This weekend the Greater Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Women’s Conference was held in and hosted by the Southeast Region.  As a member of the conference committee, my seat was in the pulpit for worship Friday night, which in a National Baptist Convention church means certain dress requirements. 60% of my wardrobe is active wear, and appropriate dress options are limited.  I rarely buy clothing for a specific event, so I dug in the closet and came across the Dynasty era suit my mother made for my Delta Sigma Theta Neophyte Ball pictured below.

Strolling at the Illini Union – March 1988

I was 19 and haven’t worn this suit in probably 2 1/2 decades. I remember quite some time ago coming across the suit while cleaning out my closet.  My husband and I had a hollarin good laugh when I tried to put it on, and the skirt would not come up past my knees.  It got stuck at my knees! SMH.  Will asked why I would keep something I probably never wear again.  (He said something about keeping hope alive. LOL.)  My response was simple – I  keep it because this is the last dress Momma made for me.

Growing up, my Momma had gifted hands that were seldom idle. While working full time, she always prepared home cooked meals for us – often containing foods she had grown in the garden. She canned and froze and preserved. Baked goods were made from scratch, and she treated us to ice creams, pickles – even sausage made by her hands.  Momma was also a talented seamstress. She started taking in sewing at the age of 13 and could look at a garment, create a pattern from newspaper and in few days, tailor make one to fit you like a glove.  Momma enjoyed creating for her family and friends, and after working all day, stayed up late into the nights leading up to holidays or events sewing something special for us.

Thinking back to my youth, I didn’t value Momma’s skill.  She tried to teach me to sew and bought me a sewing machine in my teens.  My most advanced creation was a patchwork quilt project, that due to my limited interest and patience, resulted in a one sided patchwork pillow. I remember having aint-nobody-got-time-for-that kinda thoughts in my head, insisting I would pay someone to make, fix or alter my clothing.

I was also very unappreciative of Momma’s gifts.  I recall a few extremely ungrateful times when I wanted a certain item from the store – mainly because everyone else had it. “I don’t want these Mammy made clothes!”  {That was also said in my head only. I was shortsighted and ungrateful – but not crazy!) I valued clothes with some brand written on it more than the outfits Momma made with all kinds of love in it.  What a shame.

I thought of this when I saw the suit Thursday.  I thought about how blessed I was then and how blessed I am now because my Momma is still here – 85 years old.  She is experiencing some medical challenges, and her strength and abilities are starting to wane a bit, but thank God she is still here and feeling relatively well.  I looked at the workmanship of the garment and thought about how Momma’s elegant hands that cut, pieced, sewed and tailored this garment now have difficulty using scissors or fastening a button.

This suit is precious to me.

So I took it off the hanger and was pleasantly surprised as it slipped on and fit comfortably. Actually, it was a bit loose.  After sharing another laugh and high five with my husband, I called Momma. She remembered the suit and reminisced about some of the sewing projects she did over the years – repeating some stories or statements several times. Momma’s short term memory is dulling, but her long term memory is sharp as a tack. I used to get impatient with the repeats.  Now I see it as an extension of Momma’s walk down memory lane.  I listen attentively to the stories and gratefully take that mental walk back in time with her.

The Friday worship attire decision was a wrap.  I freshened the suit up, replaced a missing button, carefully removed the 80s Rhythm Nation shoulder pads and proudly wore that 27 year old suit to the conference Friday night.

Wearing a vintage Momma Maxwell creation

My age rounds up to 50, and as a woman with long struggles with weight, it is cool to without struggle, wear something I wore at 19, better than I wore it at 19.

It is more cool to find love in a jacket, seam or hem.

I didn’t see it then – but I clearly see and feel it now and the ability to talk to Momma and express my appreciation is such a blessing.

She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She sets about her work vigorously;  her arms are strong for her tasks.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;

Psalm 31:13, 17,27,28a

More thoughts:
Momma started sewing at 13 and tried to teach me to sew.
Most 13 year olds today can barely make their beds.  What are most mothers today teaching their daughters?

Looking in the mirror.
I get that not everyone has that gift or interest – but basic sewing should be a basic skill.  I’m embarrassed to admit the time and concentration it takes me to put a simple hem in my children’s pants – or how scrapply the result will be.  I currently have about a dozen suits and skirts in my closet waiting to go to a seamstress because I am unable to take them in.  I said I was gonna pay someone to do these things for me – it is a shame I have to!  This will change.

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