I was going through boxes that had been stored in closets after Mark had died. I was trying to sort through my emotions and the tears of accumulated things; boxes of books, old clothing, and souvenirs stored over the many years. Near the bottom of a box I found a much smaller box that held a dried up souvenir wrapped in thin white tissue paper.
My mind immediately went back to 1949. I was a senior in high school and had accepted a date with Mark. Mark had volunteered, joining the Marines. After the war, he was discharged and returned home. He was considered a man even though he was only nineteen. He was often somber and held the memories of the last two years tightly inside.
Our date was for the high school Christmas dance. I needed to find a fancy dress to wear, but it wasn’t going to be easy for me. Money was still tight and formal wear wasn’t readily available yet. Mom decided to take me shopping to see what we could find.
We searched through the several stores in town. Either the prices were so very high, the designs didn’t fit my body, or the color of the material didn’t go well with my hair and skin color. We were almost out of options when my mom said, “Let’s try one last store before we give up and go home.”
It just happened to be a store which sold recycled clothing. I had walked by that store many times in the past, but I had never gone inside. It seemed that the shop had been there forever. Pushing open the wooden door with glass inserts, we were greeted by the soft tinkling of brass bells hanging on a thick cord from the door handle.
Across the narrow sales floor I saw a mannequin wearing a dark emerald green gown with a full, flowing skirt. I somehow knew that it would fit. I nodded to my mom. She smiled.
The tall, gray haired sales lady came from behind a sales counter and asked, “May I help you?”
Mom said, “Yes. We’d like to look at that green gown.”
“It is a lovely satin gown.” The sales clerk replied as she removed it and handed it to me. She pointed out the dressing room near the back of the store.
I quickly slipped out of my clothing and carefully climbed inside of the gown. I loved the feeling of the smooth silkiness in the material as I slid my hands over the skirt. I stepped out of the dressing room for my mom to see the dress I had on.
I heard my mom gasp. “Honey, that gown looks like it was made for you.” She eased the zipper up on the dress.
The sales woman said. “Come here.” Reaching beneath the sales counter, she pulled out something shiny. She slipped the narrow rhinestone covered belt around my waist, cinching the dress tighter. It looked beautiful.
The clerk said, “I have one more thing. It’s been around the shop for awhile and I will make a great deal for you. It will make you look stunning.” She disappeared into the back room returning with a short garment bag. She unzippered the bag and withdrew something white. It was a white fur stole. Draped around her shoulders, it completed the outfit.
Mark had bought a corsage of white carnations and holly. He pinned it on me just before we went to the dance nearly sixty-three years ago. Although the carnations had withered, my memories had not.