Black satin panties with three rows of red ruffles on the back lie neatly folded inside the grocery bag.
“That’s from your aunt. Be sure to call and thank her.”
“Um, ok,” I responded. “Did you see what was in the bag?”
“No,” my dad said abruptly, walking away to do whatever it is that dads do when they are lying and feel incredibly uncomfortable with the truth.
I was a teenager, which meant that I was much too old for ruffle-bottomed panties, but I was also a young teenager, which meant that black satin panties were grossly inappropriate. My aunt was eccentric, to say the least, and my dad had obviously just taken the bag, protest-free, and decided let me handle all communication regarding the contents on my own, but I couldn’t go out like that.
“Mom!” I screamed. “Can you come here, please?”
My mom came to my room with what looked to me like pure amusement darting from her eyes.
“Did you call to thank her yet?”
“Mom, are you kidding? Did you see what was in the bag?” I asked holding up the panties, red ruffled-booty side facing her. My mother, the same lady who would snatch me (and I literally mean snatch me) if I did or said anything she deemed rude or disrespectful, fell onto my bed laughing hysterically at the gift.
“Mmmooooommm! I can’t call her about these,” I said stretching the panties at the waist as far as a I could for emphasis.
Between breaths as she tried to regain composure, the finality of “Yes, you can, and you will” passed from her lips as she reached for the receiver of the landline phone she’d acquiesced and let me have in my room.
My parents taught me to be grateful for gifts, even ruffled-bottom ones, because the giver did not have to give. To this day, those panties are still the strangest gift I have ever received, but I am grateful for them nonetheless. I never wore them. In fact, they stayed hidden in the same grocery bag on the floor of my closet until, years later, I found them as I was cleaning out to head to college. But they remind me of my now deceased aunt and how funny and loving and kooky she was. They remind me of the better of the last days of my parents’ marriage. They remind me that sometimes people and situations give you the best of what they have even if they aren’t exactly a right fit for you.
As I journey into brave steps toward a more fulfilling future, I don’t want to forget to say “thank you” to everything and everyone that has shaped me into the woman that I am now. I want to take a moment to appreciate all the gifts, both good and bad, because that is a good way to honor and walk away from where I was to where I am going. Gratitude helps me give myself permission for my own joy on my own terms.
“I was just calling to say ‘thank you’ so much for the panties, Auntie. I really appreciate you thinking of me…I’m sorry…What was that? Oh, no ma’am. You don’t have to do that. I think five pair is plenty for my needs, but you know what, my mom really liked them. Maybe you could find some in her size.”