birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Clothes Make The …

I have to compare two outfits that made me — each one at one time in my life.

One was gossamer, and the palest peachy pink. It was meant to be a flowing Grecian gown, but my seamstress couldn’t quite get it right. She didn’t have a costumer’s pattern that would have made it easy to repeat history; and she couldn’t do it without a pattern just by creating with the materials and her imagination. And, she so very much wanted to make it for me.

It was my wedding dress, and she was an elder and deacon at my church. It was so sweet and tender and loving, how the members of the church wanted to support and celebrate me—their “intern” and “candidate, the first ever that they sponsored to ministry. I was “daughter” to the mostly older adult congregants, for having made my spiritual home with them. I took over running the youth groups when the assistant pastor became the main preacher. They acknowledged that I had done so much for them as a volunteer, and wanted to give something back. So, among other things they did for me, she made my wedding dress.

It made me a wife, and of course not.

The following year they ordained me to the ministry and gave me my preaching robe—a garment that no one wears these days, 37 years later. It is much too stodgy and formal a garment for this world. It looks like any academic robe—except it is burgundy red instead of black.

I had the oddest sense as it was placed upon my shoulders, during the ordaining service, of being clothed in new skin, of being remade into a new kind of being. It was odd, weird really—and exhilarating.

It made me a minister, and of course not.

A few years ago I took it to a workshop during which we explored the meanings, personal and cultural, of the folktale about Selkies [creatures featured in the movie “The Secret of Roan Innish”]. We were directed to bring something that we could use as our own “seal skin”. My friend saw my robe-skin and reacted with revulsion, almost disgust. She said it was “deathly” and “horrid”; and “makes me feel so heavy and sad!” I was hurt, and could not speak.

I did not respond to her, but almost discarded my beloved robe in favor of a generic blanket from the hotel bed. And, I couldn’t give it up, my life-changing garment.

I think she would not have had the same reaction to the peach-ish, Grecian-ish gown of gossamer that made me a wife. Curious that!

I guess it’s true, in its way, that clothes make the man—or wife, or minister, or even the disgusted and revulsed.

The Power of Writing

Letter from Mom