I was excited to wear my new dress.
It was slimming, I thought, all black and covered with flounces from the neckline to the hemline. I wore it with high heels — which I rarely wear — and red drop earrings. I was feeling much more sophisticated than I usually do when I went over to my sister’s house for dinner.
“Nice dress!” my mother said.
I gave my new dress a little twirl and set the ruffles flying in all directions.
“You look like a car wash,” my sister said.
This is why it’s good to stay close to family.
My husband, Peter, and I moved across the country to the Midwest in large part so we could be closer to family. It’s good to see my parents on a regular basis. Peter’s oldest sister is battling cancer, and we can now be near her. We have dozens of cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and now most of them live nearby.
My family members (and my sister in particular) absolutely do not care what I say about myself. They do not care about my New Year’s resolutions or recent accomplishments or nice things other people might have said about me.
They remember when I was 13 and wore a green felt hat all the time out of some sort of weird superstition. They remember when Dad had to drive back two hours to fetch the green hat after I left it someplace. And they will never believe that the green felt hat-wearing person has entirely changed.
I look at pictures of myself as a young teen, very shy, trying to become invisible beneath my peculiar green hat and only drawing more attention to myself in the process.
There was a lot I didn’t understand as an awkward teen. I didn’t realize that lots of people were shy. I didn’t know that, by starting a conversation with someone, I would be doing them a huge favor. I didn’t know I’d see the relief in their eyes when they realized they could talk to me and forget about feeling awkward themselves. I didn’t need a green hat to become invisible. To take the pressure off me, I just needed to direct the attention to someone else. If someone had told me that sooner, I wouldn’t have had to wear that silly hat for so long.
I like to think I’ve changed quite a bit since then, but my family knows better.
I firmly believe in the power we all have to change ourselves and follow our dreams wherever they take us. I hope to continue trying new things for quite a while. But, while chasing my highfalutin dreams, it’s good to have family around to keep me grounded. It’s good to remember that, no matter what grand schemes I take on, there are people who have known me before and know me best.
They will always cheer me on, but they will also know that I am still the same person, in a fancy dress, trying new things, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing miserably. And they still love me.
“It doesn’t really look like a car wash,” my mother said.
My mother has been saying reassuring things to me all my life. But I suspect, now that the image is in her mind, my fancy-schmancy dress will never look quite the same. And that’s OK.
My self-esteem has come a long way since my green hat-wearing days. Nowadays, I can put on my fancy car wash dress with a pair of heels and not care who sees me.
Till next time,
Carrie Carrie Classon’s memoir is called “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.