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She Did it with Dresses

My daughter loves for me to tell tales from my youth. Yesterday I recalled a Mom story and regaled her with this one of unrequited affection, deep love, and great dresses. She didn’t roll her eyes so I knew it was good.

The spring I was nineteen, the young man I’d been dating informed me that he would be spending the upcoming summer three thousand miles away. No “talk,” no “break up,” just “Goodbye.” I knew he wasn’t crazy about me but had continued seeing him, hoping things would blossom. Clearly, nothing was flowering and I wilted.

My parents, who liked him, were quiet when I told them he was leaving. Raised in the Northeast by refined, restrained children of the Depression, they did not display emotions readily. I shared the information as quickly and as calmly as my humiliated self could manage and that was it. But I noticed a sideways glance and eyebrow language pass between them. The following weekend, my mother casually commented that it would be nice to pick up a few new summer dresses so off we drove to traipse around some discount factories. This was normal for us, as she would regularly allow me to play hooky from high school so the two of us could ride the bus into the city (we were a one-car family then) for window shopping, lunch, and a visit to Fanny Farmer Candies for sugar cigarettes and toffee. At important times like the start of another school year or upcoming trip, new clothes would be part of the pleasantries.

dressThis particular day added to my closet a swingy violet sundress, a teal mermaid-like rayon, and a black knit sheath. I felt much better, as girls often do with new dresses, and murmured, “We should enjoy breakups more often.” My mother smiled, her beautiful green Irish eyes sparkling over the sadness. She knew. There was still no outward exhibition of emotions, although now that I am the mother of young adults, I think she must have fought the urge to hire a hit man. Or maybe that’s just my reaction to meanies.

Yes, her love was quiet; but it had action, wisdom, and kindness. She knew that I needed to feel pretty and she did it without drawn-out laments, man-cursing, or cheerful pep-talks. She did it with dresses.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience… (Colossians 3:12).

My mother surely showed this to me. Do you, my Sisters, have Mom stories to share this week?


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About Allison H.

Allison is a 40-something mother of seven, living in Alaska, accepted into the Church (together with her husband, thank God) in 2004. She spends her days homeschooling and packaging meat that her menfolk hunt and bring home. She cannot garden to save her life but picks wild blueberries like a champ. She has been published in an edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul and keeps a blog at, writing about living out the Faith with children with cystic fibrosis.

  • Chrsitine - This post inspired me to write about my memories of spending the summer going to the beach with my mother. Thanks for sharing your lovely story.May 12, 2015 – 9:27 amReplyCancel

    • Allison H. - I just read your post and love it! Do you still live in NJ? I have family with summer houses there but I’ve never been.May 12, 2015 – 2:46 pmReplyCancel

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