Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall Clothes and A Zigzag Dress

**Written a day before the fall. The third picture below might have given me a clue...**

 I saw it hanging on the rack. Begging me to touch it. The fabric was coarse. Thick. Woven. Knit. Stretched into patterns of zigzags and angles. Zigzags and angles that took me on a journey.
Come. Come along.

I was an unsure and unsettled child of the 70s that year. Middle school mess in my brain - you know what I mean? - and such a bundle of insecurities. We were in a new school. The first class to enter the brand new building that was no longer a junior high, but a true middle school. Everything was shiny. The halls sparkled and the desks smelled of polish. The gym floor unscratched and the lockers freshly painted. Orange. Yes, orange. Our school colors.

But I didn't fit in. I wanted to go back to the 6th grade where I'd been with the same friends in the same neighborhood for all those years. And now here I am thrown in the midst of kids from three different elementary schools, tall orange things with confusing combinations and a retired Army man for my principal. He would announce at the end of each day, "You may disperse from the building," in a very scary voice.

I wasted no time dispersing.

But what does this have to do with a zigzag dress on a rack?
I am getting to that part.

I was without a doubt the skinniest kid in the entire school. My hair weighed more than my entire body and well...I looked like a stick. I hated science. Math changed from real math to "the new math" which changed me from an A student to a sinking B and falling.  Of course, it's changed back to "real" math now. I wanted to write poems in English class, not conjugate verbs. School was no longer fun and neighborhood cozy.

But then there was the sanctuary on the second floor.
 Music class.  A grand piano and a teacher who cancelled out the harshness of military announcements and made all things beautiful in my mind. My haven in the midst of all the orangeness. By the end of 8th grade I'd gone from a pipsqueak little voice to a section leader and accompanist by the end of the year. No small feat for a skinny sixth grader whose feet could barely reach the pedals.  Maybe I couldn't stand the sight of dissected frogs but I loved the sounds on the second floor. Each day I climbed the slippery spirals with my arms full of books, hoping no one would push heels.

And that's where grandmother comes in.
She insisted... InSISTED that I wear them. Hard floors or not. I had to wear those heels. Up stairs, down stairs, up down down up. Little bitty size 5 blue heels that click-clacked on the new floors drawing attention to my bony self...attached to the bottom of "the look" she and I cultivated in the department store you see, the look that would help me gain my confidence outside of music class and not feel like the girl from the sticks (pun intended) whose family didn't have all that money for rich clothes I saw parading in the new school that year. Mean girls. They were there too. 
But grandmother knew what I needed. And she saw to it that I had two new dresses and matching accessories to start off my year. Skinny or not, I felt rich in them. Warm. Loved.

So this weekend when I went shopping for fall clothes, I saw the dress
and there she was. Standing with that crooked smile and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth waiting for me outside the dressing room door with a look of delight as I modeled for her. I would give almost anything to relive that day.

I bought bright colors. Reds, yellows, deep blues, pinks and one orange, yellow and white tie-dyed bold top you see above. Things that wrapped around with butterfly sixties sleeves and two pair of not-so-sensible shoes for not-so-sensible times.

I am no longer afraid of orange, but I am afraid of fitting in.

  Grandmother knew what she was doing.


Finding Pam said...

I shared your exact memory of middle school. This was so touching about your Grandmother. Mine was the same way. She seemed to always know what I needed.

Mimi Lenox said...

Pam ~ Middle school was not not not my forte....We had awesome grandmothers, didn't we...

Mimi Mj Strategic Communications said...

I went to a Catholic school and wore navy blue uniforms except for first Fridays. My grandmother always made sure I had nice clothes to wear.

I felt the same way about music class.

(another) Mimi

Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, new math kicked my keister as well, partly because the teacher was new to it as well and didn't know it herself.

Travis Cody said...

I was actually OK with new math up through freshman algebra. Then it become sophomore geometry, which was kind of really old math, and I got lost.

Anonymous said...

nope - never had a middle school - only junior high..but my experience was similar to yours..only with different clothes.

btw, how do you stand in those things? i'd be face first on the floor.

I have nominated you for a "booker" award. Go for it if you feel the power...

Michelle said...

Lovely story, Mimi. Our schools all had uniforms so I can't relate to that, but I do relate to Math (yuck) and I only discovered history was awesome AFTER leaving school and discovering real stories instead of lists of battles and dates (double yuck).

lime said...

praise be the people who helped make our paths a little more smooth when they seemed so rocky.

Mark In Mayenne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Gal Herself said...

I love this post. Except for the fact that for me, middle school was fine and high school was the second ring of hell. I completely related. Lovely job!

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