It’s October already and that means my brother Tom is getting married this weekend. And by married, I mean re-married. But as far as me, my mother, and two sisters are concerned, that detail is irrelevant. The race to find the right dress hasn’t changed a bit since his first wedding sixteen years ago.
Fortunately, unlike both my sisters, I don’t need to worry about what my daughter will wear. The two of them have been searching for appropriate outfits for an eleven-year-old and six-year-old girl. I, however, have that problem solved—thanks to Katie.
Last spring while shopping, Katie found a stiff, black satin skirt covered with opulent red and purple roses. It was beautiful and dramatic. A size larger than what she currently wore, I could picture it on my gorgeous daughter who has an eclectic and fearless sense of style. She insisted that I buy it. I protested—because really, where can an eleven-year-old wear a skirt like that? I will admit that fancy skirts requiring hand washing (or dry cleaning!) are not high on my list of must haves, even for me.
Katie pleaded and begged as much as an autistic child with limited verbal skills can beg. “It’s pretty,” she said. “Pretty flowers. I like that.”
I hate it when I say things my mother would say. Mom has always been extremely practical. I blame this on her Swiss ancestors. The Swiss are big fans of practicality and punctuality, and so is my mother.
“I want it,” Katie said. “Red flower skirt, please.” She locked her dove gray eyes on mine. “Pleeeeease.”
When Katie makes extended eye contact, I know she is pulling out all the stops. I sighed. I was in a hurry and didn’t want to argue about a satin skirt, beautiful or not. “Katie, you need to be really careful with a skirt like this. You have to take special care of it.”
“I do. I wear it. Pleeeeease.”
She began pulling the skirt over her pants. Apparently she thought a better visual of her in the skirt would convince me. I sighed again.
Katie twirled, gripping the skirt’s waistband to keep it from falling down. It flared out and I realized there was netting underneath. Katie didn’t realize it, but netting would overtax her sensory system. Even I find it scratchy and uncomfortable. I bent for a closer look. The netting was sandwiched between the skirt and a full lining, so it wouldn’t be a problem. I fingered the fabric. This was a nicely made skirt. It must be expensive as well as beautiful and impractical.
Katie pranced in the skirt, rubbing her hands over the satin. “It’s shiny. Sounds like….” She searched for the word.
“It’s swishy, Katie. The skirt makes a swishy sound.”
She smiled. “Shishy. Skirt is shishy!”
“It’s a nice sound, isn’t it?” I’d forgotten how delicious that sound was. Back in college I had a teal taffeta cocktail dress that made the exact same sound. I always felt beautiful wearing that dress.
Katie nodded and I knew I’d have to buy her the skirt. I braced myself and looked at the tag. It was on clearance. Extreme clearance. As in, it cost $4.98. I laughed. For that price she could wear the skirt for dress up, maybe a couple Christmas parties, or even her birthday. I didn’t care. It was cheap enough that how often she wore it didn’t matter.
Except it did matter, because the skirt made my daughter blissfully happy. It would also make her feel special and beautiful, and an outfit that makes any of us feel that way is both priceless and (forgive me, Mom) practical.
Katie carefully carried the skirt to the register and I bought it for her. For seven months it’s been stored away, waiting for an appropriate occasion. Now we have one: my brother’s wedding.
Katie has already paired the “shishy” skirt with a black spaghetti-strap tank and a poppy red cardigan with lace trim that I previously bought at her insistence. It’s a gorgeous combination. She’s counting the days until she can wear her beautiful, and very appropriate, outfit.
If only the search for my dress had been as painless….
Until next time,