How My Mother’s Favorite Sweater Brought Me Unexpected Comfort
I wish I had put on a Vicki Fashion Show when my mom was still alive. She would have loved to see us in her clothes.
I wore my mom’s blue sweater with the pink flowers and rhinestones the other day. I had not been ready to venture into my Mom Drawer but I did it. I picked up a scarf and smelled it and then I saw her favorite sweater with the hot pink flowers waving at me. “Wear me,” it called. It was hard to open the drawer, let alone look at the folded tops, sweaters, and scarves. They were lonely, missing the woman who chose them and wore them and delighted in them. I put the sweater on and took the dog for a walk.
As I walked, I could feel my mother around me. It made me unexpectedly happy. It’s been 8 months since my mom died. Some days, I still cannot believe it. I will have a feeling that I haven’t spoken to her in a while and think, I better call my mom. Then I realize — again — that she is gone.
I read posts from other women about the loneliness they feel after the death of their mothers. I get this. It is like my mom had me cuddled up against her, like a pet with her puppies, even though I was grown up and lived a separate life. Inside of me, there was a feeling of being tucked into her warm side. But when she passed away, I was left feeling exposed, unprotected, viscerally untucked.
My mom’s rhinestone sweater comforted me. It made me feel like I was tucked up against her side again. Even though navy sweaters with pink flowers and rhinestones aren’t really my clothing jam, I felt good wearing it. I took a picture of myself and texted it to my brothers and my aunt and my mom’s cousin.
I wish I had a Vicki Fashion Show with my oldest and youngest children when my mom was still alive. She would have loved to see us in her clothes. The kids and I would have stood in front of her closet, picking out outfits, putting them on, and taking pictures, while my mom sat on her beige, velvet couch drinking Diet Coke and directing us:
“Miranda, try on the black sparkly sweater with my red scarf,” she would have suggested. “Nick, put on the gold vest with my purple button-down shirt with the tie neck,” she would have said. “Robin, you put on the bright pink blouse that matches my pink earrings and the pink flats I bought at the Flea Market in Florida,” my mother would have told me. She would have known that, of the three of us modeling her clothes, I was the only one who stood a chance of fitting into her Size 8 shoes. Miranda is a 10 and Nick is a 9. But my mom would have known that.
Instead, I create the Vicki Fashion Show in my mind. I see my oldest and my youngest and myself standing at her closet, handing each other pants and jackets, blouses and scarfs, purses and vests. After we get dressed in our outfits, we go into my mom’s bedroom and look through her millions of earrings stored in ice-cube trays in the top drawer of her mirrored dresser from Pier One. (My mom would have insisted we choose earrings and necklaces that match the outfits.) I would have worn her triple strand of shiny silver beads and her bright pink dangly earrings. Miranda would have worn her red scarf and red feather earrings and her red and silver short necklace with beads the size of kumquats. Nick would have gone for a simpler look, maybe an oversized gold and silver bejewled leopard pin? Oh, how I wish we had done this!
After my mother died, I went through her closet. My oldest and youngest and I chose clothes of hers that we wanted and that she loved and that we thought we might wear. We tried on her scarfs and purses and jackets and pants and we laughed and cried. But my mom wasn’t there to laugh with us or supervise or be in the photos. I took her favorite clothes home, folded them up, and put them in the Mom Drawer.
When my oldest calls me from college to show me she is wearing her grandma’s clothes, we laugh and cry together on Facetime. I tell her the same thing every time, “Grandma would have loved seeing you in her clothes.” But my daughter, who knew her grandma well, already knows this.