As I drew the curtain back, tiny, three-year old hands flew up to little cheeks. An audible gasp fell from her mouth. And these words came with a volume the whole world could hear,
“You are SOOOOOO beautiful. And your princess dress…it’s so…so…so GWEEN!!!!!”
No, I was not, as the reaction would suggest, coming out of the dressing room at Nordstrom’s in the latest Vera Wang.
Instead, I was wiggling out of a tiny corner in an exam room sporting an ill-fitting hospital gown. It was not what the world would deem gasp-worthy. Or even particularly noteworthy.
But something in my disheveled hair, sweat-beaded forehead and unexpected entrance made the moment magical, the gown, beautiful and the fit, perfect to its young audience.
Something made it beautiful.
Perhaps it was the open, fluttery sleeves she would touch with a sweet and almost, reverend care. Perhaps it was the one-size-fit-all length that nearly hit the floor on someone only 5’2. Or perhaps it was simply different from the hoodie and jean combo that normally graced her mama’s frame.
But whatever it was, something made her stop, take notice and deem it lovely.
It was there, as I sat snuggling my little girl in my gween “princess” dress, I realized it was not so unlikely that such a declaration come to such a place in such a way over such a mundane thing.
I had been to this place before.
In a hospital gown.
In a place where someone else had called me beautiful.
In an operating room, perhaps.
With glaring lights and beeping machines blaring as he would push back my hair and whisper,
“You’re beautiful and she is too.”
The sweet little cries, the flash of the camera, the moment he held her up to my face so I could see what he saw—it all was just so lovely.
And the gown was too.
For something in my disheveled hair, sweat-beaded forehead and the long-awaited entrance had made the green gown beautiful.
And in doing so, had made me beautiful too.
But then I felt her little hands smooth the hair around my face and for a moment, I was back to being all things princess.
I laughed as she put sticky lip gloss all over my chin and lotion on my nose. But I played along with an earnest, “How do I look?”
“BEEEEAUT-I-FUL, Mommy. Just. Beautiful.”
It was then my eyes closed again to find myself in the same green gown but a different room.
The corner room of the ICU.
Lights were now quieted but machines, still beeping as he would smooth my hair, apply chapstick to my lips, lovingly rub lotion on my weary hands and whisper, “I love you.”
To which I would eek out something along the lines of, “I’m sorry I am such a mess…”
But would be answered back with another hushing, “I love you,” as he would squeeze my hand and then without complaint, leave to be where he was needed most.
Back to princesses and a prince. Back to lip gloss and Spiderman. Back to all things lovely and ours.
But his love stayed with me and once again, had made the green gown beautiful.
Had made me beautiful.
The knocking on the door brought me back to reality with a snap and I rubbed the lip gloss from my chin, sat the little princess down on the chair and climbed up onto the exam table.
The spell had been broken and my princess dress had become a hospital gown once more.
But as I left that little room with her hand in mine, I remembered all the moments I had been loved and been made to feel beautiful in that cruddy little gown.
The day we laughed that we’d just spent the money for our anniversary dinner on a hospital stay.
And should you not believe me,
Or the day we snorted that I drove myself to the ER when I needed an emergency appendectomy.
Or the day we rejoiced that the best pizza place in town was right around the corner from the hospital.
Or the day we realized we cherished this strange little place…
A place where we had met over and over and over again.
You, in your Gator cap and I, in my gween gown.
Laughing, loving and reminding each other…
Anything can be beautiful if love makes it so.