The Clothes

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Once upon a time, far, far in the north there was a land where the summer sun never set and warm southern breezes blew small tufts of white clouds across clear blue skies. Once upon a time, far, far in the north there was a land where the winter sun never cast its rays and the east wind howled over frozen white wastes while green and yellow lights danced over black starlit skies.

 In this land of summer breezes and howling winter winds lived a young girl, a special girl with a very special talent. She had the ability to create her own clothes. But not just any clothes … oh no, whenever she acquired some cloth she really liked, it would speak to her. It would whisper in tones only she could hear about how to measure and where to cut. And as she stitched, it would sing to her, quietly at first, barely audible, like melodies only half heard in dreams. But as she sewed its voice would sing stronger and stronger until, as she clipped the last thread over, it resounded with a symphony of lights and colors.

 The piece she had been working on of late was special to her. Never before had she worked with material so beautiful, so perfect. When she held the finished garment up to admire it, a ray of sun fell on it through the open window, as if blessing it with its radiance. It seemed to dance and shimmer, to glisten and sparkle. Quickly she put it on. The fit was perfect. She ran down the narrow staircase to show her parents the garment she had made.

 In the living room her father was sitting before the window in his favorite chair reading and her mother was sitting by the lamp in her favorite chair knitting. As she entered they both looked up. “What is that you’re wearing?” they asked.

 “It’s my new clothes” she replied laughing, turning this way and that to show how it moved with ease around her. “I made it of the finest material I could find and stitched it together so it would fit me perfectly.”

Her parents looked sternly at her and said: “Don’t be silly, you can’t wear that. It’s such a silly thing. Everybody will laugh at you when they see it and they will laugh at us because you are our daughter. Take off those clothes immediately and put on your old clothes, the ones we bought for you.”

 The young girl stopped twirling and stopped smiling. Bowing her head she climbed slowly up the narrow stairway again to do as her parents had said but she didn’t give up … not at first. She found more beautiful, more wonderful cloth which sang a multitude of beautiful garments. But each time her parents saw them they scolded her and made her put on her old clothes. After this happened several times the girl became so discouraged that she just stopped sewing. Her needles and threads laid unused in their boxes and the pieces of material laid gathering dust.

 Time passed, as it had a habit of doing where the girl lived and slowly she moved into her teenage years. Now teenagers are known far and wide to be a rebellious lot and this girl was no different. Some of her friends had started to make their own clothes and she longed to do the same once again. So working at a friend’s house, so her parents wouldn’t be the wiser, she started making her own garments. Every morning she would put on her old clothes, say goodbye to her parents and start off towards school but on the way she would stop at her friend’s house and change to the clothes she had made. This arrangement worked so well for so long that one day she decided it was time to wear the new garments home and show her parents what she had made. After all, she reasoned, I’m older now and these are so beautiful that they can’t possibly have anything against them.

 So she walked up to her front door wearing her new clothes and stopped with her had on the door handle. A little voice inside her was asking if this really was such a wise thing to do. But, she reasoned that since she had come this far she might as well continue so she took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped into the house. All was quiet. Maybe they’re not home she thought hopefully (her courage was beginning to fail her). But when she walked into the kitchen, there they were, seated at the table eating. They both raised their head and looked at her at the same time. Her mother’s eyes grew big as tea cups, she covered her mouth with both hands and gasped (mothers sometimes do this when surprised). Her father dropped his coffee cup on his lap and his face turned beet red (this is what sometimes happens when fathers become surprised).

 “What are you wearing child? Take it off immediately! Everyone will laugh at us … and at you” they exclaimed.

 At first the girl was very surprised and then she became very angry. “Why should I?” she shouted. “I’m older now and these are the clothes I want to wear!”

 Seeing that the old contrivances which had worked so well in the past were no longer effective, they decided on a different tactic. “Where did you get those clothes from?” they asked. “Who made them for you? Because YOU surly could not have made them yourself.”

 Hearing this, the girl became very sad and then very angry and left the house. “I’ll show them” she mumbled. “I’ll make the most beautiful clothes in the world, just perfect for me and people won’t laugh. The clothes will delight them and make them glad.”

 And she did but every time she wore them home her parents said the same thing: “Where did you get those cloths from? Who made them for you? You couldn’t have made them yourself.”

 After this had happened several times she gave up and stopped making her own cloths. She put on her old clothes again (even though they no longer fit) and made an effort to get on with her life.

 Well one day took the next and slowly she became a young woman. As so often happens she met someone, married and had children. The young woman was almost, but not quite happy in her life. You see she had grown but her clothes hadn’t.

 As it happened they decided to move to a new town with different customs. Great! She thought. Now I can finally get some cloths that fit! But no, the people in the new town were smaller than her so she had to squeeze herself into the clothes that were made for the smaller people. As hard as she tried to fit into them she kept popping out here and there and as if that wasn’t bad enough, the shoes were so small she was forced to hobble around as if her legs didn’t want anything to do with her feet.

 Many, many times her family celebrated her birthday in the town. She smiled, she laughed but in her eyes the pain of wearing clothes that just didn’t fit could be seen. Her hair turned gray, her body bent and slowed as if carrying a huge weight and still she popped and hobbled never having found anything that fit.

 Then one day as she was popping and hobbling down the street on her way to market, she passed a stranger carrying a satchel. The stranger wasn’t dressed like all the other people in town; she was wearing a flowing robe with a hood that covered her head and shadowed her face. Her robe was beautiful and shown of many colors  It shimmered and glistened reflecting the rays of the sun in a thousand different hues. The stranger was such a striking figure that she stopped and turned to look after her. And as she did, the stranger stopped too and turned towards her.

 “Excuse me” she began a bit timidly. “Where did you get those beautiful clothes?”

 After a moment she replied with a smile in her voice: “Why, I made them myself of course, for I am the only one who knows what a perfect fit is for me.”

 The old woman thought about this for a few moments then said: “But aren’t you afraid that people will laugh at you because you look different?”

“Afraid? If people laugh at me then I will also laugh and we will all have a good laugh together and then we will part as friends.” She paused looking at her thoughtfully. “May I ask you a question?”

 The old woman was beginning to like this stranger and thought she was very friendly indeed. “Of course” she replied.

 “Why do you hobble around as if your legs don’t know your feet? And why are your clothes so tight? They don’t look very comfortable at all.”

 She could feel the warmth creep slowly up into her cheeks as her eyes began to fill with water. After a moment she cried: “The people here are so small that none of their clothes fit me. I’m so tired of hobbling around in these shoes and the garments are so tight I can’t breath!

 “Hmmm” replied the stranger, “Then why not just take them off?”

 “I can’t!” she wailed. “Everyone will laugh at me!”

 “So what?”

 “But … but”. Slowly she looked down at her feet. Then raising her head she smiled and kicked off her left shoe. It flew through the air and landed in the neighbour’s garden. Laughing she kicked off the other shoe and it flew so far it crashed through her parents window. She then began to unbutton her clothes but stopped.

 “I can’t” she said. “I can’t just take off all my clothes and parade around naked. I … I need to wear something … don’t I?”

 “If you feel you need something then …” The stranger reached into her satchel and brought out a robe of brilliant colors.

 “Oh! exclaimed the old woman “It’s breathtaking!”

 Quickly she tore off all her old ill-fitting clothes and wrapped herself in the shinning robe. It draped lightly from her shoulders and fit her like a dream. Without the small shoes and tight clothes she found she could stand up straight, she could dance and twirl and laugh, she even felt like she could fly!

 The stranger nodded and turned as if to go.

 “Wait” she said. “Who are you? At least take down you hood so I can see your face.”

 A moment passed … then two where they just stood over for each other, breathing quietly. Then the stranger slowly lifted her hands to her hood and gently pushed it back.

 Who do you imagine she saw?

author – Florence






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