My Big Polka Dot Dress
When we finish singing ‘Tomorrow,’ Mrs. Linden motions me to step down from the riser. The microphone waits in the spotlight on the foul line of the basketball court. Someone coughs in the audience. The piano boy adjusts in his seat. I try not to focus on how big my dress looks on me.
It’s a black and white polka dot blouse sewn onto a two tier wave of velvet skirt. The long satin sleeves with the ruched padded shoulders ascend like an arm float. I stand there, each hand running down the opposite sleeve to deflate the bulging fabric. Still, it keeps rising. I feel red in the face and I almost regret wearing this horrid thing, but it’s a gift from Grandmother and she always buys clothes that are too big. Buy them big so they last, she would say.
Right after my cue from Mrs. Linden, I feel a draft underneath my skirt when I start to sing, “Blue Moon…” My body temperature starts to rise, so do my arm floaties, and the more nervous I feel, the more helium is being pumped into my shoulders. I’m afraid to let go of my skirt, but with one hand I manage to deflate the air from the opposite sleeve. I try and focus on the words and remember to sneak in a smile. I sway side to side during the chorus but from the corners of my eyes, I can see the huge looming fabric from my arms rising and when I deflate them again they rise quicker than the last until I realize I’m barely on my toes.
When I finish, I bow, and quickly tip toe back to my place on the riser. I feel light-headed as I wedge my big dress in between the girls in the front. Some of them are laughing as a girl standing at the end of the riser fumble out of the stand.
When the concert comes to an end, there is soft music coming out of the gymnasium speakers. Outside in the hall the crowd gathers around plastic covered tables with sugar glittered cookies and red punch. The music travels down the hallway as they echo and bounce off the lockers and off the shiny linoleum floor. Choir girls come to congratulate me, sarcastically admiring my dress as they giggle away. Grandmother is next to me holding my hand when Mrs. Linden drags me away for a photo. We stand shoulder to shoulder and Grandmother motions me to put my arms down. I reluctantly do, afraid that I might fly away. When the camera flashes and the group detaches from me, I tip toe towards the table where I can anchor myself to the floor. Then I’ve lost sight of Grandmother.
The linoleum floor slips beneath me. I levitate. No body seems to notice. My billow skirt lifts me over the others. My head hits the exit sign hanging from the ceiling. I lift my legs to avoid kicking someone in the head as I maneuver my way to the double doors. Mrs. Linden is standing by the threshold shaking hands with the parents. She looks up at me and gives me a wink.
“Have you seen my grandmother?” I ask her. But she does not hear me. Then someone opens the door and I get sucked out of the building into the world. I topple and spin in the air, my arms open to catch anything near by.
I continued to whirl and twirl in my big dress for a long time. Grandma was right, they do last a while. Perhaps one day, I will grow into it.