Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Brown Dress

My dad is getting married on Saturday. 

We're happy for him and grateful for the sweet lady that God has sent into his life.  Christine is someone he has known for years.  They share a common circle of friends.  Likes.  Dislikes.  Faith.  All these  should help them as they transition back in to married life.  

They've asked Frank and my brother-in-law to conduct the ceremony.  We'll all be there to mark the day and celebrate with them.  

While pondering the changes that are coming and wrapping my head around things, I remembered a story from childhood that was an important moment for me.  Thought you might enjoy it too.

I went through a serious phase of being the tall, lanky girl with knobby knees.  The only time in my life that I was skinny.  Not the cute-sie, petite kind of skinny.  Rather the clumsy, awkward, no-shape, big feet, slump-shouldered kind of skinny.  It wasn't pretty, I assure you!

Add to that ungainly time the fact that my dad insisted all my dresses should cover (or nearly cover) those protruding knees; for modesty sake.  This, in an age when no dress covered any knees.  (Mini-skirts were all the rage - even for women who had no business wearing a short skirt.)

I can not tell you the number of times I would come out of my room only to hear, "You jumped a little far through that dress, didn't you?!"  Which being interpreted meant, "You grew another two inches this week and that dress is too short now.  Go change into something longer."

It never crossed my mind to argue with Dad.  No one argued with Dad.  I just turned around and changed.

Keeping up with a kid that just kept growing was probably a hardship for Mom.  She did the best she could to make cute skirts and "fashionable" dresses.  (Slacks were also unacceptable in their thinking.)  Maybe that's why I'm a little bit fashion-challenged still to this day!

So, you get the idea.

My best friend, Ruth, was two years older than me.  She was beautiful!  And I wanted desperately to eventually grow up (Ruth was a mature 11-year old) to look just like her. 

Ruth's mom worked at the department store in Town and Country Plaza.  (Our closest version of a mall in Pensacola at the time.) Occasionally, Ruth and I would get to spend Sunday afternoons there while her mom worked.

It was a veritable Mecca waiting to be discovered; in my little-girl thinking.

Murphy's Department Store had the classic soda fountain.  That's where Ruth and I would sit in a booth and eat lunch - all by ourselves!

Wooden stairs that made a great sound as you tromped up and down.  A toy section; hardware; children's clothing; fans and a few window air conditioners.  Those were all downstairs.

Ruth's mom ran the fabric department upstairs.  That's also where you found shoes and women's/men's clothing. 

While the store seemed massive to us, it was actually rather small by today's standards.  And no one had ever heard of children being snatched.  So Ruth and I had total freedom to wander every aisle.  Test out toys.  Talk to customers.  Stand in front of the fans and hear our voices vibrate with the air waves.

You know, the entertainment of children before IPad.

We also tried on clothes.  Since both our moms made our clothes, we probably enjoyed this part of the day most.

That's where I found The Brown Dress!

On that Sunday afternoon, I stepped into the small wooden dressing booth as an awkward, klutzy kid.  But I stepped out of that tiny space - a lovely lady!  (At least that's how I felt.)

The dress was just like one I'd seen a girl wear at school.  Made of scratchy polyester, it had short sleeves; perfect for year-round wear in FL.  Four flat buttons offered multiple choices for a neckline.  White horizontal stripes, a solid brown collar; the cutest little belt that actually created the illusion of a waist on my skinny self.

And miracle of miracles - it topped my protruding knees in a way that would easily meet Dad's requirements!  I was in love!

It really must have fit well because Ruth's mom offered to put it aside until I could ask Mom and Dad about buying it.

One little problem, this fashionable dress cost a whopping.......$7.00!

Doesn't seem like much now but please remember that many workers earned $1.25 an hour back then.  That dress represented over half a day's work for my dad.  And somehow I knew that.

I remember my palms sweating as we rode home from church that night.  The dress could only be held until the next day.  If there was any hope of the dress being mine, I had to ask.  If I was going to ask Mom and Dad about it, the time was now!  (Funny how big things can become in the mind of a child.)

Those are all the details that I can vividly recall.

Somehow I did muster up enough courage to tell them about the brown dress being held at Murphy's Department Store.  Mom took me there and I tried it on for her to see.  She approved.  And somehow, Dad scraped together the $7.00 needed in order to purchase my extravagant, dream dress.

(Yes, I'm crying as I write about it almost fifty years later.) 

Why?  Because I sensed the sacrifice that purchase represented for my parents.  And I appreciated it.  Even as a nine year old kid; I genuinely appreciated their gift to me.

And..........I felt important to my daddy.

My dad doesn't "do internet" he's never read my blog.  So, I'll print a copy of this one and give it to him in a card.  I'm sure we'll both cry when he reads it.  

Every little girl should be privileged to feel that way at some point while growing up. 

But if you don't have a memory like my brown dress, please know that your Heavenly Daddy loves you even more.  He sacrificed His own son to demonstrate how important you are to Him.

It would do us all well to take a moment today and express our appreciation for His great gift of love.



  1. I have a memory quite similar to that one, and I hold it dear to my heart. I know my Dad would do anything he possible could for us kids and his actions proved it. We are blessed Daddy's girls! :)

  2. not quite the same but I was a divorced mom of 4 with very little money, my daddy made sure my kids had shoes and warm coats every winter while they were growing up. that's LOVE for all 5 of us.

    1. You're so right, Sharon! When you love on my kids, you love on me! :-) Thanks for sharing that memory.

  3. What a privilege to meet you twice in one week. First, as a friend of Priscilla Martin & then just now as a friend of Diane Daniel. She told me I would love your brown dress story and she was soooo right! God bless you dear lady. I true love stories!

    1. It was wonderful to meet you and your husband, Pat. Thanks so much for taking time to read and encourage! Much Appreciated!

  4. love your story - as my daddy is now gone - tears are a flowing as I remember he let me purchase $32.00 shoes for my wedding and like your $7.00 it was a lot of money 46 years ago. I realized then what a sacrifice it was but I think today I realize it even more. God Bless your daddy's wedding tomorrow.

    1. Ah, Becky! What a great memory for you, too! Thanks for sharing!