She goes by Christen now–her given name, but for me she will always be Sissi (or Sis, for short). We have called her that since her brother first learned to speak but couldn’t say her name. So, if you will forgive a mom her nostalgia and permit me, I will tell you a little bit about our Sissi girl.
By the age of two, she would walk to the closet and clearly point out exactly what she wanted to wear. Or she would let me know the color she wanted to wear, whether pink or purple or green. She was raised those early years in West Africa where all of our garments were fashioned by tailors. Christmas rolls around and a new dress is in order? Draw your design, go get fabric and bring it all to the tailor. By age four or five she knew exactly what she wanted. Being a bit less risky than she is, even then I would try and discourage some of her choices. Little did I know her flare was a gift for thinking outside the box and putting together beautiful ensembles that others simply would not dream up.
I still sewed for her from time to time especially after we left Senegal. Piano recital? New dress thanks to her great grandmother’s old Singer sewing machine. When we lived in Brussels, she needed a gown for a voice recital. I still remember the fear of cutting fabric that cost more than any I had ever purchased before! New job? New fabric and to the sewing machine I went. Over the years it began to change a bit. Rather than go look at patterns and choose a fabric she would send me a picture and say, “Mom, can you do this?” (Imagine an emoji face here with eyes and mouth wide open!)
Growing up, her creativity and artistic penchant were evident in so many ways. As a child in art classes in Miami, her teacher told me, “What makes her different is her ability to see colors and put things together in ways that others wouldn’t.” When she won third place in the Coconut Grove Art Festival in Miami one of the judges told me, “It was her ability to understand the project and put obvious heart and emotion into it.”
Before smart phones that had closet organization apps, she had her own “paper app” where she catalogued her clothes, put them together in ensembles and then spread them out over a period of time making the most of her wardrobe without ever wearing the same thing twice. No doubt if she were a techie she would have been the one to design the app!
It has always humbled and pleased me that she wanted me to make her clothes and would wear them proudly. I remember once telling her, “I am happy to. Just don’t ever ask me to make your wedding dress!” The day came however and she said, “Mom, I want this dress for my wedding but it is no longer available.” (Here would be a sad face emoji and a panic face emoji!) Of course we found a way to make the dress and I am forever grateful to the friends who came alongside me to help and advise me.
We were so excited when Sis and her husband David joined us on this latest trip back to Senegal. However, it did not take anytime (in fact less than a couple of hours) for her fashion brain to start turning as she looked at fabric and dreamed of designs. Before we left she said, “Mom, we need to start a business!” This time I excitedly said, “YES!”