I had just walked into Joann’s bedroom when Mommy came up behind me; giving me a start. She seemed much more playful than I had remembered, which was a pleasant departure from her usual dour self. Joann had a grin on that almost shouted ‘surprise’ all on its own as she pointed to the dress lying on her bed.
“Like it?” She asked and my cheeks grew hot. No one had ever asked my opinion about clothes before, and it felt oddly satisfying. Mommy picked the dress up by the hanger and held it in front of me. It wasn’t very interesting as dresses go, but it was nice in its own plain way; a light gray corduroy shirt-dress with a long full skirt and short sleeves. I shrugged my shoulders in confusion.
“Would you like to try it on?” Mommy asked. Joann started to giggle; at one inch short of five feet, she almost looked elfin. She was about as slim as I’d ever seen her and she finally had grown to that place that was more than pretty. Mommy nodded at her and Joann walked to her closet. Standing on tip-toe, she reached up to the shelf above the clothes rod and pulled down a fairly large cardboard box; dark pink with a lid much like a shoe box, but deeper and broader. She placed it on the floor and removed the lid, exposing six pairs of shoes.
“Maybe this will help,” she said as she pulled another box out of the closet. It was wrapped in plain white tissue paper and resembled the box of shoes in size. She handed it to me and smiled.
“I don’t know….” I felt the words in my heart, but no sound escaped my mouth.
“Go ahead. It’s okay,” Mommy said as she held the dress up again. In a moment the box lay on the bed, unwrapped and the lid removed; revealing a slip and a bra and panties and so many more nice soft things underneath. I touched the garments and they felt strangely familiar. Not in the truest sense; it wasn’t really a secret to anyone that I had dressed up now and then. Everything just felt as if I’d seen and felt and even worn them before even though they were brand new.
“Here,” Mommy said and she took the dress off the hanger and held it over my head. In a second I was wearing the dress.
“See. It fits.” Joann practically giggled in an ‘I told you so’ manner. Mommy nodded and helped me out of the dress. She picked up the box from the bed and handed it to me, motioning toward my bedroom with her head. Only minutes later I was back in Joann’s room, completely dressed. It almost felt like a nice movie where everyone is welcome and loved and accepted. Mommy had tears in her eyes and Joann wore the same grin as before; she knew Mommy better than anyone and probably had seen her cry more than anyone as well.
"It's a party," Joann blurted out.
"And you're the guest of honor."
“Your aunts want to help.” Mommy said, motioning toward the stairs.
“They’re waiting for you in the living room.” Joann said with another giggle. She might have been older than me but she was always more playful.
“Aunt Chick and Aunt Marie came, too,” Mommy said. Somehow this conspiracy had brought peace between Mommy and them, and they were going to be a big part of the day.
“Aunt Alice and Aunt Trudy and Aunt Marge will be here soon, and your cousin Barbara is coming from Pennsylvania.” I had always looked up to Barbara; I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen next to Mommy, and if I couldn’t be just like Mommy, Barbara was a wonderful second choice.
“They’re all here to help, honey,” Mommy said. Joann pointed to the box of shoes. While the sandals with the two-inch block heel looked nice, I went with the charcoal flats; feeling safer and more secure. Joann nodded.
“Maybe you can wear the sandals next time,” she said. I grabbed the shoes and in a moment they adorned my feet; it felt as if they were made just for me.
“Your cousins can’t make it. I know Sissy and Susan and Amy would love to be here, but they’ve got plans already. And Chrissie is working all weekend. But Aunt Chick said she would be happy to help you with your makeup, and Aunt Marie promises not to be too fussy; no cheeks pinched today.” Mommy laughed. It was wonderful to hear her talk about them with more than a little bit of joy.
"Even Aunty Marge is coming, so you know it has to be special." Mommy said, but she turned and seemed to be sad.
“It’s time,” Joann said. I turned to her and she seemed to fade. I thought I heard Mommy calling, but she seemed so far away….
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