I sit alone with a cup of steaming hot coffee and look at her prom gloves in silence.
They’re over sixty years old and belonged to my mother. Once clean and snow white, they’re brown with age and old dreams now, covered carefully in seed pearls, stitched over the entire top and fingers of each hand.
I wonder what my mom was thinking so many years ago, when she inched them up carefully over short manicured nails, smoothing the material out over youthful skin. Was she thinking only of my father then? Of holding tightly to his own work-worn hand? Was she dreaming of dancing the night away? Did she giggle out loud with her sister Carol, talking about the big band playing both fast and slow, loud and soft music during her prom celebration? Was mom nervous about dance steps, or just excited to be lead around the dance floor?
I try to imagine if her head was swirling with thoughts of getting married and having the five daughters that she happily gave to my dad soon afterwards. Or, I wonder, did she have dreams of higher education instead, of becoming someone, anyone other than a mother and a wife, when she wore them that night.
Did she have butterflies in her stomach when she gazed in the mirror at her young, smiling face and flushed cheeks before the dance? Was she imagining big, bold, beautiful things for the evening ahead of her?
Did my grandmother give her advice on how to act and look for the evening? Did she tell her to be good and come home with every hair in place, not to get into trouble or do anything more than hold my father’s hand that prom night?
Did my grandmother want her to dream, encourage her to fall in love and raise a family of her own? Did she laugh with her? Tell her that she could be anyone and do anything she set her heart and mind to? Did she hug her tightly and tell her she looked beautiful?
I only know that these prom gloves were important to my mom.I discover them, tucked away in an old bureau drawer, weeks after her passing. I’m unable to talk when I see them, my breath catches on a sob. I’m cleaning out the house with my father. We sort through what we should keep and what we might sell, in order to pay the steep medical bills left behind. They’re massive and the weight of them has hit him like a ton of bricks. Alongside the newness in losing her, it’s just too much.
I take a deep, ragged breath, look out their bedroom window and start to cry. I’m picturing the smile on her face and the dream in her heart, that long ago Spring evening.
In my forty some-thing years I’ve never, ever seen these before.
I want to ask my father about the gloves, about that night, but he’s in too much pain. I won’t broach the subject. I let the question lie still, even though I feel this need to hear all about it.
I don’t know if momma loaned them to any of my sisters for their own prom over the years. She may have. If so, she got them back afterwards and put them in a place where she could gaze at them often. Maybe she even tried them on again – in between cleaning and cooking and being a housewife.
All of a sudden, passing them down through the family feels right and good and needed somehow. I think of all the girls in the next generations of St.John’s. It’s easy, to conjure up my niece, Amanda.
Amanda was very close to my mother. I remember many warm, wonderful hugs between the both of them. I can still see snapshots in my head, pictures of special times they shared while Amanda was growing up nearby. I remember a bright red, hardwood music box that my dad had made Grammy. Amanda loved the sound of sweet music that came from it. I can still see her in my mind’s eye, lying down on her stomach in front of it, just listening to the tune that played merrily, once it was wound up.
She has that music box now and I recall feeling how right it seemed, to gift it to her. How natural, that she should be the grandchild to enjoy it once more, now that both of her grandparents were gone.
Amanda’s worked hard on our family tree in the last few years, trying to add leaves to bare branches. They seem to spread far and wide, over years and towns, states and even countries. She seems to have a deep desire to learn where we came from. I feel that same need and often scour pages of journals that both mom and dad wrote in. I look through slides of my father’s. It’s a wonderful documentation of his five children, wife, and family members. He’s chronicled people still living and people long gone, in our family’s unique fingerprint of life.
I quietly ‘Facebook’ a message to my niece and ask if she’d like the aged gloves for her own daughter, Ava. My heart swells with a sweet joy when she responds with a simple ‘ Yes.’ I like to think that momma smiles too, that she’s glad they will be cleaned and cared for. Perhaps she knows that some of her dreams will mingle with Ava’s, carrying on in the heart of another young girl.
I wish Ava well in her own dance of life and love and family. I’m happy to pass on a tiny little piece of the past to her bright and shining future.