For no apparent reason that I can find, I am suddenly gripped with this idea of “my children need fancy clothing”. It started innocently enough with Rosalyn asking, nicely and quietly and disturbingly politely, for a sparkly party dress for the Christmas concert at school. Completely understandable as most years I haven’t been able to afford much in the way of nice, but could at least magic something from the local Frenchy’s. Now, living in a thrift desert, it’s a little more difficult. But Ros and I have been having fun looking at all the pretty dresses online, I have fallen in the JCrew rabbit hole (I know I KNOW 500.00 is a lot for a coat but man…so cute.) She’s fallen in love with this blowy sky blue goddess dress which I love, so even though I’ll let her look on the Justice site, I think we’re good.
Vivian, being a little more on the unisex spectrum, is slightly more difficult. It’s REALLY hard to find simple dressing clothes for girls that are NOT dresses. I tried to spin the “hey, long dress & cute boots=awesome!” trick. No dice. In fact, I received a fervent eye roll for that suggestion. I think she’d rather enjoy a long dress with a sweater, some clunky boots, but as I am familiar with how I was when presented with an outfit sans crotch, I’m not going to push. She’ll either wear skirts someday, or she won’t. No civilization will fall, and it’s not a reflection on me as a mother. Even if I think she’d look ADORABLE and quite snazzy in something like this;
A smart friend reminded me about H&M, and they have a cute pair of sequined shorts and some reasonably dressy options for pants, and the “boys” section has an adorable tux shirt and a vest I think she could totally rock. So all is not necessarily lost on the fancy clothes front.
But I wondered why the sudden NEED to do this. I mean, most years there is some level of guilt that my kids are all flounce and tulle at the Christmas concert and I have a pang until they shrug and say “it’s fine, don’t care.” Rosalyn, the daughter who actually likes dressing up, has made it more and more clear that she would like something nice, but that isn’t it either. Struggling to articulate it finally it hit me.
Vivian is eleven. I was eleven when Mom died, and the frantic rush to buy me “funeral appropriate” clothing happened, and was soul crushingly awful for everyone involved. I fought the dress, and fought it until my father seemed to deflate and just said “please, just wear it.”
On some level am I preparing myself, and them for loss?
It seems like a natural and harmless enough action-it’s not hurting anyone, and frankly they need something a little more formal in their closets. With a stepfather who is a mason, we occasionally should attend certain events as a family but I’m not comfortable attending funerals in casual clothing, no matter how many other people are. And it is time to really press the idea that certain events and places necessitate particular pieces of clothing out of respect. But I think my drive to do this, at a time when frankly, 200.00 could be spent in much better ways, is rooted in the simple fact that I don’t want to chance that their stepfather might have to have the same conversation my father once did.
It’s not rational. I’m not dying, I’m not sick, and I don’t expect to suddenly keel over in the spring. But there are times when I feel overwhelmed by the need to preempt the past, to somehow prepare for the worst so I can minimize the impact if it happens. It’s hard to look at my oldest and imagine “that’s who I was when my mother died” and NOT silently panic. My mother knew I wasn’t ready, not by a long shot. Neither is my Vivian.
So in a sense, being insistent on party clothes, being obstinate to finish their bedrooms so they have “real” rooms-I think it’s driven by the year of my eldest daughter, and my memories of the same. She is so like I was then and at times, it frightens me to feel my mother within me, responding to me it seems, across the years.