by Brandy Gerhardt
Missouri, USA


It was my day off and I was browsing a thrift store when I came across a beautiful dress. A dress to make one linger and mutter hopeful promises: “Well, I’ll get it and then lose twenty pounds!” Reluctantly, I dragged myself away, but the cascade of pansies in purple and sunshine drew me back. Five minutes later I headed back to my car, the shocked and foolish owner of a dress two sizes too small!

Before going home, I decided to visit a new client on my way. The pansy dress lay in its bag on the seat beside me. I glanced down at it, baffled by my foolishness. Whatever had possessed me?

I could hear the slow shuffling thump of a walker on the other side of the door as I waited for Ms. Smith to answer my knock. Finally, the door opened and she awkwardly hopped her walker back to let me in and offered a small, worn smile. I followed her into a tiny, tidy living room where she sat down with a weary sigh. Her right leg was in a cast from the knee down.

I settled in on the couch across from her and glanced around. A wall hanging caught my eye. “My goodness! That looks exactly like a dress I have,” I said in amazement.

Ms. Smith followed my gaze and brightened, “Oh, yes! Those are my favorite colors and pansies are my favorite flowers.”

On impulse I ran out to my car and got the dress to show her the perfect match. Then I busied myself with her assessment, the dress lying forgotten beside me. Pen poised, I glanced up at Ms. Smith who seemed quiet and a bit unresponsive. She was gazing at the pansy dress.

Slightly embarrassed, she looked my way. “Would you…do you mind…if I try it on?” she asked in a timid voice. It took a split second of silence for me to recover, “Oh. Yes! No! Please do!”

She positioned her walker and, with difficulty, rose from her chair. I handed her the dress and she slowly thumped part way into her kitchen. Getting out of one dress and into another when you have six legs and a cast is no easy feat, but we managed. I zipped her up and stood back. She maneuvered her walker around and slowly shuffled toward the bedroom mirror.

Watching her, I swallowed over the lump in my throat. What on earth had made me think that because my clients are so often stuck at home with bodies that betray them, they have lost their longing to look pretty in pansies?

Maybe I wasn’t shopping for myself that day, after all. Because Ms. Smith looked marvelous in her new pansy dress!

Originally published as HeroicStories #365 on Dec 13, 2002

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