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27
Sat, Feb

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In the beginning I welcomed the shelter-at-home concept. It represented a reprieve from a myriad of community responsibilities all sidelined as Covid-19 scourged the globe. Out came the Kitchen Aide mixer, the Ballymaloe Cookbook, the mixing bowl. I was ready to roll and continue my life-long singular Irish Bake-off Series proving Irish women could cook. It was easy to get sidetracked. Suddenly my life changed I had nothing pressing. Breakfast in bed, a cup of Irish tea, a leisurely read of the NYTimes, a phone call or two, three, sometimes four. Upon introspection I gleaned I was committing one of the Deadly Sins and for the first time, the sin of sloth. Self composed absolution served me well. I showered, dressed for success despite quarantine, and developed a plan. Two issues headed the To-Do-List: purging a bulging closet, hire an earth remover to clear out and rganize my at-home office. Desk top no longer visible, groaning from the weight of books, aged brochures, rough drafts, angry critical letters written in heat, never sent, a desk dominated by a wide screened unused desktop long ago abandoned in favor of an Apple Laptop. Piles of paper, a box of Christmas cards, two years of Irish American News, a bulletin board displaying a faded article: The Conscience and Creativity of Seamus Heaney, a Belfast pamphlet, a reminder to submit an article on the Titanic Experience, the true legend of the Titanic in the city where it all began.

I’m digressing. Two plus months later The Kitchen Aide Mixer, the Irish cookbook remain untouched attesting to a deluge of distractions and the daily deluge of a to-do list displayed as a large poster on a blank wall. My home barren of friends, cleaning ladies, when out of the blue I experienced a bolt of inspiration. It rushed and consumed body and soul with ferocious energy. An idea, sent from Heaven, a Divine Intervention, held me in its grip for more than two months, often had me on my knees, pleading for mercy. Would it every end?

Emma, a baby girl presents in my family this month. She bestows on me the coveted title of great-grandmother and I am over the moon. I recall when thirty years ago her mother Ashley was born. She took her first steps in our lakefront condo in Chicago overlooking the park and the Lake Michigan.

Here was my plan, transforming my fifties wedding dress into a christening robe. The project struck a historical vibe in my immigrant soul. Stored in a trunk, the retrieved dress never preserved, hence yellowed, smelling of dust and moth balls featured an abundance of fabric, flounces upon flounces barring a bride’s entry into a phone booth! The dress sported fifty, sixty tiny covered buttons, the waist, the size of a honeydew mellon, an embellishment, truthfully the circumference of a watermelon.

The Irish are noted for embellishment but what unfolded left no room for exaggeration.

Did I mention the Kitchen Aide mixer is still unused in the kitchen? Did I note my home is in shambles? Nothing mattered for the past two, near three months, but the creation of this christening dress, matching bonnet and shoes. The wedding dress once released from trunk hung airing in my private courtyard in the sunshine of California. Hung for days, air and sun did its refreshing job but little to nudge out the aging yellow. The Ballymaloe Cookbook was back on the book-shelf, the kitchen transformed into a chemical lab as swatches of fabric pre-soaked overnight in mixtures of laundry products. Experiments continued for days, until a laundry whitener product White and Bright guaranteed to remove “rust and yellowing” wrought its magic and the delicate fabric brightened.

 A dining room table, an all purpose piece of furniture served its purpose as Sewing Central. News from Boston, an ultrasound logged the baby’s weigh at five pounds and by delivery in early June Emma could weigh in at nine. Each day, often passing up a meal or two, focused on bringing the necessary amount of fabric bright again, drying and pressing. Creative ideas swarmed, seemingly wedged into frontal lobes, recognized as addiction. Cutting, pinning, measuring, sewing, hand stitching morning ‘till evening as living quarters took on the persona of a sweat shop. Nothing else mattered, each morning prompting another idea for enhancement of the child’s robe. Flounces added, flounces upon flounces. So fixated I ceased noticing pins, thread, fabric cuttings ankle deep on the marble floors. Always the sewing machine, the ironing board at the ready to press seams, household ambience of no consequence. In time, daughters stopped phoning, fed-up listening to the daily saga of yet another creative stitchery triumph. I couldn’t stop talking, explaining details, the success, the new idea of sewing a line of tiny white pearls across the bodice, a process requiring savaging jewelry cabinet, the intense hand sewing spanning three days, the ripping out when the pearl line appeared crooked. The patience. The prayers. And of late I’ve noticed a sharp decrease in friends calling to catch up, to talk about the virus, being a shut in, the loneliness, the hardships and I rattle on about soaking fabric in White and Brite, and running a sweat shop!
The result, a museum quality creation for baptizing Emma and future new babies christened wearing a replica of a great grandmother’s decades old wedding dress. Meanwhile, I will spare you details of the baby bonnet and artistically decorating baby shoes.

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