a rose colored dress for rita

This is my Grandma’s story about the day she bought a rose colored dress for Rita. Rita, is my mother, my Grandmother’s daughter.

It would have been a day just like any other day. I imagine the early morning sunshine spilling through the windows. I imagine the oatmeal breakfast and milk colored coffee my Grandma would have had before starting her day. Most likely, my Grandma picked out a familiar and comfortable outfit to wear. As a child I always admired my Grandma’s style. She always wore comforting pastel and earth toned cottons paired only with sensible shoes and her shiny gold wedding ring. On this day, though, I am sure her mind was consumed with finding the perfect outfit for her daughter.

I never asked my Grandma what store, specifically, they went to but I am sure it was a thrift store. Having grown up during the Great Depression, my Grandma still considers department stores to be unnecessary luxuries, “I can count on one hand the number of times I ever stepped foot in a department store”.

My Grandma would have taken the task of finding a dress for my mom seriously. Only simple and understated elegant dresses would have caught her eye. She would never have wanted my mother wearing anything that even remotely suggested “loose woman”, “fast”, or any other antiquated synonym for “hoochie”.

Having finally found the beautiful rose colored dress, I think my Grandma would have momentarily forgotten the somberness of the occasion as she excitedly presented the dress to her daughter to try on. I imagine my mom smiling quietly as she headed towards the dressing room.

The next part of the story is always harder for me to imagine. I think my mom tried on the dress with a heavy heart. Perhaps she paused for a long moment to gaze at her own beautiful silhouette staring back at her in the mirror. I imagine the rose color accenting the flush color of her cheeks and the glistening tears in her eyes. I’m not sure if my mom had hair at this point but I like to imagine she did. Her delicate chestnut hair cascading down the buttoned back of the dress.

I imagine her slowly emerging from the dressing room and meeting her mother’s eye. Without even glancing at the dress I believe my Grandma looked at her daughter with tears streaming down her eyes whispering silently, “You are beautiful, Rita”.

They both knew. They both knew this rose colored dress would be the one. At three years old, I remember peering into the coffin thinking, “My momma looks really pretty in that dress”.

I am not sure why I love this story so much. It’s such a sad story, you see. The story of a sixty year old mother choosing the dress her thirty year old daughter would wear at her funeral. Yet it’s one I recount over and over and over again in my heart. I let the memory of this dress settle into the marrow of my bones. I gain strength from their story. This story is my inheritance. Not the sadness, but the strength. The strength of two women facing such sorrow with dignity and love. Yes, I love this story and I will proudly wear the memory of my mom’s rose colored dress each and every day of my life.

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