If you're a fan of my facebook album "Canada Day Through the Ages" then this story may interest you. I wrote a story for the current issue of Bread 'N Molasses (on sale now!) all about the dress Sorcha is wearing in the photos and how it has become to mean so much more then just Sorcha trying on this dress every Canada Day.
I had a dream recently in which I told someone in the dream that for my Bread ‘N Molasses article I was going to write about soccer. When I woke up I realized, no matter how certain I had been in the dream, there was no way I could do this. The World Cup News has obviously slipped into my subconscious enough for me to dream about it, but all I really know about soccer is that it seems necessary for a player to rip his shirt off when he scores a goal.
I also thought about writing an article detailing my recent trip with my daughter Sorcha to the West Coast. I thought about describing all that had changed in the 4 years since we’d moved away, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. It’s not that I’m against change, not at all. It’s just that so much changed so quickly. The community I grew up in no longer looked like my old stomping grounds. I was a stranger to the new box stores and large ever expanding suburban areas. I was but a ghost of what was once a quieter town.
However, while we were away, we made sure to honour a tradition held in our family every year on Canada Day for the last 7 years; the wearing of the Canada Day dress. This seemed like as good a topic as any.
In 2003, when Sorcha was 20 months old, we went to Ottawa for my sister-in-law’s wedding. A friend of my mother-in-law generously volunteered to make Sorcha a dress for the wedding. While on the hunt for material for this dress, she found a material covered in Canadian Flags and insisted on making Sorcha 2 dresses. Both dresses were beautiful. Sorcha looked adorable in her wee white dress covered in little blue flowers, but unfortunately the only time she wore this dress was at her Aunt’s wedding. However, the Canadian Flag dress got a lot more use and became much more to us then just a dress.
On Canada Day of that year, we attended a party at a friend’s place. While Sorcha tromped around the yard in her second new dress of the season, Canadian Flags waving from shoulders to knees, our friend Erin took her picture and sent me a copy not long after we’d returned home. It was adorable. She’d caught Sorcha in mid strut. She looked sure footed and proud. I love this picture and hung it immediately on the fridge.
The following Canada Day, the dress being a tent style dress, was a bit shorter, but still fit very well. I’m not sure what made me think to do so, but while Sorcha stood in the kitchen waiting for her close up, I grabbed her yard stomping photo off the fridge and asked her to hold it front of her while I took a picture of her in Canada Day Dress. And the rest is history. Since then, every Canada Day Sorcha puts on the dress and we take a picture of her wearing it while holding the picture of herself wearing the dress from the Canada Day the year before and in the picture of the picture she’s holding a picture of herself wearing the dress from the year before…you get the idea. Every year the roots to this tradition get longer, the history gets deeper, the little girl in the picture gets bigger, and the dress she’s wearing gets smaller. In 2006 it had become a very short dress. So short that shorts were now required under the dress. By Canada Day 2009 it was a full on shirt, but it still fit her.
As Canada Day 2010 neared, some of our friends anxiously asked if we were going to bring the dress with us on our trip out west to continue to the tradition, but more importantly, did I think the dress would still fit? Honestly, I really didn’t think it would. I had considered over the year making it bigger by adding a new panel of material to the dress, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be like cheating. If the dress in its original state didn’t fit, then it didn’t fit. We would figure out how to show this new development when the time came. However, on July 1st 2010, with a bit of struggling and mild squawks of protest from Sorcha that she couldn’t get one of her arms in one of the arm holes, we got the dress on. It still fit…sort of. It wasn’t much shorter then it had been the previous year as most of her growth had been in her legs and not her torso, but it was tighter across the shoulders. The button at the top of the dress refused to close and it uncomfortably snug under her arms. Sorcha suffered wearing it long enough to for the taking of the tradition photo and then politely asked to have it taken off.
This day has become very special to us because it’s not just about tradition, it’s about change. The size of the dress represents the physical changes in Sorcha and the backdrop of the photograph represents all of the changes our family has been through since we started this yearly snapshot. We’ve moved a lot. Between her birth and turning 5, Sorcha experienced 5 moves. Most of these moves are represented in the Canada Day photo because the first 4 photos were taken in 4 different apartments. The 5th photo was taken in the same on as the 4th; a big deal to be sure for us. When I clicked the button on the camera, capturing Sorcha in her dress in front of the same door as the year before, it was a very happy moment. The same place 2 years in a row showed continuity in our lives. Something we had sorely lacked for years. Last year, the 2009 photo was taken in a different location then the previous 2, in front of a different door, but it wasn’t a rented door it was our door. This was the first Canada Day photo taken in a house we’d bought. The photo now had new layer; home. This change in the photograph was an extremely welcome one and one we were never sure would exist.
Now of course, this year the photo was taken no where near that door, because of being, as I mentioned, on the west coast, but next Canada Day, or as we now call it, “Oh Can-It-Fit Day, we’ll pull out the dress and the camera and Sorcha will stand in front of our door. The wearing of the dress is a fun tradition, but the Canada Day picture to me represents the journey our family has taken to find a place we could call home. That journey is finally over. We finally have a home Sorcha can grow up in and grow of the Canada Day Dress in. The picture of Sorcha in or at least holding the dress will now simply show the passage of time. As I said, I don’t mind change because clearly it’s inevitable, but our home, our door is one thing I truly hope stays the same.