My mother’s robe hangs in the back of my cedar closet, where it’s been since she died 10 years ago. Tonight I choose to wear it.
First I light all the candles in the bathroom. Fill the tub with hot water and fragrant bubbling foam. Then I lie in the steam and the warmth, gazing at that perfect robe hanging on the closed door.
This silken wonder was a gift from my father, and showed a rare flash of gift-giving insight.
Her first comment after opening the package was, “I can’t wear this. It’s too expensive. This is too extravagant.”
It was. That was the point. She deserved a bit of indulgence, but never
would have done it for herself.
The creamy fabric is quilted with delicate silk roses. Its two layers provided warmth for her aging body. Satiny ruffles cascade from the neck all the way down the front on both sides, down to the floor. They framed her face so beautifully.
As much as she protested, my mother loved that robe. Petite, graceful woman that she was, the robe suited her perfectly.
I get out of the tub, dry myself and crush the robe up to my face. I can still smell her body, the talcum powder with which she always dusted herself. This scent was part of healing every childhood wound. Every skinned knee, every young disappointment, even broken bones, were all made better in her arms where I’d be enveloped by the essence of motherly love and this scent.
That’s what I’m seeking tonight; my mother’s warm embrace. I slip one arm, then the other, into the robe. Already I feel her closeness. I knot the internal cord of the robe, then wrap the outer satin tie around my waist and carefully construct a perfect bow.
I glance at myself in the mirror. I look perfectly ridiculous.
I towered over my mother by five inches. Where she was a rounded flower, I’m narrow and long. She was a princess in this robe. I’m a gawky, angular mess. The creaminess of the color that lent a glow to her complexion drains mine to a sallow hue.
Never mind. That’s not why I have it on. No one’s around to see.
My mother loved my ex-husband. On her death bed, she told me she could die in comfort, knowing that I was in Alan’s tender care.
Many times I’ve thought how glad I am she was saved from the pain of his betrayal. Other times, I’ve longed to crawl into her arms and be solaced by her kisses.
Tonight I abandon myself to the comfort of her arms by wearing this robe that is the essence of her.