One of the advantages of having a (very) small wardrobe is I have a pretty good idea of how long I have had this or that skirt or dress or top. Trust me, I rarely think about those kinds of things, but today was an exception.
Today I wore the black print dress, something I have not worn in, well, many years. Maybe six, maybe seven. It's been long enough since I last wore it that Warren looked up in surprise and said, "I don't think I've ever seen you in that dress!"
Maybe, maybe not. I had not forgotten the dress (which is far older than six or seven years), but it and a few others were shoved over to one side of the closet, half-hidden, and today I pulled them out, dusted them off, and wore one.
An aside: I hate the closets in our bedroom. Victims of a closet organization system, they are inconveniently laid out, with ridiculous heights (and I am by far the individual with the longest arm reach, including Warren, ever to occupy this house) and awkward spaces. So although the closet is not a massive one in which clothes could get lost, clothes sometimes get misplaced because of the layout. That's quite a feat when you realize how few clothes I own.
A second aside: How few clothes do I own? Few enough that a girlfriend once opened the closet at my old apartment and screamed—not in delight—at the sight. "Is this all you own?" she shrieked. And I owned more then than now.
Back to the dress.
The dress is between 15 and 17 years old. I can date it that accurately because of Sam.
When Sam was young, perhaps five (17 years ago), perhaps a little older, he loved gum. Loved? Sam adored gum. Sam worshipped gum. Sam lived for gum. And because he loved gum so much, he always had some nearby: on the nightstand, on the floor of the playroom, in his pockets when he went out to play.
It was the "in his pockets" that kept tripping me up. If Sam's pants hit the wash without someone emptying the pockets, the gum would go into the wash too. And if sharp eyes did not catch the gum in the wet laundry, the gum would migrate to the dryer, where it would disintegrate and melt onto clothing.
I was once in court during the gum years, wearing the same dress I wore today, waiting for a hearing to start. I looked down and noticed a blotch on the dark skirt of the dress. Had I spilled something at lunch? Salad dressing, perhaps? I surreptitiously dabbed at it.
It was gum.
It was Sam's gum.
It was Sam's gum broken up and melted into dozens and dozens of little blotches all over my dress.
This many years later, I cannot tell you what the hearing was about that day. I can tell you I was uncomfortably aware of my gum-stained outfit. And I distinctly remember sitting at the dining room table that night, long after Sam had gone to sleep, finding and scraping off with a knife and an ice cube every single splotch of gum. (It took two more launderings and wearings before the last piece was found and removed.)
It has been a long time since I have dealt with gum in the laundry. My little gum lover is all grown up and does his own laundry now.
The gum memory, though, is still strong. Waiting today at court for parties to arrive, I sat in the lobby and chatted with Scott, my former law partner. We exchanged book recommendations, as we often do. And at least once while we talked and laughed, I glanced down at the dark skirt of my dress.
I knew I wouldn't find any gum, but I looked all the same for it—the faint touch from the past, the little handprint to my heart.