I Buy a New Dress

Why do you have to buy a new dress for the wedding, my husband asks. You spend all that money and only wear it once.

I pushed aside the snow to make a fort and saw a single blade of grass. It shouted, SPRING, to me, SPRING! And GREEN, filling my eyes, unforgettable…

My favorite color is blue, not pure blue, but the purple mix that’s called gentian. I don’t know how I learned that word so young but I knew that GENTIAN was the color of my hill. I stood above the lake one fall morning and I was drenched in gentian, the color billowing, filling the hill, the sky, my senses until I thought I would fall down, the gentian-ness of the world like a religion, like God. It only happened once.

Plain BLUE isn’t a bad color, though. The first time I went to Florida I stepped out of the plane and someone had replaced the gray sky with a sheet of blue. It curled around the airport, so high and full of breezes and clouds I had to giggle.

When I was eight, I spent a whole hour looking at a line of roses set against the soft gray of a stone wall. Don’t ever forget this, I told myself solemnly. (Someone very old inside of me likes roses.) Roses are red and violets are blue, sugar is sweet and I love you, God, I sang to myself, my soul filled with roses. Thank you, God, for the roses, I whispered.

I remember my mother once wore a black hat, her round face rosy and dimpled under it. “You’re beautiful,” I told her seriously. She frowned as though I were bothering her. “Oh, you’re always telling me I’m pretty!” I remember how white her teeth were when she smiled. Playing it back in my memory, I see she was pleased.

The small child who lives within me has packed my memory bag with haphazard snips of beauty. She has created my past for me from single, random glimpses she has fancied. And if that is so:

Thirty years from now my husband, much older of course, along with my children and grandchildren and their babies, are sitting together in my bedroom. My clothes and jewelry are scattered on the bed, tables and floor and they’re trying to figure out what to do with them. Jewelry isn’t so bad, but when their owners die, dresses are inconsolable.

Perhaps my granddaughter Eliza will say, “I remember grandma when she wore this dress. Even though I was just a little girl, I remember that I loved the little pink buttons down the back.”

“Isn’t that funny, I remember her in that dress too,” my daughter Laurie will say. “We must have been visiting at the time. It was in the spring, I think, and I remember her laughing.”

“It was when she went to the Benton’s wedding, wasn’t it, Dad?” That’s Trisha, who always remembers functions. “She looked so pretty that night.”

Eliza’s first-born is toddling around the room just learning to walk, and Trisha will bring her grandson over and hold his hand on the dress and say “Great Grand-ma. Great Grand-ma,” the way you do when you talk to babies. And the baby will touch the silk with his little fat hand and he’ll lisp, “Want Great-Grandma,” and look around the circle for me. And everybody will start crying.

I think that’s a pretty good value for a dress even if I only wear it once.

Elaine Winer is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in numerous journals. She is now completing a masters in creative writing at Florida International University.