My mother begged me no to wear it. The little black dress with the tiny strawberries sewn on with red thread , it wasn’t appropriate for a wake. My father had died just before his 49th birthday. He was cold and waxy in a coffin with flowers strewn all over in an airless room with no windows while people piled in slowly with faces stiff and broken. My father was dead, cancer ravaged his body and my mother worried about strawberries, red dots on my black dress. We had an argument, “Talk to her. It’s just not right!” My aunts, grandmother tried to convince me. “No.” I said. I loved the strawberries, the deep ruby color, rich fragile beauty set against the black flowing cloth that hung loose on my body made me feel protected in the coldness of the room, the static tradition, the gaudiness of the flowers glaring with their big colors and ribbons smothering, the black shoes and suits, black dresses, the black, black, black- tears streaming on tired faces, broken hearts lost, heavy sobs hushed hung in the air of this zombie room of black sadness frozen tradition. I kept waiting to feel something new and holy, my empty father propped luxurious, reclined in a box of satin. His storm had ended, he was free. Gone. I had nothing more to say so I wore the dress, the black one with strawberries.
And I stood with my mother, each of my sisters and brothers, everyone, the survivors- our feet bare in the wreckage, our hands clasped in the aftermath, falling into silence, muttering prayers.
Denise Mostacci Sklar has had a career as a dancer, teacher and is currently a personal trainer in the GYROTONIC method of bodywork. She has now discovered writing as another way to move through life and particularly enjoys the stillness…waiting for words to make an entrance. She has also had the good fortune to study with poet/teacher Marc Olmsted. Her most current work can be found in Wilderness House Literary Review, Untitled with Passengers, Almost Five[Quarterly] and forthcoming in Emerge Literary Journal, Split Infinitive and Vagabond City. Denise is from Hamilton MA, where she lives with her husband and two sons.