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Thursday, January 07, 2010

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Dancing Clothes

After nearly thirty minutes of holding up tops and bottoms and guessing at sizes, I had settled on the soft mint green ones. "Gilligan O'Malley pajamas," my mother had said, when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She loves to shop at Target when she comes to visit, and she particularly loves that line. The green flannel set was just like something she would pick for herself, I knew--comfy and cuddly. Just the kind of thing a grandma would wear.

I was about to wheel my cart down the aisle toward the shoe section, to see if I could find a pair of coveted high heels for my five year old niece (a calculated move in a campaign to get elected Favorite Auntie for Life), when I brushed past a rack of silky nighties.

Negligees, I thought, remembering my mother's word for her sleepwear when I was a little girl who played dress up in her strappy evening shoes, pretending it was my turn to go to the ball. I reached out and fingered the satin, recalling her in the mornings, her cropped chestnut curls tousled, her lovely long legs moving beneath something sheer and flowing as she made us hot breakfast, her always-tanned decollete soft and warm when she pulled us close. My father bought nightgowns for her as birthday and Christmas presents, and she would always vamp for him in the newest one, as my sister and I admired. They loved each other beyond divorce, to the end of his life, but back then there was a passion between them of which my sister, three and half critical years younger, has no memory. But I remember them dancing close on the living room floor, seeing them kiss in the kitchen, hearing curious noises from behind their bedroom door at night, before the sad and angry sounds replaced them.

They divorced, and he died, and she lives alone now in the home she made for herself, overlooking a sea that is the same blue-grey as her eyes. Her hair and skin are still golden-brown, and her bosom is still a warm and welcoming place to rest a child's head, as my sister's children, who live around the corner, well know. She has many, many friends of both genders and all ages, but there has been no man in her life to replace my father. She used to talk lightly about finding someone, but not so much anymore. I think maybe she has given up, if she was ever really looking. I think she feels that part of life is behind her. She jokes that she has gotten too old and too heavy, but she is sixty-six, vibrant and still beautiful. I know there is someone wonderful out there who would love to dance close with her.

She doesn't need anyone. She is complete and her life is rich. But I would love for her to find romance with someone kind and adoring, who would give her lacy things and awaken the vamp again. Passion with more laughter, less heartache. Easy for me to say, from my forty-year-old vantage point, I know. I shouldn't presume.

I slid the hangers along the chrome rack like abacus beads. Calculating. This one. It was a satin leopard print, elegant but unequivocally sexy. It annoys me when people invoke the dead to approve their own agenda, but the thought came with quiet certainty: Daddy would want her to have this. This and more.

I took the flannel p.j.'s out of the cart, and put the leopard print negligee in, adding a few pieces in her favorite color, a deep burgundy, to mix and match with it. All together, two gowns, palazzo pants and a wrap. An ensemble she could wear unblushingly while cooking porridge on a Sunday morning for my niece and nephew, but at the same time feel glamorous in. I finished my shopping and went home to wrap the presents and meet the international shipping deadline.

As I tucked all the pretty things in tissue paper and white boxes, I imagined them being unwrapped on arrival. I hoped my niece would open her gift at the same time as Mom. The little shoes were satin too--black, with sparkly rhinestones--a child-safe, but genuinely high heel that I would probably forbid if it were my daughter. I smiled a little wickedly, feeling like a devilish fairy godmother: magical wardrobe mistress, grantor of secret wishes, maker of dancing queens and princesses. Wishing I had wings, and could be there to see them vamp.

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Blogger Neil said...

Beautiful. And my father bought "night gowns" for my mother for every birthday and valentine's day until it became a family joke that still makes me laugh.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Neil's right. Absolutely beautiful. I wish you had wings too. You deserve to see the results of your magic.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

That's a lovely piece of writing that's perfect as it is - but still I want to read a footnote about how the gifts were received - please?

2:16 PM  
Blogger Melsa said...

Got a tear in my eye.

2:21 PM  
Blogger island sweet said...

how perfectly you captured it all...

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh what a great christmas story ... what a great thing to see from the eyes of the purchaser ... the giver.

I hope they danced!!

2:54 PM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

it was a perfect gift!

6:06 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

We sometimes forget that our mothers and grandmothers don't stop being women just because they get older. Hopefully our children will remember the lesson when we get old as well.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Sandi said...

Wonderful post. Thank you for letting us in on your thoughts.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Lovely and vivid. I hope it was all well-received.

1:03 PM  
Blogger meghan said...

Poetic and beautiful. Thank you.

6:02 PM  
Blogger No New is Good News said...

Ah, Kyran, what a great story. I always think on your parents (and then of my own) being young as I walk by your old house 'in town' when I'm back in NF, and it makes me nostalgic and happy and sad.

Thanks for sharing,

11:07 PM  
Blogger Newfie_girl said...

This brought tears to my eyes!
How sad, yet beautiful all at the same time.
P.S. I'd bet you're a shoe in for Best Auntie for Life. :-)

9:19 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

I'm younger than your mother by a few decades but I have been single for a long time and it is so easy to forget that side of yourself for so many reasons - self-preservation, comfort, all of the things you listed.

I think it means so much when someone close acknowledges something in us that perhaps we don't know how to reclaim, or maybe have just put aside pending a reminder.

And this, as usual, was so beautifully told.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I just wanted to let you know that I think you write beautifully. You seem to tell a story and make the reader almost feel and smell and touch what you are describing. I really enjoy reading your stories....Michelle

9:46 PM  

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