My mom dug into a giant, orange Fleet Farm bag as she said, “Your niece thought you should have some of your sister’s clothes… There are all kinds of things in here…” She pulled out jeans, tops, a red “Christmas” dress she had knitted by request from my sister. I caught the items in my eyes, one-by-one, laughing mentally at the items I wouldn’t wear, one item I say “That might work for a photoshoot”, and that I’d need to try on the Christmas dress.
When I got the bag of items home, they sat on the ottoman in the bedroom for a few days before I told myself that I really needed to go through the bag and try things on and move them off of the ottoman. I pulled out items, sorted them into piles… shirts, jeans, Christmas dress. One pair of jeans was torn, slashed really, all the way up the fronts of the legs and I set it aside for the sewing room. A few other pairs of jeans fit, snugly, but wearing them would stretch them out.
The tops were all too short, or ones I’d never wear, but the top I thought might work for a photoshoot was kept. The Christmas dress, that I clearly remember my sister asking Mom to make, fit despite being a little stretched from the hanger. It’d been washed, improperly, and had pilled, but it was nothing a sweater shaver couldn’t handle. It’s not a light garment, with a mock turtleneck, fitted waist and hangs past the knees. I can vividly remember how excited my sister was that Mom had agreed to make the dress. I agreed, then, that the dress really was beautiful and in the red color she had selected, it would surely look good on her. I never did get to see her wear it. Now it was mine.
And, as much as I feel the weight of the dress on me, there was another item in the bag that gave me pause. Their familiarity made me laugh. A pair of grey, Carhartt work jeans.
Years ago I had purchased the jeans for myself. I was heavier then and, apparently, quite optimistic on the outlook of me losing weight at that time. They’d been a bit snug from the start, and when I put them on, I ended up walking, stiff-legged, like Randy from A Christmas Story in his snowsuit.
Giving up, I passed these work pants on to my sister, who was far thinner than I was at the time, to be used. I never expected to see them again, yet, there they were.
I tried them on, expecting the same, snug, stiff-legged fit. But, I’d lost weight since then. While the pants, though made “for women”, were by no means fitted for women, they slipped on easily. There was room to move within the confines of the fabric and I momentarily relished how good it felt to know all the work I’d put into losing weight wasn’t lost on me.
I also thought, almost immediately, of the movie “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants“. How funny was it that over ten years later, this pair of pants I had given to my sister had made it’s way back into my closet?
Absolutely, the Christmas dress is beautiful and has meaning because of the memories attached to it and because Mom made it, but the work jeans are more symbolic.
Because our Mom is an independent lady, so are we. Well, were. I still am, so is Mom. And these work jeans, after being around for more than ten years, are utilitarian at best. They are not pants you put on to look good – you wear them to get shit done. There are belt loops, a hammer loop, extra pockets for little tools. The material is thicker than regular denim, durable. They are not an item which you don to go out on the town. They are emblematic of independence.
These pants are now worn at the backs of the cuffs, but otherwise, they have every appearance of not having been used at all. And perhaps that is why I’m so struck with humor about the return of these jeans to my hands. We are all older, a bit more worn over the last ten years. But these pants that didn’t really fit me before, now do. I’ve lost my sister, but I still have the memories. I’m worn in places I wasn’t before, but yet, I appear nearly new in condition.
That weekend that I was handed the giant, orange Fleet Farm bag of clothes from my sister, I told Mom that moments occur where I think of my sister, and then remind myself that she’s no longer alive, and it feels weird. I asked if it “felt weird” when my grandma died when my Mom was 17. I’ve never felt weird about anyone’s death before, because people die all the time. It’s just a fact of life. But, this is my sister. There is something different when it’s immediate.
I wish I could say that there was something mystical, magical, even profound for how I feel, but, there is just humor. What was once on my ass, and then on hers, is back on mine. I’ve anointed them with dirt and grass stains since I discovered they fit, and they’ll become my regular, every day work pants.
And maybe that’s where the sisterhood lies… No matter what, death is there. We can carry on and get shit done, or we can’t. And we can either find humor in that fact, or suffer for it. I choose to see humor.
Thank you, Sis, the pants fit great.