The Dress

By Cathy C. Hall

The Dress

If there was one trait my mom couldn’t stand, it was self-pity. There might as well have been a huge sign in our house with WHINING in a circle and a bold, black line through the word.

We were to be thankful for what we had, and no feeling sorry for ourselves for the troubles that inevitably came along. But that didn’t mean that Mom ignored the aches and pains of her children’s growing years. She wasn’t one to comfort and coddle, but she had her ways of making things better. Like the time a classmate of mine planned a very special birthday party.

The birthday girl would be carting a dozen girls to a theme park for a weekend excursion, and as you can imagine, the excitement was a lot to handle in a seventh grade classroom. Eventually, one of the invited girls spilled the beans at school. That’s when I found out that I was NOT invited – but that every other girl in my group of friends was on the list.

The birthday girl had the good grace to be embarrassed. She even had an excuse ready for me: She could only take 12 girls, and I was, unfortunately, unlucky number 13.

Home from school, I sat on a high stool in the kitchen, telling my mother the whole sob story. I choked back my own sobs throughout the story, upset that I’d been left out of the fun. All of those girls would have the time of their life while I…I’d be stuck at home. But it wasn’t the prospect of being stuck at home that had me in tears. I was crushed to realize that I’d been excluded, that my friends were not the good friends I’d thought they were. Is there anything more devastating to a thirteen-year-old girl than rejection? I was deep into feeling sorry for myself.

Mom was quick to explain that she wouldn’t have let me go, even if I’d been invited. It was way overboard for a birthday, in her opinion. Be thankful you weren’t asked, she said, because then you’d have had to say no…and on and on and on. Typical for Mom.

But finally, at the end of it all, she conceded that the “non-invite” had been a thoughtless thing to do, which was about as far as Mom would go in validating my pity-party. And then my mother said something totally out of character: “Why don’t we go to Belk and see if we can find a dress for you? I think they’re having a sale, and you need something for the fall.”

Shopping? For a dress? That was HUGE in my house.

I wore a uniform to school all week, so the only time I wore a dress was for church. And like most girls in those days, I had an Easter dress, a Christmas dress, an all-weather dress and maybe a skirt. To have an extra dress in the

rotation…well, that was the height of extravagance. But I wasn’t going to argue with Mom or ask any questions. I hopped off that stool and washed my face.

I still remember that shopping expedition. I remember Mom walking around the department store with me, cheery and chatty, patient for once as I combed through the racks. Mom even allowed me to try on dresses that we knew were out of her “budget.” It was just an hour or two in a store, but somehow, she knew it was exactly what I needed.

We didn’t talk a lot about self-image back in those days, but that doesn’t mean that parents didn’t understand the concept. My mom wanted me to feel good about myself again. She wanted me to understand that yes, people will sometimes hurt you – that often, people can be thoughtless and insensitive without even realizing it – but I was loved even so. And I was a great kid, with value and worth, despite being left out from my group of friends this time.

Of course, Mom didn’t say all that. She just spent an afternoon shopping with me until we found a dress.

I flat wore out that dress, I loved it so much. And I’m sure I thanked my mother. After all, if there’s one thing my mother was adamant about, it was being thankful for what you’d been given; even it was a dress from the end-of-the-season sale rack.

But now that I think about it, all these years later, I realize that Mom gave a hurting 13-year-old girl so much more that day. And honestly, I didn’t thank Mom nearly enough.

About this writer

  • Cathy C. Hall Cathy C. Hall is a freelance writer and humor columnist from the metro Atlanta area. Her family life essays have been included in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Tea Lover’s Soul and Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers. She has also been published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, webzines and several regional magazines. You can find out more at her website: www.cathy-c-hall.com.

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9 Responses to “The Dress”

  1. Sioux says:

    Cathy–What a sweet story. Your mom was a strong woman, and obviously she wanted to make sure she raised you to be strong (and not a wallower in self pity).

    And hey! We’re in the same issue of Sasee. I am so excited!

  2. Ahh, mothers! Love this story, Cathy. I find it hard to believe that you were ever left out of anything. You grew up to be the lady everyone loves to hang out with. There is only one thing that might have made this story better for me…a picture of you in that dress!

  3. I think this is the best story I’ve read in a long while. Do you mind if I read it to my class? Your mom was a wise woman!

  4. Your mom was wise. Sometimes less words and more action, gets the message across. That birthday rejection turned into a positive experience. Loved this!

  5. Donna Volkenannt says:

    Such a sweet story. Thanks for sharing it. Your mom did just the right thing to make you feel good about yourself and know you are loved. What a wise and wonderful woman who raised a grateful daughter.

  6. Thank you, all, for the lovely comments about Mom. I’m sure she’d be embarrassed about all this fuss, but I have to say that I agree: she was a wise and wonderful woman!

  7. What an absolutely beautiful story. Your mom is top notch.

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