The benefit of being an only child was getting new clothes and new shoes every season. Once high school rolled around, I had bypassed my mother’s size, so she was able to guard her well-stocked closet and chest of drawers. When the Taco Bell fat fell off in college (when I should’ve packed on the Freshman Fifteen), I was able to wear her pretties with pride, even though the dresses and skirts were too old for me.
But my little Maryn (age 7) is dressing out of her older sister’s closet because there’s no reason not to. Ava (age 10) is a bright girl with an even brighter smile, but she’s…inactive. There’s a kind word: inactive. She doesn’t do anything, really, so her clothes stay in perfect shape. She wears them, hangs them and grows out of them.
So Maryn’s wardrobe is housed in Rubbermaid bins stacked on the floor of a miniscule closet. They’re carefully labeled in a Martha Stewart-esque manner: 6x. Small. Spring. Summer.
I admit that I buy better pieces for Ava than for Maryn because they’ll be handed down. They have to last another tour of duty through second, third and fourth grades. The cute sweaters and cardigans haven’t worn out their woollies and deserve a second chance at keeping a little girl warm on a December day. And seeing Maryn in these cute ensembles brings back sweet memories.
“I remember the apple dress,” I told her a few days ago. “Ava wore that dress on the first day of kindergarten. She was so nervous …”
Maryn looked down at the apple dress and stuffed her hands into the side pockets as if to rip them out of their seams.
She hates the apple dress.
She really hated the fisherman’s sweater that was so scratchy that her back looked like she had crawled under barbed wire. And Maryn hated the green vest with the Golden Retriever on the front; a pink ribbon serving as the pup’s leash. The Peter Pan collar of a white blouse acted like a starched military uniform.
She wore it once. That means it was worn twice.
Maryn is the active child who turns white sneakers into brown loafers after one lap around Danner Meadow Park. During an Easter egg hunt on the school’s grounds, she wore Ava’s blue dress and matching leggings to dive under swings to fight for purple plastic ovals filled with puffy stickers. The dirt and grass stains never came out, but the truth did: Maryn is not her sister’s twin. She is wildly unique in every way, shape and form.
This summer, I took a break from the biographies I normally read and replaced them with teen titles to prepare myself for modern adolescent themes and adventures. I bought The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, an ancient book — I know, and read up on the summer dramas of four girls who share a pair of magical jeans. The denim pants fit each girl perfectly despite their differing measurements, a peculiarity that bonds the four of them through their individual triumphs and tragedies.
The book make me think critically (something I do too much of on a daily basis). My daughters may share lives, but they couldn’t be more different. It’s wrong of me to try to pour Maryn into Ava’s mold. Ava is long and lean, and on the straight and narrow path. Maryn is petite and curvy, and on a twisty road that often makes her sick. Ava observes life and Maryn experiences it. White sundresses aren’t for her.
This weekend, I unpacked more clothes labeled “7/8, Fall”. I shook out each piece, revealing a story that went with the navy blue pea coat and creased khaki pants. I also pulled out the pink oxford, threaded with Ava’s cursive initials on the side pocket. It couldn’t be handed down.
“Maryn, do you want to go shopping for some new things of your own?” I asked. She bounced in the room wearing two different socks.
“Yes!” she shouted. “I’d like to have some little flowery skirts that have shorts under them so I can play outside.”
Did I hear her correctly? Did the rough and tumble child just ask for little flowery skirts?
Well, well, well. How ’bout them apples?