Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Getting 'Dress'ed

And yes, that's me. Far right. Second row. Dressed in my best.
A Dress?!
Mom wanted me to wear a dress? To school?
I had somehow slipped into an alternate universe.

Mom and Dad were planning a trip. A long trip.
I was five. Anything more than an hour was a long trip.
I was being farmed out at my cousin Jody's place for the duration.
And during that time, my grade one class was to have its first, ever school pictures taken.
Way, way beyond exciting.
Then, the bad news. Mom expected me to dress up for this photo op. And I do mean 'dress'.
My life was over.
She dropped me and my little suitcase off at Uncle Jay and Aunt Jesse's and waved happily as she drove out of the yard.
A little too happily.
Jody grabbed my hand and dragged me to her room. From then until bedtime, we were a blur of activity.
In the morning, as per instructions, I dragged out the hated dress and laid it on the bed.
We regarded each other.
Then I glanced down at the small bag where I had stuffed my play clothes the night before. My little 'snap' shirt and jeans. So much more comfortable.
And really not that dirty.
And, best of all, my Mom would never know.
I smiled. My decision was made.
Have I mentioned that a great many of my decisions really weren't what you would call thought through? And that, somehow, Mom always found out?
She was magic.
I wadded up my dress and shoved it back into my suitcase. Then I happily pulled on my shirt and jeans and snapped them up.
I was ready.
Aunt Jesse smiled at us when we presented ourselves for breakfast. Jody in her pretty little dress.
And me.
"Didn't your Mom send any clothes for picture day?"
I shook my head and mutely indicated what I was wearing.
Aunt Jesse frowned at me doubtfully, then finally shrugged and put another pancake on my plate.
Soon we were on the bus and all thought of itchy, restricting dresses was driven from my mind.
Grade One, with Miss Woronoski, was always wonderful, but this day was especially exciting as we anticipated our first, ever, class photos.
Okay, I know it sounds mundane. But we were five.
Everything's exciting when you're five . . .
The time came. Miss Woronoski lined us up for the parade down the hall to the 'photo' room. She arranged us neatly on chairs. The photographer told us to smile. The flash went.
Then, one by one, each of us sat in the lone chair to one side, to have our individual pictures taken. It was more excitement than my five year old self could handle.
And then, it was over. Our little faces had been captured. Immortalized for all time.
Along with what we had chosen to wear.
Some weeks later, our teacher handed out our pictures. I pulled mine out and stared at it. Look! It's me! And there we all were! My whole class.
Pictures were definitely things of beauty!
I tossed it to my Mom as I climbed into the car. "Pictures, Mom!"
She set it aside till we reached home.
By then I had forgotten all about it.
Later, my Mom called me into the kitchen. She was holding my small, brown envelope in one hand, and my pictures in the other.
"Diane, what happened here?"
I glanced down at the pictures and smiled. "Pictures, Mom." Okay, so quick, I wasn't.
"Yes, but what happened to the dress I sent for you to wear?"
I froze. My mind shuttling around frantically for an answer to her question. "Ummm . . ."
"Did you wear your play clothes to school on picture day?"
"Well . . ."
"Diane, I told you to wear your pretty dress!"
I stared at her, my eyes narrowed. How did you know?! Aunt Jesse told you, didn't she?!
Mom waved the picture. "Look at all of your friends in their nice clothes."
I glanced down. Then up at her again.
"Didn't you want to look nice?"
But I did look nice! My favorite shirt. My favorite jeans. I frowned. What was the problem?
Mom sighed. "Never mind."
I smiled and went off happily to play.

It's nearly 55 years since that day. A short time ago, my husband took me to see Tosca, performed by the Metropolitan Opera.
It was an exciting evening. One we had been anticipating for a very long time.
Grant was standing at the door, dressed in his finest. He looked at me. "Ready to go?"
I nodded.
He looked down. "Maybe you will want to wear something other than jeans and a shirt?"
Some things never change . . .


  1. Tom boy! Lol! Something's indeed do not change!

  2. Some things never change, and those are the things that make us who we are. Your preference of comfort over conformity make you a pretty confident person. Be proud.

  3. What a firm sense of yourself you had at age 5!

  4. "...something other than jeans and a shirt?'
    So, jeans, a shirt and some pretty lipstick??
    I'm no more comfortable in dresses than you are.

  5. Moms ARE magical. It had nothing to do with those photos. She would have known regardless :)

    So cute!

  6. I knew we were sisters from another mother! When I was graduating from kindergarten I told my mother that the teacher wanted us all to wear pants. We got ready and showed up at the big event and I was the only one in my jeans. I didn't get away with it like you did though. Mom drove me back home real quick and I had to wear the stupid dress!

    1. It's all about timing, Rena. Wait until they are far, far away. Then strike!


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