Yellow Gingham by
(21 Stories)

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This prompt brought back powerful memories of a yellow gingham skirt my mother made in the 70s. She and my father took square-dancing lessons for a while, the outfits were wild. He had western style shirts with ruffles and mother-of-pearl buttons. She made skirts and wore them with ruffled blouses. She also made very puffy multi-tiered net underskirts that made the whole business stick out a mile and rustle, several of which finally died a horrible death in the dress up box when my kids were small.

I don’t have any photos of my parents, sadly, but I did find some like photos that feel right.

When I sat down to write, a strange poem emerged — the closet in the poem existed in time before the skirt, when I was very small, the square-dancing skirt appears much later  — but here they are together somehow, perfectly impossible together.

Yellow Gingham

My mother’s closet is a place of dreams
Dark, cool, larger than my room
Scary with things like stockings with seams,
Fox furs with the heads still on.

Walk-in style, no door or windows,
Coats in bags, hats in boxes,
Suitcases and extra pillows,
Shoes stained by years of feet.

In the heat of the day
I hide behind the long soft dresses.
On my father’s side
Scratchy wool and leather belts.

The brightest thing in the dark with me,
a yellow gingham square dance skirt.
She wore it with a peasant blouse
she made to match his ruffled shirt.

Grandma Brown’s gone now, her furs
gone too. My dear gone dad
wears no more awful plaid.
The only one in Mom’s closet is her.

That dream stood in silence for so long,
mothballs, dust, until you asked.
Now the yellow gingham skirt she made,
becomes my mother’s song.






Profile photo of Jennifer Swanton Brown Jennifer Swanton Brown
Poet. Nurse. Teacher. Mom. Daughter. Sister. Knitter. Swimmer. Contemplative in training. Follow "A Twirly Life" (

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