Mom's Nighty

By Jonathan Rentler

September 14, 2020

Mom's Nighty

I started wearing Mom’s nighty after she died.

“You don’t remember?” Grandma asks. “You used to spray her perfume on ribbons.”

Pink fills my skull. Satin dipped in distilled forget-me-nots. Little boy fingers tying bracelets around small wrists.

“I don’t remember,” I say.

There’s relief on my grandmother’s face.

I didn’t remember till just now. Grown, I can see a boy sleeping in his mother’s nightgowns. Was it to keep her close? Alive somehow? Or be armor till dawn?

If a stitch is bad, a seamstress rips it loose to start again. So there must’ve been a moment where a part of me knew—to survive, a boy must drown his love of ruffles.

I yanked all those memories out. But now that my grandma has mentioned it, I follow the pink ribbon with the faint smell of Mom. It leads me to a pair of red heels tucked away in my closet; a beige blouse my aunt tossed off and I wore till my shoulders went too broad; a house frau’s coat from last Halloween. Once, in a Kyoto ryokan, I slipped into a geisha’s robe and trembled. All these dresses and blouses hang before me on a clothesline of satin.

Sitting across from my grandma, my mind fights to make sense of all these threads I’ve held onto, these washed-out fabrics stretching against this man-sized physique. A memorial sewn. Laced and latched, waiting to be worn again.


Jonathan Rentler currently studies in Albany. His work can be found in: LAROLA, Fickle Muses, I-70, Ganymede, Unlikely Stories 2.0, Babbling of the Irrational, NILVX: A Book of Magic and Midnight Muse.


Photo by Manu B courtesy of Unsplash

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