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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

A Milkmaid's Form?

I wear this outfit every Wednesday. Why Wednesday? Because that’s when it’s ready again—after being washed, and dried, and ironed. I LOVE it!
The skirt belonged to my cousin once—when she was 10, well, probably 14. I love her too. I’m 11 now, and I was the only one who got all of her skirts this year.
My skirt is pink gingham checks with two gathered tiers. It has a zipper and a narrow, snug waist, and is nearly full-circled. I wear my net bouffant slip underneath. It is so full, and twirls so well when I spin on my heels. I LOVE it!
The shirt has a Peter Pan collar and long, puffed sleeves. Its body is smooth against mine—a snugly perfect fit. This shirt is white in the background, and has sky blue and lavender dots checker-boarded all over it. I’m not truly fond of the dots, but I love the shape and fit—a perfect counterpoint to the fullness of the skirt beneath it. The cloth is sturdy and smooth with a hint of sheen; it feels so good against my skin. I LOVE it!
I would have loved it more if it had been snowy white. But—oh well, it IS a pretty thing.
Finally, I have a vest that is fitted to my body too. It has four double-breasted buttons closing it, and comes to just the waist of the skirt. My vest is black corduroy (and came with a plaid shirtwaist dress that is way too short this year). My vest is trimmed on every edge with the red, black, gray and white plaid. I LOVE it!
Well, I don’t love the plaid, but it is the only vest I have. So—oh well, it is a pretty thing.
And I LOVE the final look, and feel, and shape—the alternating fullness and snugness that follows the newly emerging curves of my own soft body. There is in my mind a vague picture, from I know not where, of a German milkmaid in similar garb.
One day, after many weeks of wearing this outfit every Wednesday, I am startled by Sandy’s mean taunt [not her first or last ever swipe at me]—“NO BODY wears checks with spots with plaid! That’s so ugly!”
HORROR! Is that true? Patterns trump shapes?
Why did my mother never say?
Who else is sneering at me? Why didn’t any one friend tell me?
Surely Glenda could have told me, in a friendly way?
I still wore it every week—til they didn’t fit me anymore. But I never Loved them quite the same. Now, it is fifty years later—though, the 11 year old is truly still with me living 1961—and shirts with fabrics of plaid and flowers stitched together in one shirt cost $150 or more.
I have three now. I LOVE THEM!
I must wear one when I see Sandy next. We’re still friends. She’s nicer now. We both know more. Maybe we’ll laugh about it—if she even remembers. I won’t tell—if she doesn’t. Loving her and loving the blouses don’t require apologies or validations anymore. I simply LOVE them all.

White Hose

Aunt Jemima Red