I found it in a little shop somewhere in Kokomo... or was it Fort Wayne? The deep purple hue and classic cut caught my attention right away - that and the fun-loving ruffle twisting it's way up and around the neckline.
It was on clearance too! Score one for me! Unfortunately, it was on clearance due to an issue with the zipper along the right side seam. No problem, I decided. My mother is a skilled seamstress and could quickly and easily replace the damaged zipper for me. I would have a lovely, high-quality dress at a rock-bottom price. I was sold!
My first opportunity to wear the dress came only a short time later. A certain brother of mine had been elected to Congress and we as a family were about to make a trip to Washington DC to witness Marlin's swearing in ceremony. I tried my precious purple dress on and was surprised to discover that the zipper was in much better condition than I had remembered. With five other people to pack for, I breathed a sigh of relief that the zipper would not need to be replaced and carefully packed it away for the trip.
When we arrived in DC, I wanted nothing more than to just "keep it together"! I was proud of my brother and his accomplishments and was determined NOT to embarrass him in any way! So when it came time to make our way to the Capitol building for the ceremony, I stepped into the private restroom in Marlin's office to slip into my purple dress.
All went according to plan until it came time to zip up the dress. A side zipper is a little difficult to maneuver so my panic didn't set in immediately. I twisted this way and that, but the zipper would not budge.
I sucked in my gut a little tighter and breathed a prayer for God's hand of mercy on my life. Nothing. Someone knocked on the door, and I began to sweat. What was I going to do?
The bathroom was tiny and I began to feel claustrophobic. Suddenly, I remembered the gray cardigan I had tossed into my bag at the last minute. "Please let it be long enough, please let it be long enough!" I begged as I pawed through the crumbled clothing. Yanking the sweater around my shoulders, I glanced in the mirror and decided God must still love me! The sweater just barely covered the gaping hole on the side of my dress - but at least it was covered!
I straightened my hair, patted my dress, pulled on my heels and pasted a smile on my face. Stepping out into the office, I passed journalists, politicians and interns. Scanning the packed room, I finally found my salvation - MOM! Still smiling, I grabbed her and pulled her into a back office. With the door firmly closed, I pulled back the sweater and showed her the offending zipper.
"Not a problem," she determined as she instructed me to raise my arms so she could more easily close the zipper. No luck.
She called in a friend to help. One pulled the fabric tightly together as the other yanked hard on the zipper. Time was running out and I knew it was almost time to get to the ceremony, yet there I stood, leaning over a desk as two women grunted and groaned as they pulled and tugged - trying to get me into that purple dress. It was that precise moment when the door burst open. The poor man's face swayed between ashen white and deep red as he muttered an apology and backed out the door, closing it behind him.
Finally, we gave up. The zipper wasn't going to close and there was nothing more we could do. I pulled the cardigan back on and away we went.
Our walk to the Capitol building seemed to take forever - the high heels didn't help. I kept the sweater pulled in firmly around my waist as the words "wardrobe malfunction" kept running through my mind.
I laugh every time I picture that day. I'm sure I looked something akin to Cinderella's step sisters struggling to fit their fat feet into that delicate glass slipper as I leaned over a Congressman's desk with two women yanking and pulling with all their strength to get me into the dress. But I'm thankful for the dress (mom promptly replaced the zipper upon arriving home again), and the lesson I learned that day.
Try as we might to look like we have it all together, we're all the same inside. While sitting in the House Gallery that day, observing the important people below, I wondered how many of them were struggling to hide blemishes of their own. The thought humbled me and I left determined to have more sympathy, more love, and more tolerance for the imperfections of others. I wondered what their deepest sorrows, greatest fears, and biggest disappointments were. I studied their faces wondering how many felt alone or misunderstood.
I was reminded that no matter how big or small our station in life, we all have those moments that remind us of who we are. More important that appearing to have it all together, I was reminded to focus on who I am in Christ and find my confidence in Him.
Unlike lovely purple dresses, He will never let you down!