It was the prettiest dress I’d ever seen. It was dark green with a little bow between the lacy collar. It had short puffy sleeves and gathered in pleats at the waist. I wanted more than anything to be able to wear it, but I just couldn’t do it without crying.
I cringed at the thought of it sliding against my hair and over the skin of my naked shoulders.
“Stop being a baby and let me put it on you.”
“No, it hurts me!”
“How can something so soft hurt you? Feel how smooth it is.”
Sure, it looked smooth. They just didn’t understand how it made me feel all over when I simply brushed my fingers across the fabric. A shiver of cold would shoot through my entire body at the slightest touch. I would literally shake.
They put tights on me so the velvet wouldn’t touch my legs and a sweater over the bodice so my hands would touch the sweater and not the dress. This was much worse. Hearing the yarn of the sweater crush against the velvet was sheer torture. The sound of my tights scraping against the dress sent me into hysterics. And when the dress folded between my legs where velvet rubbed against velvet was unbearable, much akin to the way hearing chalk scrape on a chalk board grates on the nerves.
More than anything, I wanted to be the pretty little girl in the beautiful green velvet dress. In secret, I practiced. I’d quickly touch the dress, shake, and do it again. Then I’d make myself hold the dress in my hands. My body would turn cold from the inside out, and I’d toss it to the floor. I never made it a full minute. The dress disappeared. Maybe Mama thought even the sight of the dress was too much for me to endure.
Then Santa Claus came to our house. I knew he was not really Santa. First of all, we didn’t believe in Santa at our house. Secondly, I would have recognized this pretend Santa’s voice anywhere. And Mama had already told me to pretend like I believed in Santa. She also told me not to let him know I knew who he really was because it would hurt his feelings.
Mama and Daddy coaxed me to sit on his lap after my immediate refusal. I would have happily sat on his lap if he hadn’t been wearing that costume. I scrunched my arms together so I did not touch his sleeves. He wanted to know what I wanted for Christmas. I wouldn’t answer. After much prodding, I told him I wanted white go-go boots like the dancers on the Ed Sullivan (or was it Red Skelton?) show.
I got down, and the grown ups kept talking. They laughed and couldn’t figure out why I was so afraid of him. I was not afraid of Daddy’s friend. I just didn’t want to touch his velvet suit.
Thank you, Mama and Daddy, for the white go-go boots.
Thank you, Mama, for accepting what none of us understood and never making me wear that beautiful dress again. And double thanks for not ever buying me another one.
Thank you, God, for bringing crushed velvet and velour into my life. Now, I can enjoy the beauty of velvet without the pain.
I’ve never been able to explain how the feel of velvet pushed my little soul out of the solar system. Touching cotton balls did the same thing to me. The strange thing is I can touch them both now…without shudders, shivers, or shakes.