My older sister and I have a clear memory of one Christmas Eve when we were walking into midnight Mass with our parents and younger brother. The other two siblings, at that point too young to try to stay up that late, had been left at our grandparents’ house while the rest of us attended Mass.
I have no idea how it came about, but for some reason, my older sister, generally a pretty good kid, made a comment about a girl our age who was dressed to the nines (is that still a saying or do I sound like a grandma right now?) in a full red lacy skirt. I have a feeling that my sister, always the fashionista, was jealous of the fancy Nellie Oleson Little House on the Prairie-looking frock.
“Whatever,” my sister muttered. Then she came straight out with a D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince line, albeit a bit altered: “You go to Mass to pray, not for a fashion show.”
It sounded logical, so, always seeking my older sister’s and dad’s approval, I nodded my head with disdain. “Seriously,” I agreed.
And then suddenly—and here’s a tangent—don’t you hate it when parents do that bullshit by totally changing up their opinions? I swear I had heard my dad say, every single school day of my young life as I made us all late while trying to decide what to wear, “It doesn’t matter what the hell you have on. If someone makes a negative comment about what you’re wearing, then you need to tell them that they should pay less attention to your outfit and more to the teacher so they’ll get good grades like you do!”
Yes. Because that will surely make me the most popular girl in school.
In any case, I figured that since my dad said so, it was probably true for all situations in life. Why wear nice clothes if they distract you from the reason you’re in a given situation? I’ve only just started wearing pants to work, you guys, and I’m 37 years old.
But that night, my dad got all holier-than-thou and switched it up on us. “You know,” he snapped, “there’s nothing wrong with dressing up for Jesus!”
My sister and I were sufficiently scolded; we learned a lesson about kindness and not judging people that Christmas Eve.
But I would be lying if I said we didn’t get something else out of his very quick, yet stern, lecture, because in fact, it brought us one of the best lines in the world. Do you know how many times the gem “There’s nothing wrong with dressing up for Jesus!” has come in handy?
A lot. Even if it doesn’t make sense in the given situation.
Dammit, it’s just an awesome line, and it has been one of the greatest gifts my father has ever given me.
One Thanksgiving morning many years later, when my older sister and I were both in high school, Dad walked into the living room to find us lounging in our jammies, watching TV and waiting for the food to be ready. He studied us for a moment. “Don’t you think you girls could put on…something nicer? I mean, it is Thanksgiving.”
My sister and I looked around at the house, occupied only by our mom (who, even though my parents were divorced by this point, spent holidays with us, as she still does) and always-screaming younger brothers and sister. Even though we have a huge extended family with whom we are very close, our parents had always preferred the more intimate setting of our own home, with just our immediate family, for this particular holiday.
So it wasn’t like we were expecting anyone, but my sister and I shrugged and headed lazily upstairs to our room to change clothes. We figured at least we’d look good in the pictures that we took. Little did we know how handy that would be 20 years later on Facebook Throwback Thursdays.
When we reached our room, my older sister looked at me. “What the hell does he want us to wear?” she asked. “I mean, we’re just…staying here...?”
Suddenly, I could feel my whole face light up because my eyes had landed on two garments, sheathed in plastic and hanging at the far end of our walk-in closet. My older sister followed my gaze.
“You don’t think…” she said.
I looked at her, a mischievous grin now spread all over my face. “There’s nothing wrong with dressing up for Jesus,” I reminded her.
We got our mom in on the plan, and as we descended the stairs in our Homecoming dresses from just a couple of months before, she did what she always did on special occasions in which we had to dress up: She sang the Miss America theme song.
Now, if you will for a moment, listen to the clip as you take in the sight of my dress that year:
And by the way--aren't my photo editing skills stellar? Stealthy like a ninja in my quest to remain anonymous, I am.
Go on, drink it all in, peeps. And discover the irony of my mom singing the Miss America theme song—not only on Thanksgiving, but a couple of months prior, while the poor date next to me waited at the bottom of the stairs with Mom as I appeared looking like…that.
How in the hell my mom managed to get the whole song out of her mouth without laughing, I will never know. I mean, her voice never even cracked.
In the years that I’ve had to ponder it, I have come to the conclusion that she felt partly responsible. I mean, half of my genes are hers—and she was the one who let me out of the house in this dress. Yeah, sure, she had things going on at the time. She was really busy, after all, with a spicy extramarital affair and the resulting divorce from my dad. I’m sure she was feeling a little bit of stress in all of that.
She really dropped the ball on this one.
I am thankful, though, because this picture is Throwback Thursday gold.
I was also thankful years ago on that Thanksgiving, when my dad, hearing my mom sing, walked from the kitchen into the living room, his turkey baster still in his hand (his official title each Thanksgiving is "The Master Baster"), and said, with lips twitching into a smile, “Smart asses.”
It had been a stressful year full of changes, but we were all still together, albeit in a new way. We were going to make it.
And I think, too, that my date from years ago, pictured above, would be thankful that his face is blurred in this photo. That way he doesn’t have to relive the nightmare of his virginal date descending the stairs to the wildly inappropriate Miss America theme song.
Happy Thanksgiving, peeps.