My new grandson Jack was baptized on Sunday and regardless of how lovely it was (and it was lovely), I’m afraid I’ll remember it as the baptism during which my slip was showing.
My daughter Mia, Jack’s mom, wanted a certain “look” for the baptism. She wanted family pictures afterward. She didn’t want any black. She was remembering the baptism of my only other grandchild, Henry, which happened on Easter 2007. She remembered the white shirt my husband Donny wore, and asked me to get it ready for him (knowing he hasn’t exactly been out buying new dress shirts). She knew I’d worn a white suit and frowned at the gray pants, white shirt and black jacket I’d originally intended.
I got out Donny’s old white shirt and my old white suit. Neither of us were going to wear those, if for different reasons. We found another acceptable shirt for him and I bought a dress. A pink dress. A hot-pink sleeveless dress that somehow looked great on me. It had this sassy, sort of flouncy skirt and, even though I was pretty sure I’d return it, it was so cheap on sale that I thought later, ‘Even if I don’t wear it for the baptism, when will I ever again find a dress that fits me like this?’ It was something about the fit.
I eventually decided to pair the pink dress with a white linen, three-quarter sleeve blazer that got passed on to me from my other daughter, Angela, and that I realized was what she’d worn for Henry’s big event. Sounded great. But I’ve never had the kind of legs that can go without hose and it being early April with snow still on the ground here in Minnesota, my legs are so white as to make the hose an absolute necessity. I had to go buy a pair—that’s how long it has been since I’ve worn a dress. I’m not kidding. I didn’t even know where to look for them in my local Target.
Unfortunately, after getting ready, the dress was clinging to the hose and I had to hunt down a slip. Now, I’m quite certain I haven’t worn a slip since my job at the University of Minnesota, but I still had one. It was black, but the dress wasn’t sheer or anything, so I thought it would be fine.
What I hadn’t accounted for was that I’m thinner than I was in my U of M days. As I carried the gifts to the altar in my pink dress, my black slip—well—slipped and slipped until it was hanging well beneath the edge of my dress. I realized it about then and hitched it up as well as I could when I got back to my pew and thought it would stay that way for some odd reason. That’s how I came to have pictures taken with my slip showing. One of my friends told me her husband said “It’s a good look.” My sister said, “I thought at first it was part of the dress. Black and pink go together.” My mom was strangely silent.
My sister, me, and baby Jack. This was the only size picture that would show the whole of my dress (and the wandering slip).
That was yesterday. I’ve been wondering since then if it was a sign…like who am I kidding? What am I doing wearing a dress again? When I got home and put on my black sweat pants and my gray turtleneck (it had cooled down from a stunningly beautiful, sunny, high-50’s afternoon), I caught site of myself in the mirror and shook my head. Now I looked “like me” and comfortable, and I thought of my friends who had come in their slacks, looking like “themselves”, and my counter-part, Jack’s other grandma, who looked very nice in a simple but decorative white shirt worn with, I’m pretty sure, a pair of jeans.
Was it one of those moments that say, “Just be who you are, be who you are, be who you are?” I actually think it was, even though I intend to wear the dress again—at least when it’s 80 degrees and humid and I need something that looks nice—but maybe not only then. I bought the dress not only for Mia’s desire to have a certain kind of picture, but because it pleased me. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since something hot-pink, or with a flouncy skirt did that. I felt light and sprightly in it (especially after I took off the slip). I have that side too and I may want to honor it on occasion.
The baptismal reading was from the Gospel of John (11:1-43) that speaks of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It’s the one that has the famous three word sentence, the shortest in the New Testament, the one that says, “And Jesus wept.”
Sitting next to me was my mom, whose brother Lewis just died, and two rows back, my friend Susan whose mother passed three weeks ago. And being held in the pew before me was the not-quite five-month-old Jack being ceremoniously initiated into new life. It all made a lovely sort of cyclical sense.
Lazarus (and Baptism for that matter) are a sign of what Jesus would do for all humanity—have us resurrect in life. I could go on and on talking about that, but I’ll end as I began with a pink dress and a slip-sliding slip, noting that if we’re resurrected “within” life we will still be wearing clothes.
Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb. He was bound hand and foot by his burial cloth. Jesus said, “Loose him; let him go.” New life is like that. Like being unbound. The liberation of being loosed of bounds means I quit pigeon-holing myself—even into thinking I’m too liberated to ever stick myself in a dress again, or too old (or mature or spiritual…or what have you) to flounce, or to laugh…at myself.