A slow migration has begun in my house. About six months ago, my oldest daughter, Rebecca, started borrowing my clothes. Rebecca has borrowed my clothes before. To play dress-up. Over the years, dresses and suits that remained from the various stages of my former lives ended up in Rebecca’s dress-up box. I have seen Rebecca and her sisters Angela and Lucy play Cinderella in the pale pink, fitted-bodice, spaghetti-strapped dress I wore to my junior prom. I have seen my favorite jacket-and-short-dress combination transformed from a work outfit (for me) into a full-length queenly raiment (for them). I never expected Rebecca to be wearing my actual clothes, the ones I like to wear, so soon.
In the ten years since Rebecca’s birth, I have worn clothes in a wide array of sizes. From the size 22 tent dress I wore for six months after Johnny was born to the size 10 jeans I poured myself into a year (including seven months at Weight Watchers) after Benjamin’s birth. Right now, I am somewhere in between those two sizes. Lately I’ve been squeezing myself into a roomy pair of size 12 Land’s End chinos or some 12/14 petite sweat pants I picked up at Wal-Mart after Christmas.
Sometime in the fall, Rebecca started stealing all my skinny clothes. One Sunday morning, Rebecca sat at the top of the stairs in her pajamas. She slumped forward with her chin in her hands. “Mom,” Rebecca explained in a mournful tone, “I have nothing to wear to church.” Her unbrushed, golden-brown hair hung over her face.
“What about the pink skirt and matching shirt?” I asked as I changed Ben’s diaper and stuffed his sturdy legs into his nicest pair of black pants.
“I wore that last week,” Rebecca complained. “I always wear the same thing to Mass every single week.”
“So do I,” I told her. “I have about three church outfits that I wear in rotation.”
Rebecca slumped a little lower. All at once, her face brightened and her back straightened. “Can I wear one of your skirts?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said. “If you can find one that fits.”
Rebecca jumped up and ran into my closet. I buttoned up Ben’s white shirt, then followed Rebecca. She stood with her arms folded, gazing up at the row of clothes hanging from a high cross bar. She reached out and fingered the tea-length black velvet sheath I wore to a dinner dance four years ago.
“That’s too fancy for church,” I told her. “Besides, it’s too long for you.”
She moved on to a blue floral rayon skirt and looked up at me with pleading eyes
“No, Sweetie. That’s what I’m wearing today.”
Rebecca finally settled on a navy blue knit skirt I wore when I’d lost weight after Johnny was born. She paired the skirt with a sleeveless white T-shirt she’d pulled out of my dresser drawer. When Rebecca came downstairs, my husband Jack said, “You sure look nice.”
Rebecca beamed. In the weeks after the first skirt incident, Rebecca returned the clothes every time she finished wearing them. Or I put the clothes back into my closet or dresser when I did the laundry. Rebecca borrowed more clothes. One Saturday morning, she sat down at the breakfast table wearing my favorite pair of navy shorts. “Hey,” I said, “who said you could wear those?”
“Nobody,” she replied. “But you’re not wearing them.”
“Do they fit?” Rebecca stood up to show me that they did. “Okay,” I conceded. “But ask first next time.”
Every now and then, Jack would notice Rebecca wearing something of mine. One evening when we were taking the whole family out to dinner, Rebecca ran downstairs wearing the blue and black size 8 Old Navy skirt I’d worn to a James Taylor concert Jack and I had gone to my last skinny October. “Isn’t that your skirt?” he asked me.
“Yes. I wore it to the James Taylor concert. Remember?”
“Yes,” Jack smiled wistfully.
“Who knows if I’ll ever fit into it again.”
Jack’s wistful smile didn’t change.
Now when I do the laundry, I just put the navy shorts and the navy skirt and the sleeveless white T-shirt into Rebecca’s drawer. The blue and black skirt hangs in her closet. She’s appropriated some more shorts and the stretch Capri workout pants I wore during my last Weight Watchers phase. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. At least she wears things that I like. She wears things that I love. While other moms worry that their daughters will go out of the house dressed in hip-hugger jeans down to there and belly shirts up to there, I only have to worry if the modest, knee-length wrap-around skirt I might possibly wear again someday will end up in Rebecca’s drawer.
This morning, I dropped Rebecca off at school. Her class was scheduled to go on a field trip to the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument. Instead of her normal plaid jumper and white shirt, Rebecca wore my favorite pair of size 10 jeans. She had rolled up the cuffs so they weren’t too long. The jeans looked a little baggy. Rebecca looked just perfect to me