PLAID SATIN RIBBONS and tiny ballet slippers are bits and pieces of a beloved costume worn in a little girl’s life. A diary, where she recorded each daily event as if it were the most important in the world and could only happen to her, now stored in her drawer forever, is next to a doll house with miniature figures permanently stilled, no longer central players in her life. These are remnants of the childhood of someone who spent long, lazy hours in a room, drawing pictures and fantasizing, perhaps, about what will be when she grows up.
Did anyone notice the seasons passing as hair ribbons were replaced by tortoise shell combs with rhinestone trim and long pigtails were loosened, gathered into swirls? Black ballet slippers put away next to the diary were magically replaced by silver 3-inch heels.
In early spring of her seventeenth year the first boyfriend appeared a six-foot package of muscles and youthful masculinity. “Mo, I’ve left the car on…Don’t wanna get there late,” he called up from the bottom of the landing. “You look terrific,” he announced, his gaze fixed on her as she descended the stairs, glowing with innocent sophistication, her hair long flowing.
“Be right there,” she called, adjusting her comb, anticipation in her voice. He was now the central player in her world, which just the day before had revolved to the words, “Mommy, can you braid my hair?”
This scene, repeated many times, always ended as she smiled back, “I’ll see you later, mom” and closed the door.
“I’ve been accepted to a college in Colorado,” she announced brightly one morning.
“I’m so happy for you,” I said bravely and hugged her. “Will you remember to call and write?”
Didn’t I always know that she would go? A baby’s first steps almost always ends in departure. But, it was what she wanted, though an especially dear part of my life would cease. I wondered how distance would change things between us. How can telephone calls and letters fill the gap left by long spaces of time where there had once been recitals, shopping trips for last minute accessories, talks about boys and confidences shared over lunch?
Though miles separate us now, I can still see her in braids and ribbons whenever the bedroom door hinge creaks and I glimpse a pink canopy bed, catty-cornered, beneath faded flowered wallpaper enlivened with pictures taken in another time, seemingly not long ago.
I open a drawer. A faint aroma of perfume wafts out. Before my eyes unfurls a shiny satin ribbon, as fresh and lovely as ever, a ribbon of another time, still soft against my cheek.
Photo by Elise Matich