The Grandma Dress

7 Feb


Every so often, my grandmother opens her considerable closet to me and my sister Jessica and it’s like Christmas, only better.  My Christmases don’t usually include authentic, floor-length hippy dresses straight from Farrah Fawcett’s past, and my grandmother’s closet most certainly does.

My grandma is something of a collector of clothing, and these open closet sessions are some of my favorite memories with her.  Nothing bonds people quite like, “Are we thinking yes or are we thinking yes to this prairie dress?” if you know what I mean.

Jessica and I often fight over the best pieces in my grandma’s closet(s), bartering for flannel, calling dibs, over-complimenting one article of clothing so we can steal the next i.e.

“That just looks SO fantastic on you, you must have it. I insist.” (martyr-like tone)

“And THAT ruffle number, I mean, I wish I could pull it off like you do.” (faux enthusiasm)

(We both reach for the same shirt we actually want.)

There’s an added level of excitement when I fall in love with something in my grandma’s closet and it then, miracle of miracles, it actually FITS me. My grandmother is a full six inches shorter than I am and the fact that I can wear anything she ever wore defies logic and reason and plain old science.

But it happens.

And when it does it’s something of a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants situation.


There’s an element of fate.

And maybe a coming-of-age novel about it in my future, who even knows.

Wednesday I went to the San Diego Zoo and I just felt in my heart it was time for this gem of my grandmother’s to have its day in the sun.  My grandma is an avid zoo fan and lived most of her life in San Diego, slowing collecting her year zoo memberships pins and putting them on one fabulous sweater.

(The zoo sweater is not up for grabs in our closet raids, unfortunately.  Jessica and I have both tried.)

Wearing this 80s floral number only seemed appropriate.

The past few days have been a blur of crazy and happy.  I don’t feel I’ve even really been able to soak it up because each individual day is at least four regular-sized days all crammed into one and I am so full and tired I’m not exactly sure what time it is or what I need to do, I only know that this is good.

Right now is good.

Wednesday Hilary and I celebrated her birthday in spectacular birthday fashion, from Sprinkles cupcakes to 45 minutes of “It’s All Coming Back To Me,” to magical moments with baby orangutans. It would have been a wonderful day on its own, and was a wonderful day on its own, but to cap off its wonderfulness, Hilary’s brother decided to fly in and surprise her last minute and I got to be in on the whole deal.

Several hours and dozens of secret plans later, Hilary’s brother arrived in LA and watching the two of them interact was so sugary sweet I was practically in tears the whole time.   We spent the night at a pizza place laughing and friending and talking about why we love Hilary.

 Every birthday dinner my family has a tradition.  We take turns going around the table and saying the reasons why we love the birthday person.  My mother always starts off with, “I could go on and on…” and the family always collectively groans, and there’s always an awkward moment when you have to say what you love about yourself.

It is, without question, my very favorite family tradition.


And so I’ve taken this tradition and squeezed it into my friend group here in LA.

Wednesday was Hilary’s turn.

I have been doing these birthday love sessions my entire life, and I have to say I have never seen a session quite like the one for Hilary.  Hilary inspires superlatives.

I’ve often heard, “You’re very happy,” but in Hilary’s case it wasn’t just, “You’re very happy” it was “You are literally the happiest person I have ever met and just being around you makes my cynicism go down by 80%.”

All of her compliments were things like: You are the kindest person ever.  You are the the best human being.   You are the most genuine girl in the world.  And it’s all true.  Hilary has that slightly not-of-this-earth quality where she’s a fully developed person and yet just a bit better than the rest of us.

She’s the Peeta of the group.

And so, when Hilary’s birthday ended and I flipped through the millions of zoo photos I took with her I couldn’t help but think that maybe I had had such a great day, not because of the fated grandmother dress, but because I was with Hilary.

Being around her brings out the best in people, you know.

Thus it was said in her birthday love session.

Thus it is written.

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5 Responses to “The Grandma Dress”

  1. Helene February 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    this dress is fantastic! i love that birthday tradition. mightneed to adopt it.

  2. Hilary February 7, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    You are lovely and so is your grandmother’s dress (and the panda muumuu I hope to see soon).

  3. Laurie Denning February 9, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Grandma would be so proud of her dress! You wear it well

  4. Nakita February 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    That dress is to die for. You look wonderful in it, I love this birthday tradition!

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