“The Bathrobe,” Rosie, on how her mother’s early death affected her fashion sense.
ROSIE. The truth is, I have no fashion sense – never did. For many years I blamed this on my mom’s death. Then again, I blame pretty much everything on that, my weight, my addiction to television, my inability to spell. In my fantasy world, had my mother lived, I would be extremely well-dressed. I would know what went with what, and everything I tried on would fit. Mom and I would shop together at the places that moms and daughters go – a department store, an outlet mall, the flea market. I would wear a lot of tasteful make-up too. We would lunch someplace while shopping. It would be at a café where we would have salad and like it. We’d laugh about how great our lives turned out and make plans for the things we were still going to do. But that’s all a dream, because my mother did not live. She died when she was 39 years old. (Beat) The fact is that no item of clothing has ever moved me in any way – except one. After my mom died, my father took his five motherless children to Belfast, Northern Ireland. I guess he thought we could best recover from the trauma of her death by living in a war zone. The IRA was nowhere near as scary as what had just happened to our lives. When we returned, we found her side of the closet empty. All her clothes were gone. (Beat) A few years later my dad got remarried to a lovely woman. She was a schoolteacher named Mary May. After the wedding she moved in. That first morning she was there, I was eating breakfast with a few of my siblings when my new stepmom walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. She was wearing a long burgundy velour three-quarter sleeve zip bathrobe with a thick vertical white stripedown the center, surrounding the zipper. No one said a word. We all looked at each other then back at Mary as she happily made her way to the stove to put on the kettle. My mother had had the same exact bathrobe – in blue. Electric blue. What are the chances of that really? The unspoken rule in my house was that my mom’s name was never mentioned after her death. But that morning, I knew that rule was about to be broken. My siblings left the kitchen. I was alone with Mary. “Mary,” I said. “My Mom had the same bathrobe in blue.” “Oh,” she said. And that robe disappeared. Gone. Sent away to the same place my mother’s clothes went, I assume. (Beat) To this day that bathrobe is the only piece of clothing I can actually see in my mind. I have no visuals of prom dresses or favorite sweater or shoes I couldn’t live without. Clothes are just something I use for cover, leaving room for one electric blue memory.