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January 2021

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  • Jenn Rawlings
    Posted January 5, 2021 at 8:25 pm

    The prompt was about a memory about an article of clothing – here’s my piece:

    It was 2:53 a.m. on a cold drizzly Saturday morning. I wearily reviewed the recent hours in my mind and knew that somehow, I needed to find the strength and energy to trudge the 3 blocks back to my apartment in the windy chilly autumn weather, but the effects of the pizza – my usual slice consisting of onions and peppers perfectly baked atop delectable dough and baked cheese – were making it harder to find the will to do what had to be done. 

    I gathered my belongings: a lighweight weight jacket and cheap purse, both stashed on a grungy hook behind the back door. I sighed – it was time to do it. I looked down at my shirt: a short sleeve white T-shirt made of lightweight inexpensive cotton. The top left showed the red logo THE PIE, and the back had a larger graphic of a large pizza, minus one slice.  The front of the shirt was sticky where soda and beer had escaped their cups and pitchers  – and the left side on the bottom was visibly dirty from the customer who promised he was from out of town, brandishing a dubious drivers’ license from Iowa to prove that he was, actually, 21 and should be eligible to buy a pitcher of beer. He had paid with a wad of equally dubious one dollar bills. 

    Finally, when the manager had shut the front door, which was a deceivingly insignificant black door at the bottom of a grimy, dark, cement stairwell leading to a basement beneath the University Drug Store (an equally well known landmark in its own right), everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It meant that the cashiers, bouncers, dishwashers, and cooks could finally get some quiet from the rowdy impatient students who crowded the stairwell till the early morning hours, just waiting for their turn to order their pie. It meant no more cooks yelling into the mic “JASON YOUR PIE IS READY! COME AND GET IT BEFORE THAT DOG COMES IN HERE AND… OOPS SORRY JASON!”   It meant that the cashiers would count their stacks of bills and place the tally in a large zip bag. It meant that the jukebox playing old vinyl tunes would be quiet – it had been there since 1973. The most popular groups every night seemed to be The Moody Blues, The Doors, and The Grateful Dead – – the trio pretty much summed up the clientele even though 15 years and slipped by, unnoticed by the jukebox.  Decades later, the sound of Jim Morrison still takes me back to The Pie’s dark cavern beneath the drug store.

    The brick basement walls in the dining area had been painted many times – not by a paint crew or by the restaurant staff, but by the customers, who used Sharpies, lip stick, acrylic paint, crayons, and nail polish to leave their names, their cartoons, their slogans, their politics, and their true loves on the rough bricks and mortar – in countless layers over the decades. The dim lighting in the dining hall consisted mainly of small votive candles inside half-pint red glass jars which also paired with aluminum racks to serve as tabletop pizza warmers. The darkness was an incidental blessing which generously obscured most of the messages.

    ‘I really need to get this shirt in the wash. Tomorrow,’ I chided myself.  But the laundromat was always so tedious on the weekend; only one of the dryers seemed remotely worth the hard-won quarters I fed it. I was nearly out of laundry soap too. But I didn’t have the energy to deal with any of that tonight. I walked up the stairs and into the night, inhaling the fresh air, and headed toward home and bed, where I barely had the energy to toss the white T shirt in the corner before I collapsed into bed.

    • Carole Mayback
      Posted January 5, 2021 at 9:44 pm

      Wow. I love this, Jenn. I can feel the heaviness in your body and mind, in contrast to your lightweight t-shirt and jacket on that cold & wet night. I love how you describe the jukebox (70’s music is my favorite!), and the sound bytes coming from the microphone. Very lifelike. I feel like I’ve been to that place and time. Of course you have no energy to think about laundry! Time to take a load off. Well done.

  • Carole Mayback
    Posted January 5, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    Clothes Don’t Make the Woman
    I hold on to clothes. So much of my closet was filled to capacity with an overflow in my dresser drawers. Even that raspberry fuchsia chiffon sleeveless number with the kerchief hem that I bought for my freshman year. Worn once. I dropped a live ash on my lap, and never could wear the dress again, but I could not bear to part with it.
    Besides, what do you do with clothing that you can no longer wear? Throw it in the trash, to be ground up by that huge green monster along with last night’s steak and corn on the cob with butter and green beans? That is just wrong!
    I do remember as a kid, my brother, sister, and I giving away our clothes to people who needed them — at least my sister gave hers away. I guess I was too attached to mine … so… that’s how that raspberry fuchsia dress traveled with me from high school to college to New York City to Florida, and I got to tell its story every time I unpacked it – to anyone who’d listen.
    But my favorite garment was that beautiful shimmering kerchief-hemmed skirt. I was horrified to have to give it up! It was green and red chintz — depending on how you looked at it (or which way my hips were swaying) — you’d either see it as red with green highlights or green with red spice. I loved that skirt. It represented my artistic self – the thespian – the creative, free flowing, spirited, twirling, youthful person that I imagined myself to be.
    But all that youth and frivolity had gone away years before. I had finally decided to become like the Skin Horse — real. I had already given up acting as a career, and as a facade, years before, but my wardrobe was still stuffed with unnecessary, flashy, attention-getters that were keeping me stuck. I loved the idea of them, but was too empty (and too old) to pull them off. By this time, I was 35 with the wardrobe of a teenager. My hairstyle was dated, and so were my clothes. So, I went to a new stylist, got a fashionable cut with highlights, and two friends came over to help me unstuff my closet to make room for 35-year-old professional suits and casuals.
    I’m not sure how many black lawn and leaf bags we filled, but I remember being instructed by my new friends to take them immediately to Goodwill. They knew I would be vulnerable to attacks from the sentimental lobe in my brain, which could compel me to pull that chintzy skirt out of a bag and make it work, somehow. Of course, I would have to conceal it carefully, so they would not catch me wearing it — the whole thing was too messy! So, I let it go. And I cried. I felt empty. Lost. Afraid of who I was. I felt like a nobody … with nothing … yet … I was finally congruent. I found a new sense of strength from being right-sized.
    And so, began the discovery phase. Now, after years of emotional digging and gut-level honesty, my personality has taken shape, and I have no regrets. I have a depth of feeling, a sense of integrity and self-knowledge that only came after letting go of that fantasy self and learning to be honest about what I thought and felt. I had been trying to conjure somebody who would be well-liked (Willy Loman), popular (Glinda), and extra-ordinary (Pippen). Instead, I was an annoying shell of a person who was competitive, judgmental, insecure and trying way too hard. All people wanted was for me to be myself. I had to allow people who were secure in themselves help me take the emotional risks that would inform and strengthen my adult self. I was lost but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. Reality, I now know is a whole lot better than fantasy. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, I know I am loved, so what I look like is not important. What is important is what’s inside.

  • Tanja R McPherson
    Posted January 5, 2021 at 10:02 pm

    That was fun today. Here my writing. I know it still needs a bit of editing, but wanted to share it today.

    Old Faithful Friend
    Its origins are now obscure. I don’t remember where I got it, how it made its way into my wardrobe, into my heart. I know that it was new, not bought in Kensington Market, where I often combed the second hand stores for special finds, like a big white petticoat from the 50’s or a stylish fancy ladies hat, black, with a piece of netting in front of my face, lending a certain mystery to my eyes and my appearance.
    No, this staple of my high school wardrobe was definitely purchased in a store, new. Maybe I took the subway down Yonge Street, emerging at the northern end of the Eaton Center, making my way down toward the next subway station, at the south end, stopping in all the important stores but probably not crossing the street or availing myself of the catwalk installed for the wet and cold winter months, to wander through the Hudson’s Bay Company. Eaton’s department store. I would think so. Le Chateau. Definitely.
    On the top floor of the Eaton’s Center was the obscure jeweler where I bought my diamond stud earring, the purchase of which was the goal I had set myself for justifying the second hole in my ear. I saved my money, waiting for the day I could afford a diamond, tiny though it was. I endured threats from my father, who thought it unfitting for his daughter to desecrate her ear with a second hole. Then, the day I did it, at the dinner table, waiting for the anger, the lecture, the disappointment in my father’s voice, he didn’t even notice. After all that hesitation and fear and obedience, he didn’t even notice when I did the thing that I thought might end the world, a hole and a tiny shiny dot on my ear.
    Maybe I was somewhere on Queen Street West, when I found this perfect addition to my teenage attire, combing through the cool boutiques, stopping for a coffee or refreshing beverage at a sidewalk cafe. Who was I with? I don’t recall. A friend, my mother, by myself? Was I looking for it specifically, in which case I know it would have taken me a long time to find. Or, did we haphazardly cross each other’s paths, like lovers on a starry night, when fate and destiny intertwine with a thunderous clash or maybe a gentle kiss. Those details have been lost to history. Maybe it’s a secret held in my diaries, locked away in a storage unit, in Maryland, who knows when to be ever seen again.
    I was one of the cool kids. Having moved to Canada in 1980, I was way ahead in music and fashion, especially in Winnipeg, where my father’s promotion had landed us. I missed Frankfurt, Germany, but my grandmother sent me Bravo magazines, so I could stay abreast of all things music and cool. My first year in Winnipeg was a nightmare, but as an early teen I was resilient, and so, after three years I did not want to leave, to move to Toronto, where my Dad’s career would take a big step forward and I thought I might die of despair.
    Soon I came to love Toronto. There were other cool kids, open-minded, worldly, not the backwater small-town $%^&*( that I had encountered in Winnipeg. Here I could fully bloom into my New Wave personality. I wore only black, with slight accents of white, or red, or bright turquoise, sometimes accenting with just a piece of cloth wrapped around my wrist or ankle, or a single, fingerless glove forever enshrined in the family oil portrait that hung in the dining room, my mother looking dreamy, my father, the businessman, with big glasses. The scene painted behind us cemented into eternity, the view of downtown Toronto from our 24th story Penthouse apartment. But, the basis of my wardrobe, always black.
    And so my favorite piece of clothing became a foundation, an often worn, much appreciated piece de resistance, a long black skirt, with vertical lines stitched into the full length of it, about 4 centimeters apart. Yes, I used metric. Remember, this story is set in Canada. It had no zipper, no pockets. To pull it on was like easing my way into a sausage skin. The fabric went all the way down to my ankles, much appreciated on my 5’9’ frame. It was extremely tight. I don’t know how I had the courage. I carried a lot of shame about my body, thought I was fat and ugly. Don’t let the bra strap show or you will never live it down. I cared what people thought and at the same time couldn’t care less. I guess it depended on my mood, my hormones.
    The long black skirt was a soft material, almost like a thin quilt, with those long stitched sections, so it didn’t show panty lines and I could wear it in all seasons. A short slit centered on the back allowed for me to waddle along, like a geisha hindered by the impracticality of her wardrobe. To get up any stairs, of which there were many at North Toronto Collegiate Institute, I had to swing my feet out to the sides, taking advantage of the maneuverability the slit provided. Down the stairs was not a problem, but up? Tough to do when your skirt is so tight that you can barely breathe, let alone lift your knees sufficiently to get your feet to clear the hurdle of even one step.
    Oh how I loved that skirt. To school, to clubs, to concerts. Out to eat with my parents. On dates and trips and to all the parties. Although I have now started the transition into the perimenopausal weight gain, with no real hope of ever squeezing myself back into that old faithful friend, there is a part of me that hopes it’s also in storage. Maybe next to my diary, together reminiscing fondly about the olden days.

    • Jennifer Rawlings
      Posted January 5, 2021 at 11:11 pm

      I can picture this black skirt, and you trying to negotiate stairs! It’s odd how ward robes define different times in our lives! Thanks for sharing this glimpse!

  • Sue Mosolf
    Posted January 5, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Living in a Catholic neighborhood in Rochester, NY, in the 1950s, had many advantages. Families had at least six children and the largest boasted of 14. In mine, I was one of the oldest of three girls and seven brothers.

    When the month of October drew near, our three-story house filled with an uncontainable excitement. My older sister and brother dragged an overstuffed black garbage bag of masks and costumes out of the attic and down two flights of stairs to the living room.

    My mother tied a red plastic hood and matching cape under my chin and around my five-year old shoulders. It all stayed in place, like I knew it would and I could see out of my mask.

    When my siblings and I trick-or-treated on Halloween, I was so delighted that my playmates’ parents had a hard time guessing who that Little Red Riding Hood really was.

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