In the days when mothers sewed their daughters’ clothes,
a woman still lovely, weary now
but willing still to dream
of pretty party frocks and patent leather pumps,
sends her girls to bed.
It is late April,
when gold-flecked forsythia and tender-lipped forest violets
dress the spring earth.
As the sisters sleep, she lays out on the kitchen table
the Simplicity pattern’s tissue promise of carefully stitched shirtwaists.
Her hands hold the pinking shears
and with each cut a third-grader’s surprise
becomes delight as she tries on
the white-and-yellow checked dress,
full-skirted, matching belt,
rickrack at the neck and trim for the cap sleeves.
The older sister steps into the violet dress,
fashioned as a fifth-grader’s princess raiment
and down the road they walk,
almost too elated to notice
the fast-flowing brook tumbling over rocks,
the robins and finches whistling to them
as Newfield Road merges with Main Street
and they see the red brick school
and the children on the playground
and the yellow and purple of their full skirts
swirl with the fresh new air of May.
Did we tell her we cherished her hands
that cut and fit and stitched the colors of spring;
her pride, that sent us off in new dresses
to dance around the Maypole;
her gifts, more than I can count
or even remember?
It was in the days when love was spoken
in the tissue rustle of a Simplicity pattern,
in the careful choice of purple cotton and yellow and white checks,
the unnecessary expense of rickrack to make the dress special,
the matching fabric-covered belt to cinch the small waists
and add an extra flare
to the dancing skirts of the daughters’ new dresses.