My Godmother, Isabel Manale, always bought me the most beautiful gowns. My very first one, my christening gown, was no exception. You can see me wearing it in the reddish of the two pictures. My Godchild, Arianna Gabrielle Hebert, wore it in 1986. My daughter Ashlyn Grace Chimenti, was christened in the gown in 2003 (seen in the second picture). The last person to have worn the gown, was my Godson (and Arianna’s son), Tanner James Hebert, also in 2003 (He is seen in the last photo). But this is where the real story begins….
True story by Shirelle Chimenti
As I was celebrating my daughter Ashlyn’s 2nd birthday party, I received a phone call from my family, explaining that they were heading to my home (I live in The Woodlands, TX), because they were having to evacuate. I was born and raised in St. Bernard Parish, LA (just outside of New Orleans). It was on August 29, 2005 (my daughter’s actual birthday), that my sister, mother, and grandmother, all lost their homes to hurricane Katrina. Over the next 4 months, I had 18 people living with us, some short term and some long. It was during that time that we tried to piece back parts of their lives and figure out where and when the healing could begin.a>I first wore the christening gown in 1972.
My sister was able to grab some of her pictures and movies, along with a few other memorable items prior to evacuating. I asked her one day if she had by chance grabbed my christening gown, as her grandson, Tanner, was the last one to wear it. I was happy to hear her say yes, but my joy quickly turned to sadness as we opened the gown’s storage box. It was at that moment that we realized the box had only contained the slip and the gown was missing.
Six months later, after my sister had moved back and had relocated to a new home, I went to visit and we ventured to her old house in search of the gown. She had looked for it several times prior, but as you can see from the destruction in the photos I took that day, it was like finding a needle in a haystack. We spent some time looking for it, but the house was dark, and had mud caked on everything. As we were getting ready to leave, something hit me, and I turned around and ran back in the house. This wasn’t how the story was suppose to end, and I could feel it in my heart.
I went straight to where my sister’s old master bedroom was, looked in the closet, and there was the gown clear as day! It was sitting on a collapsed shelf. It had some rust spots on it and a few damaged areas, buy compared to everything else, was still white and stood out in the disarray. When I ran out of the room, my sister’s mouth dropped. She said she had looked in the closet several times and never saw it. I simply told her that we were meant to find it that day, and that sometimes all it takes is a little sisterly love and a whole lot of faith.