Christmas morning carries an air of excitement for every little child. The tree is larger than life, with lights glimmering slightly brighter than the day before. Carefully wrapped packages beckon to be opened. Curiosity heightens as each oddly shaped parcel is delivered to the rightful owner Santa intended. Faces shine. Paper is hurriedly torn. Squeals erupt as treasures are revealed. Those were great mornings.
I remember clearly the joy of discovering ALF under the tree. The pure excitement of receiving not only Rainbow Brite, but her pal Patty O'Green. Stockings held the last morsel of surprise before breakfast. The afternoon would bring a trip to my grandparents house where the cycle would repeat with exuberance. I would make the journey with familiar anticipation. I knew that's where IT would be.
Gifts at my grandparent's house would reach from under the tree far into the floor. Boxes were always stacked into two piles by each child. One stack held colorful gifts of all shapes and sizes. The other stack held boxes that all appeared the same - the clothing boxes. Yet all of these boxes were not created equal. One of these seemingly ordinary shirt boxes contained, for me, the frock of the season.
One of them held my smocked dress.
Smocking itself has no inherent mystery. Women have worn it on their lovely gowns for centuries. It's origin is practical. Prior to the invention of elastic and spandex, how else would one allow for stretch in garments? Smocking was used for just that purpose. For me as a little girl, however, smocking was the necessary embellishment for the perfect dress. Whether it was ornamental or functional in its inclusion didn't matter. For me, it HAD to be there.
After all the boxes were emptied and the adults had concluded the exchange of their own treasures, I crept to my mother's side, dress clutched in hand. I listed numerous reasons why I needed to change into it: to check the size, to check the length, to see if it matched my shoes. Eventually, she conceded and I donned my prized dress as though I was the belle of the ball. I would admire myself in the mirror. Scarlett O'Hara, eat your heart out!
As the years passed, we all grew and matured. Gifts began changing as Christmas morning began adapting to our ages. The rituals were still the same, but some faces were added and some were missed terribly. I can't recall the exact year that I first missed my dress. I only recall realizing one morning that we weren't little kids anymore.
Now that I am grown, my boxes have taken different shapes. I have only one pile now. I delight in seeing smaller boxes labeled with my name rather than the shirt box I used to covet. Pearls and baubles replaced my smocking. Until this past Christmas.
For the first time in a long time, the tree at my parents house contained a shirt box. A coveted shirt box. The delight upon it's unveiling was a welcome friend. There it was in front of me. The frock of the season. Smocking for my daughter.