The skirt was purple. It had a matching purple vest with golden buttons.
“You can wear any light-colored shirt with most of these.” Mrs. Miller was folding the skirts and pants and tucking them back into the box.
I was still holding the soft purple fabric to my cheek. Could anything be this beautiful? And they matched!
She’d given my third-grade self a whole box of clothes, hand-me-downs from her daughter for this scrawny little waif who’d come to school every day wearing too-short pants, clean but worn-out, and oversized shirts given up by older siblings.
“Alright dear, I’ll put the purple on top and you can wear it first. Now, let’s get this box out to where your dad is waiting to pick you up.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Miller. I love all of them.”
Her daddy was waiting out front and she hugged him and climbed in while he set the box in the back seat of the beat-up suburban, thanked her teacher quietly, and they pulled out to drive home. “Can I wear the purple outfit tomorrow?”
“Sure you can, and one every day after that until you run out. And then you can start over.”
These were the first new clothes that little girl had ever had. Everything she’d ever worn had come down to her from both older sisters and brothers.
She did wear that purple skirt and vest the next day with what had been a while turtleneck, grey now from so many launderings, and stretched over too many heads so that the neck hung more like a cowl. Her socks matched inside her shiny Sunday shoes, but one had no elastic left and pooled around her ankle.
Oh, but that little girl didn’t see the strange looks from the other kids, didn’t hear their low-voiced teasing when Mrs. Miller was at the blackboard. And at recess, she twirled, her bony knees poking out from under the purple as the skirt rose and fell while she spun round and round, arms outstretched to this wonderful world she inhabited.