i loved her jewelry.
she had this small, square glass box framed in brass with tiny pieces of stained glass on the top. inside, she kept all of her special pieces. large dangling earrings made of tiny interlocked metal circles, painted in teal and pink. chunky studs with owls adorning the front. feathered earrings. ornate, but cheap, plastic broaches, designed to look like ivory, studded with plastic to look like diamonds.
i loved them all.
at 10, i was inches away from my mother’s petite 4’11” frame. where she was thin, dark and wispy, i was solid and already starting to look like a woman. and it was her i wanted to be. some girls may have played dress up with costume ball gowns and tiaras. my dream was my mother’s closet. she was the princess i pretended to be.
in our house, the tenth i’d lived in in as many years, her bedroom had a walk-in closet. such a luxury for a duplex. clothes were packed into each side, the shelves piled high with boxes of papers not to lose, pictures to remember and tucked away in a corner, my mother’s pot stash.
when she was away, i’d spend every second i could, modeling her clothes. trying on dresses with this necklace, those earrings. walking in high heels and her robe.
trying to be her.
without fail, i’d stop at my favorite skirt. made of rough red fabric wrapped around soft black satin, this was my drug of choice. it fit my waist perfectly, the red elastic waistband cinching to meet my hips. i knew i’d wear it when i was grown. i imagined myself going to high school dances in it, swirling perfectly on the floor. moving off to college and meeting my husband in the skirt, him as taken with its beauty as i was. i would fall in love in that skirt. i would mother my children in that skirt.
i longed for the day that the bottom hem would brush the floor, not pile at my feet.
that skirt was the ruler by which i measured my years. she’d been back and forth in and out of our lives dozens of times since my parents first separated two years earlier. each time she came home, i’d try it on. had i grown? did it fit better?
how much longer before it was mine?