Childhood memories are vivid, almost indescribable in their detail, and impossible to forget. A Christmas memory I have is that of a black velvet dress a family friend gave to me for my seventh Christmas.
The top half of the dress was a snow white sheer fabric embroidered with random small snowflakes that floated across the chest and onto the shoulders. The bottom half, oh the bottom half of that dress was an exquisite spinning skirt of coal black velvet. Not the cut cotton velvet of today, but the true lush silk fabric of queens.
To wear with this grand dress, my mother bought me a pair of pale pink tights the color of ballet slippers and brushed velvet Mary Janes. When Christmas Day came and I finally was able to wear the dress, I could scarcely believe it was mine. I didn’t have many beautiful things, and my appreciation for what I wore that day went far beyond gratefulness to incredulity.
The dress was intoxicating and I couldn’t resist spinning and spinning in circles, not on my toes, but pivoting on the sturdy heel of my buckle shoes. Sunlight filled the dining room of our second floor rented flat and my mother had Bing Crosby on the stereo, playing at the highest volume level that record player had. Arms out at my side, toes up, heels down, with my eyes closed–I spun and spun, my black velvet skirt undulating with me. No one told me to stop, my family of six siblings by-stepping me while I twirled in the middle of what must have been a very small dining room. I remember hearing the music, seeing no one else around me, and the feel of the velvet on my fingertips as the skirt skimmed my hands. I felt like a queen in the middle of her castle.
The smoothness of that velvet against my skin, almost like running water, is a sensation I’ve never forgotten. Maybe it was because I had never felt velvet before, maybe it was because of the extravagance of such a fabric for a girl like me–all these reasons fill me, as I remember that little girl twirling and lost in another world, feeling her black velvet dress spin around her.
At Christmas time now, in my adult life, my husband and I take our three children to see a live performance of A Christmas Carol every year. The five of us arrive at the theatre and tickets in hand, we locate our seats. When we find them, I pass my winter coat to my husband. I lean back into my plush chair, and feel it surround me. I can’t stop a smile tinged with tears. I press the palm of my hands against the pile of the wine red fabric underneath me and look at my handsome husband and my three beautiful sons. I run my fingers across the silken velvet of my chair, feeling like a queen.