Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Clothes My Mother Bought Me When I Was Eight Don't Fit Yet

When my mother bought me clothes, they were over-sized.  When I was a child, she said it was so I could grow into them.  When I was an adolescent, she said the bagginess was slimming.  "I'm not saying you're fat," she sometimes said when I bought my own clothes, "But those clothes make you look fat."  A few times when I came home from high school she showed me baggy, knee-length sweatshirts she had bought for me, enthusiastically explaining how, when she lost just a little more weight, she'd be able to wear them too.  She outweighed me by approximately 100 lbs at the time.

The last time I stayed in my parents' home, I went through some of my old clothes.  I tried on a set of velour sweats I remember my mother buying me when I was eight.  I had been a plump-but-not-technically-overweight child.  I was a healthy-but-not-particularly-skinny adult woman.  I could still pull the waistband of the pants up past my breasts, just as I could when I was eight.  Worn properly, the crotch of the pants hung at my knees, just as it had when I'd worn them to elementary school.  I would never grow into those velour sweats -- or the almost identical set she'd bought in another color -- and that felt encouraging. 

One of the last times I saw my grandmother, she said it was a good thing I'd had so many clothes I didn't wear or else she'd be naked.  She gesticulated towards the shirt and pants she was wearing.  They looked similar to the clothes my mother used to buy for me in both size and style, but they weren't familiar.  They hadn't been mine.  I presume my mother bought them for her and said they'd been mine, for whatever reason.  Or quite possibly she'd bought them, loaded them into my childhood bedroom with many of the shopping bags and unopened HSN boxes she'd filled the room with since I'd left, and given them to my grandmother when she ran across them later, genuinely assuming they'd been mine.  She sometimes confused the things I'd owned and left behind with the things she'd bought and forgotten. 

The last time I wore something she bought me, it was a cheap, black, acrylic sweater she'd bought in every color available -- about nine in total -- when I was in high school.  I liked it because it could survive the dryer.  It was good grocery-shopping, errand-running attire, or so I liked to think.  It also worked years later as extreme maternity wear, flowing comfortably until the day I gave birth, after which point I forced myself to give it up.  I had a nightmare that it was so threadbare it was see-through, but I hadn't noticed until I wore it for a photograph.  I was afraid that might happen in real life.  I didn't want to be a person who could wear threadbare, see-through clothes without even realizing it. 

I took my last knee-length sweatshirt she'd bought me -- a men's XL from my college bookstore -- and let my husband keep it.  He likes it, and it's only a little too big on him.

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