Thinking of my mother’s wardrobe over the years

When I was little, after she lost all the weight from the pregnancy, I used to sit on the floor of the dressing room with my mother as she tried on dress after dress. I waited like a puppy for the little plastic hem-holders to drop. I had quite an impressive collection.

When I was a little older and the divorce was final there weren’t as many department store dressing rooms. We switched to the thrift shop inventory room which had a shower curtain for privacy and milk crates for me to sit on that gave me waffle prints on my derrière while I listened to my mother narrate every find: “This is to die for. Do you have any idea how much this would cost retail? Of course, you don’t. You will one day, though. It will be in your inheritance.”

As I got older, my mother sold much of her designer clothing to pay for her many great start-overs across the country. During that period, her attire mostly came from Catholic Charities or Jewish Services. But even so, she would slide hangers along the racks and wink at me whenever she’d find some designer sample and we’d wash off the words ‘sample’ printed on its back when we got home. 

When my mother grew tired from all the start-overs, she gravitated to military style clothing. She claimed she liked the pockets but I kind of figured even if she didn’t realize it, the camouflage seemed appropriate for her life on the front lines of the world’s unwillingness to cooperate with her plans. 

Then she finally passed, way too soon, due to complications of being completely misunderstood for so long. I stood alone in a cloud of disbelief in her little apartment and heard her voice in my head, “Jessica. Do not even think of leaving here until you fill your bags.” I knew what she was talking about. My inheritance. All the designer clothing she had saved for me, curated from every St. Vincent de Paul’s around the country. I did fill up a bag. It sits on the basement stairs. I can’t really wear a single thing because they all reek so much of ciggies. But I do take a whiff of them from time to time. But lately, I’ve kind of developed a taste for army green t-shirts. I think I know now what she meant about the pockets.

Jessica Kane