Clothes and Fairy Tales


The sweatshirt hangs in my closet as it has for sixteen years now. Its front kangaroo pocket is ripped, the fleece inside is worn, there’s a spot of paint on the front, and the hood lost its drawcord long ago. This hooded sweatshirt remains a favorite, one I reach for time after time, even though my cell phone no longer stays in the pocket and I can no longer cinch the hood tight against cold autumn breezes.

I cannot bear to part with this hoodie, the first of many I bought to represent my alma mater. Bought on a fall day when I was caught in a world somewhere between high school and college, this hoodie holds memories in its seams. It holds dreams remembered, dreams long-since-forgotten.

This hoodie holds a tiny piece of my heart. I recently sat down and read l.l. barkat’s The Golden Dress. This book brought back memories of my earliest days in this gray hooded shirt, when my heart was set on being a photographer and traveling the world. Like the dress holds a piece of its maker’s heart, my maker heart poured into this shirt week after week, art class after art class. In this sweatshirt I was invincible.

A fairy tale, the dress within The Golden Dress is magic. As the mother lovingly crafts a dress for her daughter, she weaves a piece of herself into it and thus, the dress can become whatever the wearer wants it to be. I think that’s part of the magic of motherhood: we share a piece of ourselves with our children so they can become whomever they want to be.

I see this through the books we read day in and day out. Yesterday it was a book about dinosaurs creating magic in the living room. One minute we were mother and son and the next, we were dinosaurs with chompy teeth and big roars roaming through the jungle. We chomped and stomped our way upstairs and downstairs, pretended to be a t-rex or diplodocus, stretching our imaginations and giggling.

Before bed we’ll once again imagine. This time it’s my husband doing the reading: Doggies by Sandra Boynton. We transform into dogs, barking and counting our way through until we giggle through all ten dogs (and a surprise cat!). It’s another piece of magic shared between us, a book we love and find silly, setting the tone for a goofy, fun-filled bedtime routine. In this, we’re sharing the funny and silly parts of ourselves and writing the story of our family.

Once Oscar goes to bed I find myself wondering about the future. My mind drifts back to The Golden Dress. In it, the girl learns from a raven and blue lace wind that it’s time to share the dress and its magic. She resists and I understand why. It’s hard to let go and let things fly free within the unknown. But that’s part of the magic of the dress: in order for the magic to continue, it must be shared. Every day I share my heart and a piece of myself. Every day we write our own fairy tale. I’ve learned just how important and how hard it is to have a part of my heart, my own son, walking around outside of my body every day.

One day, I know I, too, will have to let go. Like the daughter in the story has to let go of her dress to share its magic, one day my son will walk ahead of me without looking back. He’ll no longer be a toddler, eager to read with his mom on the floor and may one day decide not to play pretend with blocks or become a dinosaur in a suburban jungle. I’m enjoying every minute I have of the magic of make-believe and books and stories about dresses that become what the wearer wishes.

But the next time I run out of clean hoodies due to paint, glue, or coatings of flour dust, I’ll reach for the hoodie with the ripped pocket and paint, the glue and the memories. I’m still becoming who I am, and my son is still growing to become who he will be. Some days we’re dinosaurs and doggies. Other days we dream of the future. He can be anything while I continue to dream those artist dreams, still often wearing that tattered sweatshirt. It’s an adventure. One filled with our favorite books lined up on the shelf, ready to greet us in the morning.