Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One simple little summer dress. One HUGE act of kindness

Mona bought the dress. I bought the sweater!
Imagine my humiliation when our then live-in student researcher, Mona, found me weeping—honest to gosh weeping—over an email I'd just received a little over a year ago.

"What's wrong?" 

To my shame, I was actually tempted to tell Mona I'd just received incredibly bad news...like a death, or a declaration of war, or the cancellation of "Mad Men." Anything but the truth.

The truth? I. Didn't. Have. A. Thing. To. Wear.

Trite, right? The age-old complaint of women. But in my case, it was true.

You see, I'd lost a lot of weight.

I'd only planned to lose the 10 pounds my doctor suggested. Instead, I lost about 30. No, no, I wasn't sick...it just happened. And I know that many of you would see that as good news, but I didn't. Oh, well, I didn't mind about the weight, but...

I had no clothes that fit. None. And I didn't know how to shop.

True. I'm a woman of a certain age and never, ever, learned the art of shopping for clothes. Whenever I needed anything—which was rare—I could generally peek into my closet and find something. I tended to wear the same things. A lot. My closet consisted of (1) one pair of jeans (2) three long skirts and (3) an enormous supply of sweaters, mostly purchased from Good Will. Or borrowed from my husband.

"But Kelly, why were you weeping?"

Well, here's the really embarrassing part. I'd just received an email from my friend asking me to sub for her at Mass the next Sunday as reader. As a rule, I'd always been happy to help out. But this time it was sadly (to me) plain to see...I didn't own a dress, skirt, or anything halfway respectable to wear. Not anything, anyway, that wouldn't fall off me as soon as I reverenced the great Cathedral of the Holy Cross altar.

My husband had a suggestion: "Why not just go out and buy something?"

I looked at him as if he'd grown an extra nostril. Didn't he realize? I didn't know how to shop for clothes and what's more, I hated it. Didn't he remember that, in preparing for our wedding three years earlier, I'd had to enlist the help of a girlfriend who eventually picked everything out herself? Didn't anybody understand???

Mona did.

The next evening, she sailed intfo my office carrying a bag. "For you," she said. Curious, sort of, I peeked in and saw the smallest dress I'd ever seen. "For you?" I asked, thinking I'd misunderstood. "Nope," she replied. For you." I stared at her. "Mona, this is awfully nice of you and all, but this won't fit me, and besides..." I was terrified of the dress. "Try it on," she said firmly. (When Mona says something "firmly?" There's no argument.)

So I gave in with good grace, grimly laughing at the size tag and then, anticipating resistance from my body, gingerly pulled the dress over my head. And almost stopped breathing. Damn. The thing fit!

I stayed in the bathroom for awhile, looking at myself in the mirror. Who was this person?

Finally, I crept out and faced Mona and my husband. And their smiles. Casually, Mona tossed me a pair of—size small, mind you—brown tights. "These go with it," she explained.

And so they did. And the next day, I screwed up my courage and went to the store and bought an inexpensive little—little!—sweater to wear with the little dress because the weather was cool, still.

And called my friend to tell her I'd be able to read for her at Mass after all, and thanked Mona again and again...and learned how to shop. On my own. At my age, it's about time.

I wore that little dress last Sunday and intend to wear it tomorrow for a meeting.

And every time I even look at it, I'm reminded of Mona. She thought it was a little thing. She's wrong. The dress might be little…but her act of kindness was, and remains…ENORMOUS!

P.S. Lately I've even mastered the act of self-control when it comes to shopping…much to my husband's relief :-)