Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I used to dress you.

I chose colors and fabrics and decorative flourishes
one thing layered on another
a doll moment between us
you looking prettier than anyone I knew
a big bow on your head the final touch.

I was filling our lives with beauty's possibilities
every time I dressed you.

Beauty fades like the sun, Mother used to say.

Then, after you came home from school in tears,
and had no explanation to give,
I noticed a discomfort in your eyes
as I combed your long hair
and placed that big bow on the top.

After that, you insisted on dressing yourself,
skipping the bow, the ribbons
and all the frilly things I had bought for you.

Did the bow caused undue attention?
Did you hear your grandmother's voice as I did?
Maybe, you no longer needed me to make you feel pretty.


  1. mmm...it is a right of passage...dressing yourself...and choosing how to dress your self...to fit...or hopefully they dont need someone else to know they are pretty...

    1. I see the change in today's school children, experiencing a new kind of independence from what I experienced. Maybe, as you say, they don't need someone else to tell them they are pretty.

  2. ... maybe a combination of all three? My mother used to tell us 'beauty is as beauty does.' I can still hear her saying it ........ near the end of her life, she was in the hospital having a hip repair .. a lovely nurse came in to adjust the morphine drip and I remarked 'what a beautiful woman.' Mother's immediate response?

    You guessed it!!

    (I wrote a poem right then and there)

  3. Lovely poem, Rosaria! And it expresses so vividly that moment when a daughter defines herself and her own personal beauty. I remember tussling with my mother -- who liked to dress me like a doll with corkscrew curls when I was little -- because my own personal style, which persists to this day, is much more casual. She accepted this with grace and, I think, a little sadness.

    1. She was wise. It takes years for many to accept their daughter's wishes, to give up their influence, to allow the child's personality to assert itself.

  4. She must have looked so adorable and probably felt that way, too, skipping to school. But then there are the little silly remarks of other kids...

    I still remember the brownish, long, warm wool stockings my mother used to knit for me ...and my two braids that were pulled sternly backwards or twisted atop my ears, looking like skimpy cinnamon buns, oh my! Noone else looked like me - pretty terrible to be different. I didn't dare to lift my eyes, but also would not have dared to object to mother's choices - there were none, period. How I would have loved cute ribbons and bows! Or maybe not, because those were not times of cuteness but of plain practicality and orderliness, and frilly things would have stood out like sore thumbs, too.

    A few years later, mom (how long she must have saved every penny for this surprise) had a pretty flowered Sunday dress made for me with ruffles in the front; and guess what, I felt terribly embarrassed wearing it, it was too fancy and beautiful. Tja, that were my olden days, maybe even my golden days.

    1. I didn't object either! My mother was strict and practical and if she spent a penny it was too much. Yes, we did what our mothers wanted.

  5. I can really relate to this! Since my mother was not as sensitive as the mother you describe, I suffered through wearing exactly what she insisted I wear for more years than I wish. The good that came out of that was that I did not impose my style beliefs on my daughters.

  6. They grow up, don't they? :-) What a beautiful poem/memory. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  7. How nice. I often wished we had had a daughter to go along with out two sons... As to Mrs T and the circular flower bed - Yup I do the flower gardening and that's the only one of "domestic" flowers. Mostly now I do wildflower in our little woods on Oak Hill. :)

  8. I had a sister who was a stylist. :-) This poem makes me think of the trickiness of teaching children about such things as caring for appearance. Everyone should be able to feel beautiful, and even runway models struggle with it. It has to come from within.

    Funny, we were just talking yesterday about getting my grandson James a doll to see what he would do with it (while watching him play with a truck for a long time; he's 13 months).

  9. oh, it is so complicated, rosaria, and goes so much farther and deeper than what it seems, doesn't it? it goes to the nature of how we are able to be ourselves, how we are able to find and then demonstrate who we truly are. my god, it is nearly impossible inside of the conflicts and tensions of society.

    my daughter used to wear dresses every day. she loved them. she chose this for herself. and then one day, on the head of a pin, when she was about six, she threw a fit and would never wear a dress again. there had been teasing, i suppose. it would change the path of her being her, not just fashion-wise, of course, but all tension and judgement would become pertinent for her being herself. damn.