Living the Good Life 12-6-10
My sister, Nancy, and I tend to get pretty competitive whenever Mom starts weeding through her closets. (Now 91, she’s started cutting back on social events, which means she doesn’t get gussied up as often as before.) For us, catching Mom at the right time means that we stand really good chances of making out like bandits … especially me, for the simple fact that I’m the one who is built most like her.
Nancy, eight years my senior, has always been the taller, reedier daughter and most of Mom’s stuff ends up being too loose on her. “You’ve got Mom’s broad shoulders,” she’s often said, or “you have more up top.” Our most recent try-on session, however, turned out to be a bit more in her favor; reason being, I’ve gained around 20 pounds over the year since my last visit home.
For Nancy, it was the perfect opportunity to dig at me in her own, special way. “That shirt gaps in front,” she said primly after I’d buttoned myself into a lime-green blouse.
“Let me try it.” The same thing happened after I’d stuffed myself into an embroidered red Tee.
“Uh uh, that won’t work either. Call it mine. I can use it for substitute teaching.”
“I need work clothes, too, you know,” I sighed, draping it over a bedpost. “I could always wear a shirt over it.” My sister ignored me.
Mother, meanwhile, rooted out two identically-cut (but different-colored) summer dresses and handed one to each of us. I could barely drag mine over the hips, but it was a keeper. Nancy swam in hers. “My, my, you certainly do fill out every inch of that material,” she pointed out as she picked at her own seams.
“You look like a kid playing dress-up,” I countered.
“Nancy, that cut won’t do on you,” Mother intervened. “Your neck is too long.” I stifled a smile as she reluctantly took it off, adding it to my bag. Next, Mom brought forth a bright pink, turtleneck sweater dress, carefully lifting it over Nancy’s head. When her face popped out of the top, her ultra-short hair was sticking straight up. Mom and I both eyed her critically as she turned about, pausing for final approval with one hand on her hip and other playfully extended.
“Nah, it’s too big,” I said immediately. Mom agreed. When I took my turn in the mirror, however, I was a bit chagrined at how tightly the material hugged my body. “Wow, Mom, you must have really filled this out!” I exclaimed.
Mom shrugged. “It was better on the model in the catalogue.”
“Well, Honey, you certainly do look Reubenesque these days,” Nancy grinned.
“Reuben who?” I asked suspiciously.
“You know, that famous painter who specialized in fa … er … women of generous proportions.”
“You used to say that I was Victorian, like Kate Winslet in ‘Titanic.’ ” Turning sideways for a different view, I muttered, “I should have brought my Spanx.”
“What’s that?” Mom asked.
“A type of body girdle, Ma,” Nancy explained.
Mother wrinkled her nose. “You don’t need a girdle,” she scoffed.
“That’s right,” I poo-poo’d my sibling. “I’m just full-figured!”
Nancy and I got giddier as Mom continued to sort out her goodies. We mock-shoved each other out of the way while jockeying for mirror space; shrieked “Me first! Me first!” with every new item; pretend-quarreled over who looked better in what; and at one point, collapsed in giggles after an impromptu “Mother likes you best!” routine. In the end, however, my pile of clothing was definitely the largest and no one was surprised. I did feel a little guilty about it, though, until Mom briefly left the room and we heard her unzipping a garment bag in the den. When she returned, she was carrying one of the most mouth-watering garments that I’d EVER seen.
Classically cut in a ’50s style, its blue, purple, and pale gold stripes blended together so subtly that the fabric seemed to shimmer. She handed it to Nancy, saying “I bought this dress for a party. It’s only been worn once.” Nancy carefully stepped into it, buttoned the shiny, faux pearls and then pulled at the belt. As slender as she was, even sucking in her tummy she could barely get it hooked.
“Whoa, Mom!” we exclaimed in stereo. “You must have been so tiny!”
“And, I’d already had two babies by then,” Mom told us, adding with a twinkle in her eye, “Nancy, you look like I USED to.”