgia, the child I had with my second husband after her son and I divorced. It was such a sweet gesture that I couldn’t help tearing up. Both dresses fit the girls perfectly, and she had done the monograms in such a way that they didn’t irritate Ruby’s sensitive skin. She even made bloomers for Georgia.

Within seconds, Ruby had shimmied into the new dress and declared it more than acceptable to her tastes, and I quickly wiped my eyes and got Georgia dressed in the matching one.

The afternoon got even sweeter when my current in-laws, the wonderful Bob and Libby Peyton, treated Ruby exactly the same as Georgia and Elliot, their grandchildren, presenting her at brunch with an Easter basket full of her favorite candies and oohing and ahhing over how lovely she looked.

The definition of family has always been fluid for me, but the fact that my family includes both of my daughters’ paternal grandmothers and that both of those grandmothers can open their hearts to both of my kids makes me extremely grateful – and, I know, extremely lucky.

It was a perfect Easter, full of love and generosity and chocolate and sunshine – and, best of all, matching dresses. I hope yours was wonderful, as well.

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