One of the few times I got punished by Mom was when, at age four or so, I spilled my chocolate milk on the couch in the living room. It had been a special treat to eat lunch in there and I had not been careful enough. My mom yelled at me in front of my older brother and his friend and sent me to my room.
I was mad. OK, I knew that I was careless with the milk and getting banished to my room seemed fair enough, but yelling at me in front of my bother’s friend was decidedly unfair.
I remember sitting on the bedroom floor, my eyes darting around looking for something to destroy. Something I didn’t care about, which was tough since it was all my stuff. I spotted the white slip hanging innocently in the closet. It was an odd slip for me to have – fitted, spaghetti strap top with a puffy lace skirt, like a crinoline. What would I have worn this with? I didn’t have any Little Women dresses.
I picked up my child’s scissors and cut the poor thing to pieces. I knew I was really going to get it for that but I didn’t care, I had a point to make.
After some time, Mom came in to release me. The slip was all over the floor, like shreds of coconut. I sat stone-faced … waiting. Mom looked at the pieces of lace, started picking them up and told me I could go play with my brother. And that was it. Nothing more was said. I figured I had already pushed my luck, better to leave it.
Years later I asked Mom why I didn’t get in trouble for cutting up that slip. “Oh, I knew you were mad at me,” she explained with a chuckle. “Anyway, I hated that slip. It was too frilly.” I asked her where it come from and we both realized my grandmother probably gave it to me.
No frills for Mom, no frills for her daughter. Mom outfitted me in simple dresses and skirts and jumpers. A particular favorite of hers was the knit sailor suit she bought for me in London (pictured above). She liked it not only for its tailored style, but also the reference to her father who was an admiral in the Navy. I liked it too, because she liked it and it made me feel special. No one else had a sailor suit from London.