{ Memories Make up Our Lives as Surely as Fabric Makes up Our Clothing. }
Heidi McDonald
illustration by Michael Leahy

sundress - heidi mcdonald1999
I buy the sundress on sale at K-Mart for $9.99, in the summer of 1999, when Jason and I first start dating, my first attempt at looking slimmer and more feminine since becoming a single parent the prior year. Pink is not a color I normally keep in my closet, but this dress is made up of various shades of pink flowers with a princess waistline and two-inch straps. It hits below my knees, and is alternately baggy and snug, owing both to my weight changes and a thin string that laces up the back and allows me to adjust the dress. I first wear it to Jasonís parentsí house for a barbeque. I wear the sundress to the Blues Festival; Buddy Guy begins singing so abruptly I spill beer on it. I also wear it to a Lenny Kravitz concert at Starlake, where Jason and I kiss until a loud group of teenagers behind us threaten to urinate on us.

I wear the dress a bit earlier this year when I go to Benihana for my daughterís birthday celebration in April. We still have a framed picture of her and I, smiling together in our pink dresses as vegetables are tossed through the air by an acrobatic chef. A bit tighter than last year but no worse for the wear, the sundress comes with us on Jasonís family beach trip. Though it is a bit cold, I persistently put a sweater over the sundress when we go out to dinner at the Penguin Isle, a classy seafood restaurant on North Carolinaís Outer Banks. My son and I are sitting there, making U-shapes with our tongues, in a photo that sits in our living room now. That summer, the sundress gets drenched on Kennywood rides, becomes a target for various sauces, helps me get Ron Sexsmithís autograph, and gets rained on as we hide on our porch from surprise thunderstorms. I wear the sundress when we attend our first Edgewood Community Day after moving into the new house, and retire it graciously at the beginning of October, after my daughter starts Kindergarten.

My first wearing comes amid the excitement of planning our wedding; I wear the sundress to pick up my gown from Carlisleís. I also wear the dress while I play with my kids in the grass on the Mondays I have off this year. The dress is involved in less activity this summer because weíre saving money for the wedding, but the dress is with me as I pick out fabric swatches and wedding favors, and when I go to the Renaissance Festival to choose my bridesmaidsí dresses and headpieces. When we get the call to leave immediately for Michigan to say goodbye to my dying Grandmother, I wear the sundress on the trip. Iím also wearing the sundress on September 11, when I do the only thing I can think to do: leave work, go get my children, and hold them to me as tightly as possible. Three weeks later, after the wedding, the sundress comes with me on our honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand—it tours the Sydney Opera House and brushes against my legs as I walk down the streets of Auckland. When I return, I put it away again.

My new job has me spinning in a whirlwind of mid-year activity this year, and I canít remember when I first take the dress out to wear; I only remember it being a lot tighter that summer. I wear the sundress to a pre-wedding picnic thrown for a distant cousin in Holland, Mich.; everyone stands in a circle and charismatically prays before dinner, and I uncomfortably count the petals on the flowers and the flower types on the dress. One afternoon in July, on a whim, I drive to Washington, D.C., to attend a Neil Finn concert. People who also attend the show will remember a shy, barefoot girl wearing a Maori amulet around her neck, her lucky hair scrunch around her right wrist, and a pink flowered sundress, singing onstage with Neil. After that, I retired the dress for the year.

Today is Tax Day and my daughterís eighth birthday. It is seventy-four degrees outside. And it is this yearís first wearing of the pink sundress. This time it hangs more loosely on me, which is nice, although it has a small rip in the seam over my right breast, which I fix immediately. I have no idea what this summer has in store for me, but, now in its fifth summer, the dress feels warm, familiar, the best and most useful ten spot Iíve ever spent.

back home.