Summer posed accordingly, bashfully smiling as she sent joined hands and her head to the right, causing just enough of her shoulder-length auburn locks to stroke the tip of a white-collared scotch plaid school dress.
It was a scene that has played out four other times, some in front of fireplaces, others on slides or in flower beds, across nearly five decades to carry on a makeshift tradition started by Summer's grandmother Ronda when she donned the exact same dress 47 years ago.
"I never imagined that, 47 years later," Ronda said, "I would have granddaughters who would be wearing my little red plaid dress."
In August 1966, Ronda's mom took her on a shopping trip to department store J.C. Penney's in search of a school dress. They came home with the plaid dress that Ronda thought "was so pretty."
The dress was debuted Aug. 26, 1966, when Ronda began school in Mrs. Alene Farr's first grade class.
"She was so sweet and kind," Ronda said. "I was so shy and scared to death. I didn't know any of the other kids. Mrs. Farr took us out on the playground and I began to make some new friends."
It was on that playground, particularly the slide, where Ronda was photographed wearing the dress. It was a memory that Ronda cherished, but never intended to relive until oldest daughter April got the right age and turned out to be a perfect fit for the dress.
"I didn't really plan on it becoming a family tradition," Ronda said. "I just thought it would be neat for April to wear it on her first day of school. Then, when Jennifer grew into it, she wanted to wear it, too."
In both April and Jennifer's case, the family fireplace became the backdrop for their first day snapshots; separate memories adding to one cute storyline for the dress.
"I remember feeling like a 'grown up' for wearing a dress my mom wore," April said. "I don't remember if any kids said anything, but I do remember my teacher and several others saying how much they liked my dress. I felt very important telling her that it was mom's outfit from when she was a little girl."
"Wearing the dress for myself was just another day," Jen added. "I think it means more now that two of my kids have worn it as well. My husband and our kids have moved a lot so we don't hold on to things like my mom does."
Ronda put the dress away once more, this time for nearly a decade and a half until a chance return trip to Dublin by Jen and her family put
Ronda's oldest granddaughter Emma in position to carry on the tradition once more.
"When it came time for my granddaughter, Emma, to start school, I remembered the dress and asked her if she would like to wear it," Ronda said. "She did and she was so proud. She told everyone she was wearing her 'grandma's dress."
"It was important to my mom so why not?" Jen added. "She came over on the morning of Emma's first day and took a million pictures."
This latest time around, it took a bit of coaxing from Jen to get Summer to keep the tradition alive.
"My Summer Poppy is a very opinionated kid," Jen said. "She was not interested in wearing the dress at all. A few bribes later and I got her to agree to it. We don't live in Dublin anymore so I had to do the picture taking this time around. I emailed them as soon as the kids got on the bus.
"I hate to even mention this but after the 5 of us wearing it," Jen joked, "(but) I can imagine (mom) will alter it into a shirt and try to get my son to wear it on his first day."
Ronda is quick to dismiss any rumors on alterations ("No alterations have been done on the dress. We all just happened to be the right size at the right time. To look at the dress, you would never know it is as old as it is. It was definately well made."), but all three women are hopeful there will be plenty more takers for the dress down the road.
"I don't have girls, but if I did I would love to continue the tradition," April said. " I think it would be really awesome to see Emma and Summer's daughters wear the dress. I like the idea of the dress being something with a history that is passed down through the generations."
"There was something special about seeing each of them in the dress and knowing that we all began an important part of our lives wearing it. It is a memory that we now share as a family," Ronda said. "I think it means something special to each of them to be a part of what has become a family tradition. Maybe one day, my great-granddaughters will choose to continue this story. Wouldn't that be neat?"
Information from: The Courier Herald, http://www.courier-herald.com
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