I Need to Buy a New Night Dress: Part 1

I need to buy a new nightdress.

The one I’ve been wearing is torn all the way down the armpit and around the neck. It’s an old nightdress so it’s paid its dues, so to speak. I think this night dress has been around as long as I have, or rather it feels and looks like it’s been through a lot. I “inherited” it from my mother.  I say inherited because it was one of the four items I took when I left home, with a promise to come back after a week’s vacation in Cape Town. I never went back home and it’s moved two apartments with me since we got here. It helped me through my recovery when I couldn’t wear anything else because my body was doing whatever it wanted. I spend a lot of time in it…well spent… Now I’m mostly in t-shirts or with just a bra. 

I need to buy a new nightdress .

Old nightdress on a walking aid. Photo by Makgosi

I’ve been going through a lot of changes in my life and letting go of things is part of the journey. As with most if not all of my ends and beginnings, the starts and restarts in life, I have had a lot of stuff and lost a lot of stuff. It’s forced me to stop being attached to things because the uncertainty of my life always guarantees that at some point or another, I leave with nothing. 

I left my last relationship with a backpack of a few items and a lot of shameful tears. When the relationship ended and the house was moved, my items got lost in the move again. When I was being admitted to hospital I checked in my items and somehow lost some of them, I bought a rechargeable vibrator and lost the charger while moving.  It’s the least favourite thing of mine but replacing lost items with newer, better ones is comforting, though not always possible at the time so the loss feels hard in the moment. Things get lost. 

Except this nightdress. 

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many conflicting emotions about an item that I actually have a choice to do something about. I could learn to sew and buy some material to patch it up and extend its lifespan as one of the options for now. So I threw it on the floor next to the washing basket the other night. Throwing it into the basket will end with it being in the washing cycle again and I might feel I want to wear it again but it’s really not worth the emotional kicks it gives. It used to belong to my mother. 

I’m estranged from my family. It sounds strange saying that to myself. “I don’t talk to my family”, is how I usually explain it and until I started reading accounts from other people who have fallen out with their families, I thought I was probably overreacting or that I was alone in this vastness of attempts at freedom and peace of spirit that my family constantly interrupted until I cut them off. (I’ve been told I’m dramatic.) And it’s especially strange when people take into account that it took my being disabled for me to accept that my blood relations were not living up to the expectation. After a lot of difficult conversations that ended with my mother earning a block from me, I made the decision to stop contacting my family. Of course, I can imagine the story she is telling the world when they ask her about her first born and her only girl child not speaking to her. It’s probably told as: Ah wena!…”one of those”. 

There is no direct translation for estrangement in my native language. It would be loosely translated as “not speaking” which would give an impression of something that can be rectified. In this instance it’s not, so I know the tale of my “rebellion” is being told in interesting terms. I wouldn’t know, of course. Cutting my family off has meant that I’ve told my daughter not to update me on things that happen. Of course, she struggles because of her attachment to her grandmother, and I sometimes grieve that she won’t have an amazing relationship with her as I had with my grandmothers. Being a child of a sperm donor for her means she is out of blood-related grandmothers. She has been blessed with adopted grandmothers from the family that we have founded for ourselves so all is not lost.

I had to leave my parents’ house for me to have the uncomfortable realization about how much I was being failed – deliberately and consistently – by people who considered me good enough to demand and expect financial support from, let alone emotional presence, but not good enough to receive either. I’m not surprised. I’ve since decided that my parents are narcissists and we are better off not relating. Children are often burdened with being the ones that extend the olive branch to their parents. My daily choice not to contact the people who brought me into this piss pot is one I don’t regret. 

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