INSIDE, OUTSIDE, UPSIDE DOWN

 
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The package contains a hand-crafted, inside out dress.

Not inside out so you could turn it around the right way. It is made inside out - cut and sewn with the material facing the wrong direction.

White, with a sailboat pattern, it features red boats with blue sails. There are ties at the back of the dress and short, cuffed sleeves of the same material.

The nautical theme continues with a red sailor collar.

It is an exquisitely made dress for a four-year-old, crafted by expert hands -  a dress made by a Grandmother whose eyesight is failing.

A most-treasured little dress.

Back when the Acadian’s eyes fully-functioned and her shoulders were not stiffened by arthritis, Arthur brought her a surprise.

It was shortly after he joined the Black Watch.

“What do you have there,” she says suspiciously, turning away from the stove. A fricot bubbles in a pot on the burner as she watches her grown son dig into a large, army green duffle bag.

Her dark, green eyes shine when she sees what he takes from the duffel bag.

It’s a beautiful Black Watch kilt – the same as the one he wore strutting into the house just a short time before.

“It’s one of the kilts they’ve retired – I was able to get it cheap, Ma,” he says, enjoying her delight.

She runs her hand over the soft, wool of the dark kilt.

“Nine yards of material – that should make a few skirts for the girls.”

Indeed, seam-ripper in hand, she turns out enough material for a wee kilty with matching vest and four box-pleated skirts. All the tartan is cut, matched and expertly sewn within a week or so.

And, in the years to follow, when long-awaited grandchildren come, there are Cape Breton tartan bowties and vests for the lads and kilties and vests for the little girls.

Each prom or grand occasion warranted a swing at the sewing machine -  wedding dresses, a suit for a first job interview or a pretty dress for an upcoming party. Countless yards of material, buttons, ribbons and laces pass through her hands.

After bringing six boys into the world – one dear little fellow died within a few months of his birth – the Acadian refused to believe in 1946 that the baby girl they placed in her arms really belonged to her.

“Oh, this can’t be mine – I don’t have girls,” she remembers telling a kind-faced nurse.

Truth be told, the nurses were disappointed the baby was female, as they were rooting for a seventh son.

“But it’s the seventh son of a seventh son that is supposed to have powers,” she told the nurses.

The nurses suggested this seventh son could have had a seventh son.

“It’s got to start somewhere.”

In any event, the wee child in the Acadian’s arms was female.

“And she’s dark – all my babies were very fair-skinned and I don’t have girls.”

Well, you do now, they responded.

After years of making clothes for little boys, she went home with her girl and immediately made nine dresses.

Four more girls followed in the next nine years or so. The dresses were passed down. I used to tease the Acadian that the youngest must have worn rags.

Over the years, there were knitted mittens and socks and scarves and hats by the bushel.

With 10 children over a span of almost 20 years, the knitting and mending seemed to never end.

And then one day it does.

And all that is left is one little dress, well-made, tenderly packaged and inside out.