If my mother had her way, she would have worn a ragged t-shirt and no pants every day. She would come home every night and take off her work clothes before she even said hello to us. As a result, most of my early memories of my mother she’s wearing nothing but a holey shirt. She would even check the mail in her underwear until my dad finally confronted her about it; apparently he didn’t like the idea of the neighbors getting a blatant view of his wife’s tighty whiteys every morning.
The only exception was a particular pink dress that every once in a while would find its way out of her closet. It was the one remaining scrap that remained of her femininity, and on days she wore it I suddenly remember my mother once owned a bridal store and dressed like a model. On days like that my dad always waxed poetic about the days she wore dresses and a pair of heels every day instead of her uniform of old socks and Microsoft tees.
“When your mom and I started dating she always did her makeup nicely and did her hair every day,” he sighs. I listen, even though I had heard it all dozens of times by now. This time we’re in the living room sipping on coffee, waiting for my mother to emerge from the bedroom after getting home from work.
“I buy her heels and she never wears them,” he continues.
“She wears them to work,” I point out.
He says something in response but I can’t hear it over the loud hum and gurgle of the fish tanks. It doesn’t matter. At this point we’ve had this conversation so many times it’s like we’re in a play. We’ve already recited our lines.
I take another sip of overly-sweet coffee. Warmth spreads through my chest down to my fingertips.
My mother emerges. To our surprise, she’s still wearing the pink dress. I forget now if my father bought it for her or she sewed it herself; in the days before her laptop was her constant companion, her hobby was sewing my sister and I clothes. It was something I had forgotten until then. Both my mother and I had long outgrown the Blue’s Clues shorts and Little Mermaid pillowcases.
“Dinner?” she asks. My dad gives her a bright smile, flashing his freshly-whitened teeth, and asks where she wants to go.
“Hooters,” she answers.
I watch them joke with each other, my father complimenting her on her dress. She blows him off just like she did when they were young, before they were dating. For a moment I imagine I’m watching my parents back before they were married, before three kids and a mortgage payment, when they sat in bars all night and laughed until the early morning.
Ashley Reynolds is a two-time winner of the GCACWT Fairhope Prize. In 2013, she won the award for Poetry with “Nas JAX”; in 2014, she won the award for Creative-Non Fiction with “Dance Dares and Secret Affairs.” She will graduate Saint Leo University in 2016 with a B.A. in Global Studies and a B.A. in English.