It is a simple dress made of fine white cotton with a delicately scalloped hem, lovingly embroidered in sky blue. The dress traveled across the ocean and back more than 50 years ago and, in April, will serve the third generation of young ladies embarking on their first communion – all at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Waxahachie.
“My mother made the dress and sent it to Florence, (Italy), to be embroidered by her sister, Valeria,” said Pat Smith of Waxahachie. “The cotton has really held up. There’s no holes or anything and it has a silky feel.”
Smith wore the dress at her first communion in June 1959. Her daughter, Jessica Errisuriz, celebrated her first communion mirroring her mother’s image in May 1983. The dress sits in wait for April 30, when granddaughter, Isabella, will step to the altar for her communion day.
Smith said her mother, Tatiana, was from Florence.
“My daddy was in World War II, he was an American soldier from Waxahachie. They met and fell in love and married there (in Florence),” Smith said. “When my mother went to school – they went to school in the morning with the nuns to learn to read and write. Then in the afternoon, they learned something to do – a trade.”
She said her mother learned sewing, which is what she did throughout her life in Waxahachie. And her mother’s two sisters learned embroidery.
“Mother made all my clothes and she made quite a bit for Jessica when she was a little girl,” Smith said. “This is Jessica’s veil (that Isabella will wear). Back in my time the church gave us a veil.”
She said times have changed and now the communion instructions list the veil as optional and discourage wearing gloves.
“I remember it was a bright sunny day. There were about 15 girls and boys. We were excited because our parents had doughnuts for us for our communion breakfast and we got to go to the parish house next door and have doughnuts in our veils with all our friends,” Smith said.
Jessica said she remembered receiving her first Bible with her name on it for her communion.
“That was a big deal. I remember trying to read it. We had dinner afterwards at home with the family,” Jessica said.
Isabella, Jessica’s daughter who is in second grade at Dunaway Elementary, said she has been in training at the church since kindergarten.
“We had to watch a bunch of videos to see how to do it,” she said, saying she recently had her first confession and she only had two sins to confess. “Father said, ‘Are you bad to your dog?’ and I said no. He said, ‘Do you have a dog?’ Yes. Then he said, ‘Are you bad to your cat?’ and I said no. He said, ‘Do you have a cat?’ Yes.”
She is looking forward to making her own memorable day next month. Her father will be cooking the special dinner and Isabella has decided on lasagna and a cake just like her mother and grandmother had.
“When we were in Italy two years ago, the family bought her a gold chain and a medallion with an angel to give her on communion day – just like her mother had,” Smith said. “Jessica had a gold cross. Mine had the Virgin Mary on it.”
Smith said the aunt that embroidered the dress is 85 years old and living in Italy, where she still sits by the window and embroiders.
“We did the same thing with the baptism dress that my mother made and Valeria embroidered. Eleven of us have worn it now,” Smith said. “They were just excellent seamstresses – that’s just what they did.”
After Isabella’s communion day, the dress will return safely to storage for two years to await her younger sister Tatiana’s special day.
Contact Rebecca at email@example.com or call 469-517-1451.