A Damaged Dress

One peek out of the dining room window told me what I wanted to know. The mailman had already come by. I saw fresh tire marks on the road along side the mailbox. Also, the red metal flag on the box was pushed down. That meant he had picked up my outgoing mail.  I squinted and leaned closer to the window. Something appeared to be swinging back and forth under the mailbox. Perplexed, I wondered, “What IS that?”

I lifted the lid off a kettle on the stove, stirred its contents, and decided it would come to no harm while I retrieved the mail. One step out of the house, and the fullness of summer wrapped itself around me. Soft and gentle, like thousands of rose petals, a warm, moist breeze brushed against my cheek. Bold Black-eyed-Susans along the driveway nodded a congenial ‘Good Afternoon!’ greeting.

A thick crust of brown road dust weighed down the yarrow, white daisies, and timothy grass that grew beside the road. Inside the mailbox I found a thick bundle of bills, sales catalogs, and credit card company propaganda. Too big to fit in the box, a package hung from the lowered red flag by a giant rubber band noose. I recognized the return address. It was my mail order dress!

A full blown case of buyer’s regret and I arrived at my back door at the same time. Why in the world did I buy a dress through the mail…was I crazy? When they arrive, the dresses seldom look as nice as they did in the catalog! I end up sending them back. Re-wrapping the package and finding the correct return address are things I hate to do. Then comes the biggest insult of all insults…paying the postage!

Propping the letters up in the center of our dining room table and tossing the dress package in a corner, I went back to my supper preparations. My cynicism about mail order dresses stayed on my mind as I pealed four brown, rough skinned, starch-splattering potatoes. Should I send it back unopened? No! My nosiness made me want to see it. Putting a kettle of bright orange, carrot-pennies on the stove, I remembered hearing my mother once grumble, “They just don’t make dresses anymore like they did years ago.” Unconsciously, I nodded to agree with her. “So true!”

Mom sewed literally hundreds of dresses for me when I was a small girl. Each one was perfect. I smiled to remember the times I had found her at the sewing machine, paying absolute attention to each detail. Her dresses always fit, the seams never popped open unexpectedly and the buttons took more than a pull of one string to make them fall off.

Finally, supper was over and the dishes washed. Now it was time for me to take a look at the dress. I crept upstairs to my bedroom to open the inconspicuous brown package. This was a private matter. No one else needed to know what I ordered and returned.

The red plaid color was as nice at it had looked in the catalog…and the dress wasn’t overly wrinkled from being folded up and sent through the mail. Holding the dress up I silently exulted, “WOW!” A well-installed zipper down the back allowed easy entry. The sleeves comfortably reached my wrist bone without being stretched, and the concealed pockets felt deep and securely sewn.

The following Saturday I put on my new dress before going to a family gathering. I felt soft, well groomed, and feminine. As Arnie, Tammie and I were leaving the house I simpered, “Tammie, did you notice that I’m wearing a new dress? What do you think of it?”

My eighteen-year-old daughter looked at me critically before slowly saying, “I don’t know Mom, you kind of look like Martha Stewart on drugs.”

What? What did my precious daughter just say? I stepped in front of the mirror in our entryway. This dress WAS a little different from my usual style. Even with the black vest tied securely at my back, it was as voluminous as a maternity dress. Golden threads in the bright red plaid seemed to sparkle in the light. An unwelcome vision of Martha Steward wearing her signature plaid shirt as she floated around performing domestic miracles entered my mind and refused to leave.

In the car I whined to Arnie, “Tammie said this dress makes me look like Martha Stewart on drugs. Do YOU think I look that bad?”

Arnie carefully steered down the highway of marital relations in the right lane. “I think you look very nice. Don’t let what Tammie said bother you.”

From the back seat Tammie sincerely apologized, “Mom…I’m sorry! Forget what I said.”

With an effort that would do credit to super woman, I HAVE tried to forget, but the verbal tear Tammie put in my dress is permanent. It can’t be sewn shut with an apology. Whenever I put the dress on, I look closely into the mirror. At first I don’t see anything wrong, but if I take one step back and squint through half closed eyes…I see MARTHA STEWART ON DRUGS!


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