Thursday, October 2, 2008

When Miracles Came In A Cardboard Box

As my granddaughter hopped off the school bus yesterday, I couldn't help but notice her new outfit. Totally trendy from head to toe,
her tiny eight year old body was squeezed into "Skinny" jeans from
Limited, Too and she modeled an Old Navy tee and popular brand tennis shoes.

It made me suddenly flash back to my wardrobe memories....

During my childhood, new clothes were bought only once a year-
and that was at the beginning of school.

Mom would hurry us through the P.N. Hirsch or Montgomery Ward looking for sensible clothing at a sensible price.
(Do they even make that anymore?)
We usually got two outfits.
We begged her to also buy us tennis shoes, but for years we all slid around the gym in our graying socks or our "illegal" street shoes.
And we didn't even think about asking for accessories like hats and scarves and jewelry and boots and belts.
Don't get me wrong- Mom would have given us an endless wardrobe if she could have. It just wasn't possible.

And somehow we managed to make do.

As far as my sister Linda and I, our only hope to have a variety of outfits (and to be somewhat fashionable), came every few months in a big cardboard box.

The church people would visit, have coffee and donuts with Mom and Dad, and then bring in a giant cardboard box.
It was full of clothes.
We salivated at the sight.
We couldn't wait till they had licked the last bit of jelly donut from their fingers
or smoked their last cigarette.
They barely had their car doors shut when Linda and I were on that box like sharks on chum.

It was Christmas for us.

We tried on skirts and belts and tops and sweaters.
We got new socks and slippers and robes and even underwear.
What didn't fit, we made fit.
We altered bras with safety pins, modified skirts with a few rolls of the waistband, and transformed too-large shoes with a wad of toilet paper in the toe tips.
We cut belts and made new holes, we taped and stapled and folded and hemmed.
We were fashion designers at an early age and never knew it!

My favorite memory from "The Box" came one summer when bikinis were becoming the rage.
Our thinning, worn-out, one-piece, too-small suits were on their last possible alterations.

And more than anything, we wanted bikinis.
We were in heaven when Mom told us there were bathing suits in "The Box" this time!
But, the joy was short-lived when we each pulled out a woolly, one-piece monstrosity that had been popular ages ago.

Linda's was black. Mine was blue.

They were itchy and ugly.
But we decided that they were also going to be bikinis!
With determination and Mom's good scissors,
we snipped away everything that didn't look bikini-ish
and tucked in everything that looked a little jagged.

The bra tops were like little pointed cages, and even as flat chested as I was then,

I was a full "D" cup in my new bikini!
Even lying down flat on the beach towel, my boob cage shielded me from the harsh sun.

The thing about these bathing suits is that they had some weird Japanese letters

on the hip area.
As far as we knew, Oriental fashion was not the current trend in our area.
So, we had to improvise. (That's the story of our lives, huh, Linda?)

"What can we say it stands for?,"Linda asked.

"Don't know...." I mulled.
We needed something modern, acceptable, chic, and stylish.

"We could tell everybody that it says "Sock It To Me Baby!" Linda suggested.

That was it! Very trendy. Very "avantgarde".
Very, very, clever.
No one would possibly know or guess that these terrific
(body-shaping) bikinis came from our secret box.

So, that's just what we did.

Told everybody at the pond and poolside and beach
that our wonderfully comfortable two-piece suits said"Sock It To Me Baby" in Japanese
and that some family member had attained them on a trip of some sort.

We strutted our stuff that summer in itchy wool bikinis-

whose leg hems fell in awkward, uneven lines
and whose bra-cages saluted everyone by surprise-
whose soggy, wet material stretched into a heavy burden
when exiting the water-
Those fabulous suits of ours-
which, looking back on it now-
never fooled
a single person.

But for that one summer, we were the queens of our dreams.

We were suddenly confident, carefree, and happy.

It was all because miracles came
in that cardboard box.