I am 23, newly married, and my husband is on a research trip in Bermuda for the next six months. I am a young woman alone in our new home in Takoma Park, Maryland, but I feel safe up here in the upstairs apartment of a cute cottage house with a steep, angled roof. The landlady, a hip, smiling woman with centimeter-long bleached curly hair and velvety chocolate skin, painted our walls a gleaming white – not an ecru or an eggshell, but a white white that shines clean and bright when the sun pours in all of our windows. She lives downstairs with her two handsome sons, and she welcomed us by tossing pennies under the throw rugs when we moved in. To bring us prosperity, she said. She’s studying feng shui.
Maria is over today. She works with me in the lab and her Os are round when she speaks them. She’s from Minnesohta. She keeps me company while my husband is away, and we carpool together to work. The first time we parked in the UMD garage she got out and walked to the front of the car, put her hands on her knees and crouched down to inspect the cement wall in front of us. “Where do you plug your car in in winter?” she asked. Being from Georgia I had no idea what she was talking about. Now, she fans her armpits a lot and says, “My Gahd it’s hot.” Being from Georgia, I am tickled by how much the heat of a Maryland summer distresses her. Maryland summer is nothing compared to the oppressive, heavy heat of coastal Georgia.
Being from Minnesota, she was probably tickled in winter when I white-knuckled the steering wheel when it snowed, or in spring when the trees were in bloom and I couldn’t stop gasping. On the coast of Georgia spring is subtle. Most of the trees have leaves year-round, and they do not burst forth into flower before leafing into green. When we drove to work, I’d exclaim over every cherry blossom, every Bradford pear, every redbud. “Look at that one, Maria! Those pinks!” I’d turn my head and see another, “And that one is just covered, I mean COVERED with white flowers!” She’d smile quietly and think of her Minnesota home.
Now, we are in the spare room with newspapers spread on the round wooden table. Maria is teaching me how to make patterns for sewing. Calico cloth that reminds me of Ma Ingalls is draped over the back of a wooden chair. My bike leans against one white wall, and Maria and I bump against the others. It being an upstairs apartment with slanted ceilings, the room is small and cramped, but it is happy with bright light pouring in the windows and reflecting off those crisp white walls. Maria tells me about paddling the boundary waters while she positions spaghetti straps on newspaper, straps that remind me of summer and freckles and Georgia beaches. I tell her about jellyfish and seashells and palm trees while I finger the Little House calico.
The sun glints off of scissors as Maria cuts through print along the pencil mark she traced from the tank top she brought. We are copying the pattern, two women alone, crafting summer garments from what we have, from what we know, cutting cloth and making something new.
The submissions for my Andrea Reads America American Vignette series are rolling in, and they are a pleasure to read. This is my entry for the second prompt, American Vignette: Summer Garments. If you have a story to tell about summer clothes in your state , I hope you will submit!