Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Dress

I'm clearing out my closets. Trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. Trying to lighten up our load, to dispossess ourselves of some of our excess possessions, the clutter that that has taken over our lives.

I could claim it's the children and all their attendant... things. I could claim it's autism, citing how long we have to hold onto toys Ethan has long outgrown, because Jake has still not yet grown into them, or is so fondly attached to and revisits from time to time the toys of a much younger child. (Thomas, anyone?)

But this would be a big fat lie.

I have always been this way, surrounded by too much stuff. Not quite ready to be featured on an episode of Hoarders, but not quite NOT either. If there were a show called "They're serious collectors and clutterers but CAN throw out paper and trash and WILL donate outgrown clothes to others who can use them" you could sign me up.

It doesn't help that we live in a small apartment, no longer have a storage space downtown, and both my husband and I have had recent parental deaths land a lifetime of memory-filled THINGS into our laps. What we release now is never coming back. There is no ancestral attic or basement for the detritus of our and their (and our grandparents') lives.

There is just one small, overstuffed apartment, that we also need to live in.

Right now I am coming to terms with the fact that I am unlikely to ever again be the size or shape that I was in my twenties and thirties. And so all the clothes in the back of my closet, the stuff that has survived twenty years of previous purges, has to go.

Even lovely favorites, filled with memories... I bought that shirt at my first Sundance Festival... I used to go clubbing in the 80s in that crushed velvet jacket... that's the sundress I wore when I met my husband on Memorial Day weekend at Fire Island, fourteen years ago...

It's too much to hang onto. 

And yet.. and yet... there's one dress I cannot part with.


The green velvet dress I wore to Thanksgiving, 2001.

My parents were in town. We were at my in-laws. And I was in a foul, foul, horrible mood. Just despondent.

You see, I had done a terrible thing that morning, had cheated and taken a home pregnancy test. Even though it was still days before it would be accurate. Even though we had been admonished, in no uncertain terms, to NOT DO THAT by the fertility clinic. We were just 23 days into our IVF cycle, a week and a day since the embryo transfer. Too. damn. soon.

But the box of pee sticks in the bathroom cabinet had sung their siren song of temptation to me that morning. I had been feeling so pregnant, surely there would be confirmation on a stick.

Really, I had been floating on the air of rising expectations for days. There had been signs and portents that yes, the IVF was successful.

And then that Thursday, Thanksgiving morning, I was just plummeted into the black pit of despair. Once more, a lone pink line on the pee-stick.

I lay on the sofa moaning and groaning, in mourning. I barely roused myself in time to shower and dress for Thanksgiving dinner across town. But I made sure to throw on a beloved dress that I always felt good in: the crushed green velvet.

That year, unlike the one just past, I was not spending Thanksgiving with my beloved cousins, but with my husband's family - who I am thoroughly fond of, but much less intimate with, so I couldn't really talk about what was going on.

I didn't even tell my husband what I'd done, as it was so against the rules and I didn't want to admit to being bad, bad, bad. Explaining my mood, I just mumbled something about having an ominous feeling, and that I was starting to think that maybe the IVF hadn't been successful.

I managed to eat my dinner and engage in some minimal, polite conversation. But then right afterward I withdrew and joined my elderly father in the living room as he was taking his traditional post-turkey sofa nap. I don't think I even got up for dessert, feeling thoroughly rotten, thinking to sleep off my funk.

So why would I possibly be nostalgic about this dress then, commemorating such a dreadful day?

Because two days later, on Saturday morning I peed on another stick and saw the most beautiful sight in the world: two pink lines, one fainter than the other but definitely, undeniably, there.

I was pregnant.

Very, in fact.

(yes, the twins)

And suddenly Thanksgiving Day was cast in a whole new light...

My mood swings, sudden despondency, near hysterics? Clearly a sign that the pregnancy hormones were starting to kick in, big time.

My need to nap after dinner? That the intense first trimester exhaustion had likewise begun.

So the dress, to me now, has magical qualities, evoking the beginning of my noticeable pregnancy. I'm keeping it. If I can wear it again someday, so much the better (green has always been a good color on me).

But until then? It's going in a box, alongside a photograph of five two-day-old embryos, a pair of tiny blue hospital bracelets with "Baby A" and "Baby B" on them. And a little white plastic stick with two pink lines on it.

What? You didn't think I could throw THAT out, did you?

read to be read at yeahwrite.me
And, for the first time in a long time, I'm linking up with Yeah, Write because I sorta kinda like this post and hope you did too. (But I'm on the Hang-out grid, not the challenge grid, because I missed being one of the first 50. Because I had to wait 'til the kids were asleep to edit and re-write. Damn my perfectionist ways!)


  1. I live in a small house and have the same issues with parting with stuff. All the same, I have a memento tote for each of my children.

  2. It's hard to part with items that mean so much! I'm sure you can find a place to stash it, along with the memories of that Thanksgiving.

  3. Yep, I sorta kinda liked this post, too.


  4. Loved this post! My 2 year old is an IUI baby and we're not sure if we'll be able to have a baby #2. So, I'm overly sentimental about certain things too. Example? There is no way ever that I will toss a small, square, red striped pillow that we used when he nursed for his first 14 months. I might even be buried with it. The memories and gratitude I have for his infant-hood is buried in my heart and in that pillow. Long live your green dress!

  5. Varda - I can't believe you kept that preggers test strip!
    Well. actually I can. So I guess my suggestion to turn the green velvet dress into another article (i.e. a pillow, a purse, a big floppy hat etc.) is withdrawn. ;-)

    Sometimes it's just the photos we have to spark that memory...or a well-tuned brain - hahaha.

  6. oops again. I'm NOT anonymous. I AM HILO !!!!!!!!

  7. Someone somewhere (blog? conversation? magazine) talked about taking all those old clothes that have sentimental value but not wearability and turning them (or having someone turn them) into a quilt. It's an interesting idea altho for me it would become "the bag of stuff that I'm going to take to someone to turn into a quilt someday" and that sort of defeats the purpose of, you know, cleaning house. But that dress--KEEP IT. not only is it beautiful & that green would be lovely on you but because the story that goes with it is fantastic. You'll always have the story, but keeping the dress seems important too. And of course, for that other stuff, there is always Manhattan Mini-Storage...just a teeny cubicle? heh heh heh...

  8. Love "siren song of temptation"!

    I too hang onto clothes which have memories permanently stitched into the seams. Can't help it!

  9. Oh, I just cried reading your story of Thanksgiving 2001! I have a tiny apartment too, so I totally feel your pain. Found you through Write on Edge, following now. I'd love for you to come visit my blog & follow back if you like! :)

  10. Also found you through Write on Edge and love this post! Your Thanksgiving 2001 was my July 4th 2007 and I remember all of it vividly. What a wild ride and a thankfully happy ending! Thank you for bringing back all of the feelings...and giving me some compassion for my clutterer ways.

  11. Keep it, love it and be grateful every day. :)

  12. Somehow, I never succumbed to peeing on sticks.

    Pretty dress.

  13. hey, can you tell me what brand this dress is? Im a costumer for indie movies, and ive been looking for a dress like this for weeks. =)

    1. Yes - it's an old, old (like pre-2000) dress from April Cornell. Good luck!

    2. Thank you so much! lovely blog you have.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!