A few years ago, Goodwill advertised that their resale stores were the best places to find the perfect little black dress to wear to holiday parties. That brought back memories of the black dresses I used to have, especially the one I wore to my first grade Halloween party.
When I was a little kid, I kept an old suitcase filled with some “old lady” dresses that I put on whenever I wanted to play dress-up. The dresses had been discards of my grandma. These dresses weren’t like the ones Goodwill featured as party dresses. My dresses all had long sleeves, high necks, and some black lace or decorative stitching and shiny little black beads or buttons to make the dress fancy from the waist up. On me, the hem of the dress fell to the floor. The only way to describe how I looked in these dresses is goofy.
When I was in first grade, I remember that we were told to bring Halloween costumes to school on Halloween so that we could get dressed up for an all-school parade down Main Street in the afternoon. The parade would be followed by a Halloween party in each classroom. I was excited about the parade and party, but I worried about what I could do for a Halloween costume. My friends were talking about the costumes they had bought at the dime store. I knew my mom and dad couldn’t afford to buy me a costume. I didn’t know what to do, so I worried, as much as a six-year-old can worry. My mom tried to come to the rescue by taking me to the dime store to buy a 29-cent mask. It was a really cute puppy face that I liked a lot. But a mask wasn’t a costume. My mom asked me to get out my old suitcase, and I tried on each of my black dresses. We chose the most ornate one for me to dress up as an “old lady puppy.” I wasn’t sure that was as good as a store-bought puppy costume, but at least I had something.
When we dressed up in our costumes that Halloween afternoon, Mrs. Knoblauch, my first grade teacher, burst out laughing when she saw me as the “old lady puppy.” She gave me a big hug – and she also gave me a prize for having the most original costume. It was one of the best days of my life!
I think I even learned something that day. My mom had taught me about making the best of what you have, about being resourceful and creative, and about not just doing what everyone else was doing.
I doubt that I’ll ever wear a little black dress again, or even a big black dress. But whenever I’m prompted to think about black dresses, I have a great memory.