By Norman Bower
For The Catholic Messenger
Weddings usually have something old, new, borrowed and blue but in November a baptism in Davenport had a similar arrangement.
Jay and Kandis Bower, parishioners at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, welcomed their son, Dax, to the family Aug. 29. Father Apo Mpanda, the pastor, baptized Dax at the church Nov. 13.
For the ceremony, Dax wore an heirloom gown that dates back to 1871. It was made by his great-great-great-grandmother, Anna Bower, of Goodland, Ind., and was worn by all nine of her children. For his holy day, Dax was the “something new.” The gown was his “something old,” as well as borrowed (from relatives in Indiana.) And his mom made sure his soft, warm blue blanket was on hand to protect him from the chilly breeze that day.
Dax is the 268th family member to wear the sheer cotton gown, following in his father’s footsteps (number 166), as well as his sister Jaida Rose (number 263) and his grandfather, Norm Bower of Davenport (number 81).
The delicate garment is 6 feet long and was hand-embroidered in an era before machine stitching was common. It has been worn mainly by babies in the Midwest, but it also has been to Ireland for a christening in 2010, to Rome in 2001, and to the east and west coasts of the United States.
Having this tradition is very special, but honestly having the gown in our house for a few days is very nerve-wracking. We are glad it’s here and will be glad when it is back with “the keeper,” my cousin Agnes Snyder in Lafayette, Ind. She recently washed the garment, which happens once every few years. Great care is taken in that process, and it air-dries. It is stored in special tissue and comes with several documents and news stories related to its history.
Because babies tend to be bigger these days and because of the garment’s age, parents just drape the gown over the baby for the baptism. The less wear-and-tear means it will survive more years and connect many more generations.
Other St. Anthony parishioners on the grandparent list for Dax include Linda Bower, and Dave and Kay Konrardy. Fr. Apo presided at the wedding of Dax’s parents in June 2011.