no skirting the truth

For the past three years, since her stroke, all my mother has wanted for Christmas is a pure wool black box-pleat skirt.

You see, mum’s occupying another decade, a time when she could walk unaided and stand up tall.

It’s a year when you wouldn’t dream of going without stockings, skirts fell below the knee, hems were perfectly even all the way round and the stitches invisible.

We haven’t quite figured exactly how much younger than her 86 years she believes herself to be.

But it’s clearly not the same age as her nursing home contemporaries who she refers to with fond, but detached indulgence.

How were the Christmas carols mum? “Pretty grim,” says she, “but it was nice for the old dears.”

That first year I went to Fletcher Jones looking for her heart’s desire, the saleslady laughed, though not unkindly. “Oh my, we stopped making those years ago,” she said. Too old-fashioned perhaps?

“There was that, but mainly we just couldn’t afford to keep making them the way we used to … But, you could try an op shop.”

In almost every one of the hundred-plus op shop visits in the intervening years, I’ve discovered the marvel of engineering that was the Fletcher Jones skirt – though, sadly, not the right size or colour.

Pure wool, with creases as sharp as the day they came out of the factory in Warrnambool, they have outlived many of the women for whom they were made to measure.

There’s no skirting the truth. Hanging alongside them, the mass-manufactured garments of latter years are rags by comparison.

Mum’s peculiar self-chosen timeline starts to make sense – quality belongs to another era.

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