I was a couple of years past the age of believing in Santa Claus, searching the hall closet for Christmas presents I knew my parents had stashed there, when I first glimpsed the lavender-blue dress that would become a favorite garment of my childhood. I feigned surprise when I unwrapped it on Christmas morning and rejoiced because I knew, even as a 10-year-old, that the loose, tented shape was the height of mid-1960s fashion.
I soon fell in love with the stylish center pleat that ran from bodice to hem, the chic three-quarter sleeves, and the way the soft cotton fabric floated across my skin, such a contrast to my scratchy school uniform. But what I especially loved was the garment’s swirling paisley pattern that my father called “psychedelic.” I found it comforting to trace my index finger along the undulating teardrop shapes and could get lost in the mesmerizing shades of blue.
I barely noticed that repeated washings were causing the colors to fade and the hem to fray. I mourned the day when an underarm seam split and my mother pointed out the obvious: I had outgrown my beautiful paisley dress. She said it was time to add it to the pile of clothes destined for the thrift shop.
I regret that no physical remnant of that dress exists, but it certainly lives on in my memory. I suspect it’s the reason why to this day I am attracted to paisley fabric, especially in shades of lavender-blue.
This is a bird’s-eye view of the dining room in the house where I grew up. I loved this room because our family came together here, especially in the winter, when it was too cold to sit in our drafty living room.
In one of my earliest memories, my dad is sitting at the table, holding me on his lap while I work on a connect-the-dots drawing. Once I’ve connected the dots next to all the numbers I know, he points his finger at each subsequent, higher number, and I follow with my pencil. In another memory, he’s making a wire recording of me reading from one of my favorite storybooks, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and I’m trying really hard to not make any mistakes.
Most nights, we ate dinner in the kitchen, but when we had company – my Aunt Bea or my grandmother and my Uncle Bob – my mom served us here, using her just-for-special-occasions white china with the pink thistle design. We usually had a special dessert, and sometimes I got to listen to a few snippets of adult after-dinner conversation before being sent off to bed.
This also was the room where I did my homework, which often took longer than it should have because I’d get lost in daydreams as I gazed out the big window onto our side lawn. It’s also the room that contained my mom’s china cabinet, whose drawers my sister and I loved to explore when mom was on the phone talking to her sister Eileen.
It’s funny how quickly these memories spring up and how clearly I see them after all these years. It makes me wish I had a full-fledged dining room in the home where I live now instead of just a dining area.