Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dress Wrestling

I thought the dress quite pretty. The price was attractive, too. No need to try it on—the day was hot and muggy, I was sweaty, the tag said L. I brought the lovely thing home.

Later that evening, after a rain cooled the out of doors and a lukewarm shower cooled me, I pulled the new dress over my head. It was a tiny bit of a struggle to maneuver both arms into the snugger-than-they-looked sleeves. There was no zipper to give the dress ease, nor slashes to loosen the sleeves but I persisted. The rest of the dress fell smoothly over what a kind woman once called my “sturdy” frame.

“A little long for this heat,” I murmured, looking at myself in the mirror but that was no problem, really. I could cut off a few inches at the bottom and put in a new hem. Sweat beaded my newly washed upper lip. I turned this way and that. The dress was a lovely shade of green shot through with earth tones. Cream-colored flowers bloomed across the bodice, a waterfall of subtle stripes cascaded to my ankles.

“Perfect,” I said to my reflection. I was to go to Florida at the end of the month for my daughter’s beach wedding and the moment I got off the plane, I was due to go to dinner with her soon-to-be in-laws.

Though the dress was made of sheer cotton, I was growing warm. Perhaps this wouldn’t be the perfect dress to wear on the airplane, after all. While I was trying on things, perhaps I should scour my closet for something a little less—well—snug.

I crossed my arms and grasped the material just below my arm pits in order to lift the dress over my head. Without a zipper I certainly couldn’t wiggle it down. The dress didn’t budge. I let go and tried pulling the sleeves down a little to loosen their grip on my upper arms, then grasped wads of the skirt again and tugged. There was a slight movement. I tugged a little harder. The bodice of the dress moved up to cover my face, and the skirt flipped over my head, but the arms held fast. I hurriedly uncrossed my arms and pulled the clinging fabric away from my nose and mouth, scraping the skin from my nose with a fingernail. But the moment I drew in a gasping breath, the dress strained in an alarming way. I was being clutched to death by those cream-colored flowers and lovely earthen stripes.

The dress and I struggled against each other for a few more minutes before I finally dislodged its death grip on my shoulders and arms. I hauled it over my head and flung it to the floor, gulping for air and wiping the sweat from my purple face and a smear of blood from my smarting nose. Then I went for the scissors.

My newly renovated new dress hangs serenely in my closet, waiting for its first airplane ride. The sleeves have neatly turned and hemmed slits in the under arm seams, there’s a zipper down the middle of the back, and the skirt falls charmingly to mid-calf. All that shows of our tussle is the bright red scratch on my nose.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I believe in signs. It can be the worst of days, a day when everything goes wrong, when a favorite thing breaks, a relationship goes awry, something ends that I was hoping would go on forever. The rain keeps falling. And then right in front of the window where I’m sitting, waiting for the sky to stop weeping, a catbird skims in for a landing and perches. It looks at me, flicks its tail, opens its beak and sings its catbird song, and suddenly I feel better. It’s a sign. My mother used to whistle that same song to the catbird that nested in the lilac by the door. “Sing,” the catbird reminds me, “even in the rain.”

Thanks, Mama.

photo credit:

Friday, June 06, 2008

Blooming Without Me

"We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry." --E. B. White

So, I am gardening in between two jobs (and falling asleep the moment I sit down) and writing for a local publication when I am awake, and reading blogs though not writing much for this one. School is winding down. Soon I will have a little more leisure time. Meanwhile, here's what my flower garden is doing while I rush about.