With six children in our family, and me stuck irrevocably in the middle, most of my clothes as a child were hand-me-downs. With only one sister ahead of me, however, they were still in good shape when they came to me.
When I was in fourth grade, the mother of one of the “rich” girls in church gave us a bag of clothes her daughter had outgrown. There was a red velvet jumper in the bag that fit me. I had dreamed of wearing patent leather shoes with heels that clicked on the floor like tap shoes when you walked in them. I had dreamed of wearing taffeta with layers of tulle that suspended the skirt in a perpetual twirl. But velvet was beyond imagining. Velvet was like fur and diamonds to a girl like me.
Even so, it was a dress my grandmother made for me the year I was in kindergarten that I remember with the greatest fondness. It was a new dress that no one before me had even tried on. A one-of-a-kind dress made with me in mind. I felt invisible for most of my childhood, but that dress said: “There you are. I see you.” It was blue plaid with a full skirt, puffed sleeves and lace-trimmed bib. I wore it for that most auspicious of occasions in school: Picture Day. It was my best dress and I must have worn it to shreds because I don’t remember either of my younger sisters wearing it. That dress and the memory of it remain mine alone.