The Black Dress

BY Melinda Chamberlain

I looked in my closet. The little pants and shirts I usually wore to play hung neatly on the small crossbar. Beside my play clothes, in the middle hung my new dress for my first day in kindergarten. A dress. Not only was that amazing since I don’t remember any other dresses although there must have been one, but it was black. The black fabric was dotted with tiny pink, blue and yellow flowers set in tiny green leaves. It looked like the moon fairy had thrown down moon garden dust which grew into flowers on my dress. The sleeves hung down to my wrists clasped together with elastic bands. The skirt was tight at the waist then flowed out freely. It would hang down to my knees. Wearing my new dress was going to be an event bigger than going with my mother to the big public kindergarten for my first day of class.

My two brothers were going to see my new dress too. I was the oldest so they could not tell me what to expect. It really didn’t matter though because I was confident my dress would protect me. The next morning my mother helped me pull the dress carefully down over my red curly hair. She straightened the waist then stood back looking to make sure the sleeves weren’t twisted.

After an unmemorable breakfast she and I climbed into the two-tone lime and green Chevy. We headed through the light at the Old Post Road then past the stone Presbyterian Church, around the curve lined with two-story homes behind neatly clipped and mowed lawns. My mother pulled into the parking lot at the bottom of the hill at elementary school. Getting out I slowed to a stop. The building sat high up on a hill above a wide expanse of lawn. It looked enormous. My mother came around and took my hand.

Together we walked up the driveway to the side door entrance then down a half flight of cement steps. At the end of a short dark hallway I saw the door to my new kindergarten. I heard children’s voices before looking into the room. As we entered the teacher smiled at my mother. She let go of my hand. I stood still looking at the room which was below grade level. A row of half windows ran along one side with wire grates across letting in dim sunlight. On the floor were toys I had never seen before. Kneeling I spread out my black skirt with the tiny flowers around me and reached for a set of blocks.

No one spoke to me or mentioned my dress. But the memory of my first day became something like a wonderful dream. Nothing after that day meant as much to me. I never could find another dress as beautiful after I had outgrown it. I looked and looked for fabric as magical and powerful as my first kindergarten dress in black.

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