So there I am with a small baby, actually he’s not small, he’s huge, as in buying his first winter jacket when he is 9 months old and I can only get a jacket for a 2 year old to fit him. Anyway back to the not so small baby. His christening was coming and I hadn’t a clue what to put him in. There is no generational/heirloom robe on either side so I set off shopping. Can I find anything? Not a hope and yes his size does have something to do with it. So after much pondering I make the decision to get a pattern and cut up my wedding dress. So far so good. So there I am scissors in hand, yards and yards of a wedding dress everywhere, sister in law giving me directions as to where to exactly start this cut and I can’t do it. No matter how hard I try and bearing in mind that I really want to do it, I just can’t. So sister in law departs with my dress and returns the following evening with it all in pieces. Strange how something so big reduces to something so small with attacked with a dressmaker’s scissors. I nearly cried but no, my decision, my baby boy was going to look beautiful in this christening robe.
Many hours later the robe is finished and I try it on him. It fits and looks lovely though quite modern. As I look lovingly at him, hoping he doesn’t puke all over it, I wistfully dream of the future grandchildren and great grandchildren and maybe even another generation wearing my wedding dress as their christening robe and I am happy.
Three nights before the christening, there is a knock on the door. As I answer I see this quite elderly lady with a rather large gift. I haven’t a clue who she is. She enquires after my husband by name and when he arrives introduces herself. I can see a look of recognition in his face at the name but I’m still clueless. To this day I wish I had remained such. He welcomes her in, offers the usual tea and coffee and we all sit. Then she tells her story. It comes out that she is a distant relation of my husbands and like with most families there had been a family row and her particular branch of the family broke away. This row occurred a couple of generations ago, so long ago that no one knows what caused it. This woman was highly educated and married but sadly had never been blessed with children. Within her branch of the family there was a christening robe that had been used for many generations but which she was now in possession of and, having heard, on the grapevine, that we had a christening coming up she decided to gift this robe to me as apparently it had originated in my husband’s branch of the family and she felt it was time to rightfully return it to its correct owners. With that she handed me the package and out came the most beautiful Victorian christening robe. This was the genuine article. It had been very carefully packed and preserved over the years and it was so fine, it was like holding a spider’s web. There were tears in her eyes as she saw me ooh and ah over it and then the reality hit me.
I’d just cut up my wedding dress and made it into a christening robe. What was I going to do with this one? This very elegant lady said that she would love to see our son christened in it and asked if she could come to the church on Saturday. I am now beginning to panic and my husband can see the hysteria in my face. Very quickly, thinking on my feet, I thank her sincerely for such a lovely present but sadly point out that our boy is very big and it is unlikely to fit him. She assures me that it will definitely fit him although we may have to leave the back of it open – it is yards and yards of lace. My husband tells her that whereas we would love to have her in the church it will not be possible as we are only allowed a certain number but that she would be more than welcome back in the house afterwards – little white lie. I can see he is plotting something.
After our visitor leaves I’m in tears. Having originally wanted a family heirloom now, I feel, I have made my own, and then been landed with this magnificent robe that symbolises the end of a huge family row. Oh what to do? We decide to try the robe on our son, hoping it won’t fit – it does, of course. I phone my sister in law and my next door neighbour to come and have a look and help me make the decision. They both say that this Victorian robe is such a work of art that I must let our son wear it. I finally go to bed tossing and turning all night and wake up with a decision made – my son will wear my wedding dress which will be our family heirloom!
Saturday arrives and we all troop off to the church with the baby looking tremendous in my robe. My husband has the wicked idea of changing the boy into the other robe as soon as we get back from the church and that way when the Lady comes to visit she will know no different.
The ceremony goes well, the baby doesn’t puke and everyone is happy. As we are holding the baby walking back down the aisle about to leave the church my husband stops dead. I ask him what’s wrong and he says “look” oh no there is the lady. She had decided to catch us in her beautiful robe as we left the church. If the ground could have swallowed us up at that very moment I would have been happy. I nearly died. Once again, with quick thinking, my husband apologised but explained that the baby had been sick just as we were leaving for the church and we had no choice but to change robes at the last minute. I, meanwhile, felt sick to the core.
So what happened the Christening Robe/s. I packed them both away carefully with other bits and bobs from when the boy was a baby for him to look at in adulthood and for him and his partner to decide which would be their christening robe. 9 years later we moved house. As usual there was a massive de cluttering in the old house, runs to the dump etc. Over the coming months I was sorting out my attic in the new house and find the box with the robes. I smiled to myself thinking back on the panic the week of the boys christening and open the box to look at the robes and see are they both as good as I remember. They are not there! They have vanished! I close the box, I open it again, I empty it, I re pack it but no robes. Other items I packed away with them are but no sign or sight of either robe. What happened to them? I haven’t a clue. Every time I’m in the attic I look again just in case they have reappeared but, sadly no. Where are they? Who has them? How did they get them? I would give anything to know so if you come across someone with 2 christening robes, a modern French lace one or a very delicate, magnificent Victorian lace one please ask them where they got them. The Robes now have their own story to tell