BraVa! 2018 – Playtex 8267

I was honored once again to have a piece selected for the 4th Annual BraVa! This event benefits the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region. It is a fundraiser that seeks to provide new bras to women and girls that live at YWCA-GCR and those in need in the Greater Capital Region of New York. As described on the YWCA website, the event features writers from around the region and beyond who read jury-selected poems and essays or perform songs and monologues on the subject of brassieres in their lives.

Once again, it was an inspiring and uplifting (pun intended) evening. The audience laughed and some of us cried. The poems and memoirs were poignant and truthful. I left the event grateful for the opportunity to witness these stories, ready to write more of my own.

I haven’t written much at all these days. I wasn’t even sure I would write something for BraVa! this year. I spent three days in the hospital in mid-October and was released just 10 hours before the submission deadline for the event. At 7:10 pm, four hours and fifty minutes before the deadline, I decided to write this piece. I read it to my mother on the phone before I hit “submit.” On Friday, I read it for the audience at BraVa!

If you are shopping this holiday season, consider buying a new bra for your local women’s shelter. Everyone needs support now and then.

A woman wearing a red cape is seated in a wheelchair in front of a podium. She is reading into a microphone. There is an indoor circular clothesline with various color bras hanging on it on the other side of the podium.
Photo courtesy of Daquetta Jones

Playtex 8267

Whenever I am shopping in the lingerie section of a store selling Playtex bras – the ones sold in the plastic containers with the blue or pink cardboard – I always look for model number 8267, the 18 Hour Original Comfort Strap Wirefree Bra. 34 C is apparently a popular size because rarely do the stores have it in stock. If I am lucky enough to stumble upon the coveted size and model, I whip out my phone and call my mother.

“Mom – you still wearing a 34C? It’s the 18 Hour one, right? I’m in Boscov’s shopping for bras and I looked at the Playtex ones for you. They only have it in white, is that alright?”

The call is really just to let her know to expect a new bra in the mail. Of course my mother, Caroline or Dolly as she is known to everyone, is still wearing the iconic Playtex 18 Hour Bra! It’s the only style of bra I have ever seen her wear in my 45 years of life. At 91 years old, Dolly is not about to change something as critical as her trademark bra.

Dolly’s bra, like her, is no nonsense and genuine. It is functional without needless frills. It gets the job done in a superior manner without calling attention to its work and craftsmanship. No excess lace or color is necessary for her brassieres. Although the model now comes in a variety of colors, you won’t see Dolly wearing any colors other than white or natural beige.

As a child, I noticed the other neighbors only put sheets and towels on their backyard clotheslines. However, Dolly’s underwear and lingerie were displayed for all to see as they dried in the breeze. Of course, so were mine when I lived at home since I was physically unable to do my own laundry. This didn’t seem odd to me because Dolly never used her clothes dryer then and only rarely uses it now. Two days before I left home to be an exchange student to Australia at age 16, I posed for a photo in the backyard with my parents. Dolly sent the photo halfway around the world to me and I promptly put it on the dresser in my borrowed room, in a borrowed frame my host brother gave me. Not until he asked me why we had posed before laundry did I realize Dolly’s five bras were waving in the wind behind our smiling heads. The photo spent the entire year with me, on display in each host family house – me, my parents and Dolly’s bras. Today it is on the first page of my 4 photo albums from that magical year Down Under.

A few weeks ago, I told my mother I might write this essay about her and her bras. I wanted to know if she would be comfortable with me sharing what some would consider personal information with strangers.

“Well, I suppose if anyone can find a way to make my dull white bras interesting, you could. Remember, I wear the 18 Hour – not the Cross Your Heart.”

Was she telling me I was shirking in my bra shopping? Had I made a mistake and accidentally purchased the wrong style? I went online to verify I had purchased the right bra and made a shocking discovery. In 2015, Playtex had a rebranding and changed the model number and name of their iconic bra. It is now model number 4693B, known as the 18 Hour Ultimate Shoulder Comfort Wirefree Bra. I called her again, wanting to make sure she had this important update and also to verify she had sufficient quantity. Apparently I had been neglectful in my duties.

“I’ll still wear it! I have 4 right now so I’m good. I rotate them in my drawer after I do the laundry so I don’t keep wearing the same one all the time. That way they last longer.”

Even though it has been years since I’ve sent a new bra to my mother, she is still treasuring the past gifts I’ve given her; taking care to keep them in good condition for a little longer until life permits me the time and energy to resume my regular lingerie shopping.

Simple life lessons from Dolly. Who knew so much could come from a bra?

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30 Days of Thanks Day 8 – Dolly (and voting)

Yes, I’ve written about my mother before and you should definitely go read this post about her if you haven’t already. Caroline, or Dolly as she is known to everyone, is the one woman most responsible for me becoming the person I am today. Many people say that about their moms, and they probably mean it with as much sincerity as I do.

I’m choosing to thank my mother again today because it is Election Day here in the United States. Today, FINALLY, we get to vote in one of the most contentious elections I have witnessed in my 43 years. I plan to vote, as I do every year, because I am a firm believer that if you don’t exercise your right to vote, you forfeit your right to complain about the outcome. I have Dolly to thank for my interest in the electoral process, and I don’t know as I have ever publicly acknowledged her role in this aspect of my life.

I learned about voting because I watched my mother vote. My mother, a first generation American, the child of Italian immigrants who moved to upstate New York for a better life, voted every chance she could. Mom voted in all the major national and state races each Election Day, taking me with her in the afternoon to polls located at the Town Hall before we then went to join Dad at the annual Rotary Club Election Day pancake dinner. I always tried to get Mom to tell me who she voted for, but she never revealed her choices.

The ability to cast a private vote is a privilege. I won’t tell you or anyone else how I voted.

So, as a child I never knew how my mother voted although I asked all the time. When she took me with her to the polls, I never accompanied her into the voting booth. Even when she voted on the school budget in the spring, I never went into the booth. I suspect I know how she voted in those elections though.

Never vote against the school budget, Denise. Never vote against better education. 

I don’t know if Mom followed her own advice about the school budgets, because of course she never told me how she voted when I asked. I suspect her status as the parent of six students in our local public school, and her role as an employee of the school district, may have influenced her views on the school budget but I’ve never asked her.

I am a registered voter because as soon as I was 18, the legal voting age, my mother took me down to the Town Hall so I could get the forms to register to vote. Mom parked the car on Main Street, in front of the Town Hall, so I would not have to walk up the incline from the parking lot behind the bank. She held the door open for me, letting me hold her arm for balance as I crossed the threshold. I don’t remember the conversation with the clerk as we asked for the form, but I could tell from the tone of her voice Mom was proud to be bringing “her baby” to this rite of passage.

I quickly started to fill in the boxes, pausing when the form asked me if I wanted to register for a political party. I had never really thought about whether I would want to affiliate with a political party, and was unsure if I wanted to check the box. Mom tried to give me advice as she looked over my shoulder.

My father always said you register Republican, vote Democrat. You should register Republican.

And just like that, I knew what to do. I checked the box marked Democrat because 18 year old me with an attitude was NOT going to do anything my mother told me to do!

Walking to the car, I asked Mom if she really believed you should register for a party, but vote for the opposite one. Now that I was registered, would I finally gather some insight as to how she voted?

Denise, you know I never tell anyone how I vote! It’s private!

After she retired, Mom signed up to work at the polls on Election Day through the local League of Women Voters. For many years, she worked almost every Election Day, all day, at the polls until her mid-80’s. I was not surprised by her response when I asked her why she decided to volunteer her time to do this.

People fought and died so we could have the right to vote. That privilege is the reason so many people like my parents came to this country. Now I can do my part to help the process.

Thank you Mom, for teaching me the importance of being an engaged citizen. Your example showed me how easy it is to become part of the political process. I know I am involved in advocacy now because I understand the value of my vote.

 

If you are a registered US voter, I hope you exercise your right to vote today. Like Mom, I don’t need to know how you voted – just that you did you part!

 

30 Days of Thanks Day 24 – Sam and Dolly

I wrote about my amazing parents last year to start my 30 Days of Thanks. My mom, known as Dolly, and my dad, Sam, deserve recognition once again this year.

I am the person I am today because of the lessons, gifts and blessings bestowed upon me by my parents. Their belief in my abilities and encouragement helped me set and achieve goals.

Back in 1990, when I told them I wanted to be an exchange student, I never considered the fact they might have said no. I was sixteen, and needed their permission to pursue this dream. But since they had never said no to any dream of mine before, I did not really think about what I was asking them to approve.

Who lets their sixteen year old disabled daughter go live on the other side of the world for a year? Sam and Dolly, that’s who.

Granted, they didn’t make it easy by saying yes right away. The agreement we made was they would consider it, but I had to find a way to pay for the trip without touching the money in my college savings account. I was working a couple of afternoons at a local dressmaker’s shop. I spoke to my boss about my intent to travel and took on an extra shift to help earn additional money.

After a few months, when I started to attend the outbound exchange student orientations, they told they would sign the permission paperwork. In my teenage naivete, I questioned why it took so long for them to decide. It wasn’t like I was going to be completely on my own. I was going to stay with Rotarians – what could go wrong?!

Now that I am an adult, I have a better understanding of their fears and apprehension. I was (still am) their baby, the youngest of their six daughters, and I had a disability. Of course they were nervous! I wasn’t going to be two hours away at college. I was flying 14,000 miles away, quite literally half way around the world.

But they let me go.

Both of my parents shed tears when we said goodbye at the airport. Mom was full on crying, hankie pressed to her face, shaking as she gave me a hug. Dad was silent, a single tear escaping down his face. Cheeky me, all full of anticipation and excitement, told them not to worry. I would be alright. I would write every week. I knew right from wrong and would follow the rules. I promised not to do anything which would get me sent home early.

Eventually, they stopped hugging me. Dad put his arm around Mom, pulling her into his shoulder. I remember what he told her.

We didn’t raise her to keep her home Doll. We have to let her go.

Mom and Dad, I appreciate you giving me the confidence to go, to live, to say yes to life. You have given me so much love and taught me the value of working to fulfill a dream. Twenty-five years ago you said yes when I had this absurd idea that living in another country would be a great adventure, even though you were worried about me. You continue to offer me support when I try new things and pursue new goals. Thank you for encouraging me to advocate for myself and for trusting me to succeed. I love you.An older woman is sitting on the knee of an older gentleman. Both are smiling. She has brown hair and is wearing a pink shirt. He is balding, with white hair, and is wearing a red and green plaid shirt.