63: Gifts Near and Far, Seen and Unseen


When I see the postage stamps from Australia, it becomes immediately obvious that the childhood stamp collector in me is alive and well. When I open the envelope and have a look inside, my current self dances and squeals with delight, and before you can say “Jack Rabbit”, the ideas and gratitude are flowing like melted chocolate.


There’s a blue party dress . . . and I imagine it was made for a spring dance with flowers and punch and petit fours and gawky boys awkwardly repeating the phrases their mothers taught them to use when asking blushing girls to dance.


There’s a green dress likely worn by the friend wearing the blue dress. They go to the dance together, their parents dropping them off at the curb, making sure they know to be back out at 10 when the dance ends. The blue and green girls giggle on the way in, adjusting the wrist corsages their fathers present them with before escorting them to the car, opening the back doors for them before getting in the front seat as all proper chauffeurs do for their princesses.


There’s a yellow dress . . perhaps worn by the shy girl who couldn’t afford a bona fide party dress. Her mother picks two roses from the bush at the front door – a third generation bush rooted from a cutting of the bush in her grandmother’s yard – using the butcher knife with the worn wooden handle to remove the thorns before tying the roses onto her daughter’s wrist with a piece of ribbon she cut off one of her better dresses. Being too young to be bothered with such things as household income and socio-economic status, not even knowing what any of the parents did for a living, the yellow dress bounds out of her mother’s pickup truck in time to catch up with her friends so they can enter together, gleefully talking over each other in anticipation of the magic that waits on them behind the closed doors. For the rest of their seventy-two years, the three friends smile when they pull these dresses from the cedar chest and relive that first dance.


There are two of the most adorable mother-and-son aprons with crocheted embellishment you’ve ever seen. Do you see that young woman in the kitchen, wiping her hands on her blue-and-white checked apron before offering the mixer beaters to her young son who’s standing on a stool beside her wearing his matching apron? “Do you want to lick the beaters?” she asks him. Her grandmother taught her how to crochet, and these embellishments were her first solo project.


And as if all that isn’t enough, there are shoes, too!

The goodie bag is from Faye Cook, a woman I got to know a couple of years ago when she reads about Nancy and writes me about her sister, Libby. We become friends, exchanging the occasional email to compare notes and talk with somebody who understands. Faye’s other sister, Jane (who obviously sees possibility everywhere), rescued these beauties from the trash bin at a local op shop (something we call a thrift store) and asked if Faye knew of anybody who would like them. Jane, let me tell you that as a woman who rescues Special Occasion Dresses, I don’t like them . . . I cherish them. I cherish them for their beauty, for their delicateness, for the happiness they brought somebody I’ll never know. I adore them for their imperfections, treating every stain and every tear as a story worth telling, and that they were pulled from the brink of oblivion is cause for celebration.

My daughter and I open the package together, pulling the items out one at a time, oohing and ahing over them. Holding them up to us. Imagining the women who once wore these dresses. thinking of how to best preserve them and their stories. It is the most I’ve heard Alison laugh since her surgery, and that’s a gift, too. An unintended gift, perhaps, but a gift nevertheless. And a “Thank you” to Faye and Jane hardly seems adequate, but for now, it’ll just have to do.


  1. moon

    And because of your story telling talents extraordinaire, I got to laugh and oooooh and ahh too! A gift that keeps giving!

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