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Full Slips And Stockings

Tan and black houndstooth fabricI wore a dress to work yesterday, which was a fairly unusual occurrence since my office wardrobe tends to be built around skirts and trousers. The wearing of a dress required a full slip –– for those not familiar, that’s the slip that hangs from the shoulders, usually by the means of narrow straps –– which was also unusual because my skirts are generally lined and don’t require the extra layer.

It’s impossible for me to wear a full-length slip without thinking about my mother. She would leave for work each weekday morning about an hour before my brothers and I would leave for our walk to school. After eating the breakfast my father cooked, I’d often climb into my parents’ bed while my mother moved around her bedroom in her white full length slip before finally donning her white nurse’s uniform, doing a final check of her hair and the light layer of makeup she wore, and then coming to kiss me good-bye, always looking professional and stylish and beautiful.

Another part of the morning’s preparation involved stockings (well pantyhose, really, but the word stockings sounds so much nicer in my head). My mother comes in here as well, because the method she used for putting these on every morning was one I adopted.

My mother’s hands were strong, working hands. She used them to maneuver clothes through the ringer portion of the ringer washer, to do housework, to sew, to clean and bandage cuts, to squeeze water from a cold cloth that would rest on a fevered forehead.  It’s annoying and generally quite inconvenient to put a run in your stockings when you’re getting ready for work because they hitch on the rough skin of fingers that don’t have time for pampering. So my mother wore cloth gloves, and so do I. Risk management, I think they call that.

Every mother is unique, and every mother-daughter relationship has its own collection of shared memories. I see my mother in the bolts of houndstooth wool at the fabric store, in flat lace-up brown suede boots, in long coats and collars that stand up, in turtleneck sweaters and elegant hats, in leather gloves and handbags. She set the examples I follow to this day in the practical matters of housework, bargain hunting, and career. And from her, I know the importance of aging gracefully, or at least trying to.

We lost my mother close to eight years ago now… much too soon, and much too quickly. A friend in Newfoundland lost her own mother just recently… also much too soon, and much too quickly.

But daughters who are fortunate enough to have mothers like ours never really lose them. Even as we feel their loss, they live on, and as time passes we can find great comfort. In stockings, full slips, houndstooth, and so very much more.