I see my tween daughter from down the street, long hair flying, giant backpack hoisted, sheathed in my mom’s dark brown hooded winter puffer -- size XS. It always makes me catch my breath for a moment – seeing Z in that jacket.
When we divided Mom’s closet between the three sisters, there was plenty to go around. Our mom loved clothes. My middle sister took the full length fur coat, which was weird but made sort of sense. My youngest sister took the loud blazers and some of the evening wear. I’m the oldest. I took the nightgowns and some purses. We divided the charms on the necklace she wore everyday.
Some of Judi’s more flamboyant pieces I gave right away to Zoe, who was seven at the time, for dress up: like the light pink cardigan with a pink fur collar and rhinestone buttons, white jazz shoes (?) and plenty of high-heeled boots to totter around in when friends came over.
I hung other things in Zoe’s closet gradually as she grew, mostly sweaters and long sleeve t-shirts. Such happy/sad, private moments I have with myself every time Zoe walks out of her room in something of Judi’s. A lavender cashmere cardigan, a pair of dangling silver earrings, or a purse I had forgotten about that Zoe now sports so proudly.
In June it will be five years.
The nightgowns are what are most important to me, still. I slip on my mom's nightgowns and I feel … like a mom. Zoe and her brother snuggle with me in our king sized bed, under the covers, propped up on pillows. We watch “This Is Us,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” shows with a nostalgia component. I wish I could talk to my mom about these shows, or watch with her. But me and the kids, we’re cozy. I like holding them next to me, in her nightgowns.
Anyone who has lost a person has had to contend with the stillness of things left behind. Recently, though, I feel strongly that given time, these items can have a rich and almost kinetic power. They have waited, patiently, and respectfully, and now they are ready to live again.
My sisters and I can refer to the clothes and know exactly what the other is trying to convey. I wore the red shiny trenchcoat to vote for Hillary in the primary. Youngest will wear a loud blazer, with gold buttons, uncharacteristic of her regular style, to lead a conference. Middle will wear pantyhose under her doctor dresses, which is weird but we get it.
We are all moving forward in our adult lives now without my mom, and we manifest her, every day. My younger sister is an advocate and policy maker for under served communities, just like my mom. My middle sister is an oncologist and forward thinker about alternative cancer care, inspired by our mom’s disease and her shortened life.
I take notice of the memories and the stories, and document how the clothes connect us. Since Zoe is the sole female grandchild, or the one most interested in fashion, she is the one to embody most of these totems, at least for now. She understands this inherently, and it squeezes at my heart that she does. She gets it.
Zoe shines bright. She can argue like no one I’ve ever seen, except for Judi. Like her grandma, Zoe has charisma. She also has many pairs of size 5, brightly colored, slightly worn flats, which she will be wearing all spring long.