the transfiguration of the bathrobe

January 22nd, 2016


The robe my mother wore was blue, quilted, ankle-length, with three-quarter sleeves. She had other robes during my years at home, but this is the one I remember. I remember that she wore it when she got up every morning to make breakfast, and had it on when she opened my bedroom door in the dark and said, “Time to get up, Karen.” I remember her in the robe while we ate our breakfast at the kitchen table—scrambled eggs and toast or cereal and milk—and then we hurriedly got dressed and went to school and her, to work.

My mother did her very best at everything. I would have called her excellent. Our house was small and clean. Sometimes if you looked closely you could see that things were not always so nice. When she wore the blue robe everything seemed warm and safe and reliable. The days began in the same way. There was always breakfast. We were always on time. My mother wasn’t sentimental or silly about anything. She was at all times grown up and good.

None of this may have happened the way I tell it except for the blue bathrobe and the feeling of being loved.


There is a lull that opens up between a mother and a daughter. A trench, a sinkhole, a grave and terrible silence. Feelings are overwhelming. Conversation is impossible. Words are dangerous. The truth can seem unbearably close and yet a million miles away.


I saw a plush pink bathrobe hanging in the window of a store in town and I knew I would have to buy it. It was expensive but I didn’t care. I took it home and laid it on my daughter’s bed so she would see it the minute she got home.

She put on the robe that night. Then she put it on every night. She would say that she was about to take a long bath and if she washed her hair would I dry it? She would tell me that she was going to take a break and Facetime with a friend. Have some tea with honey. Toast before bed. And twice, seeing me, she would smile, come over and embrace me in a plush hug, suddenly so grown up and good, a mother to a child.

None of this may have happened the way I tell it except for the pink bathrobe and the most excellent, unforgettable feeling of being loved.


noun trans·fig·u·ra·tion :  a change in form or appearance :  metamorphosis :  an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change

Jim Dine, 1984: The Robe Following Her

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  1. Just lovely.

    Comment by marcea — January 22, 2016 @ 9:40 am

  2. The garment may change, the situation(s) may be different…but if we’re very lucky, we recognize that feeling. That ineffable warmth that saves us during the long, cold days.

    Comment by Jean B — January 22, 2016 @ 7:04 pm

  3. Despite now being the ‘old mother’ myself your writing touched me. My mother spent her mornings in her old chenille robe. Sending me off to school and having her second ‘cuppa’ with a cigarette.

    I am reminded of the rift which grew between my mother and I during the teen years. Through it all she loved me fiercely and it was only after I had my first child that I truly realized what she had done for me.

    She is gone now and I still weep for the loss. I would love to call her and chat, to hear her voice.

    To me the greatest loss is not being able to conjure up the sound of loved ones voices.

    As always, thank you for your writing. It never fails to touch me.


    Comment by Jude Smith — January 23, 2016 @ 6:30 am

  4. Nice. I needed to think about my mother this morning. My daughter. My granddaughters. Be well and whole. Bobby

    Comment by Bobby Byrd — January 23, 2016 @ 7:45 am

  5. Funny to read this tonight. I’ve been cleaning out my closet and found a blue house coat, that I wore when I was pregnant with my second daughter. I threw it in the discard box, then pulled it right back out. It’s tattered and torn, but when I see it I am brought back to those middle of the night feedings. When I held her in my arms and knew at that moment I could give her everything she needed. I’ve decided to make a pillow case out of it for her. She is now 43.

    Comment by marilee pittman — January 23, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

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