My coziest pajamas are not a set. But even though the pieces do not match, they fit so comfortably on this tired mom bod.
Wholly unflattering, the mixed cotton array is sturdy and warm. The bottoms are black knit stretch pants I bought in the 90s. They’re the perfect length–long enough to protect my ankles from the cruel breath of Midwest winter and my calves and shins from cold cotton sheets at bedtime. The obedient pajama top combo (a red Star Wars t-shirt and a Stranger Things holiday sweatshirt) stays put, never creeping up or gaping at the waist.
This trio of warm jersey knits brings me more joy than an evening of popcorn, red wine, and Schitt’s Creek ever could.
Earlier this week, with gratitude for such wonderful sleepwear, I washed my perfect pajamas then diligently moved them to the dryer. I even remembered to turn the dryer on. But the dryer is old, so I typically have to run it twice, and (you see where this is going), I forgot to run it the second time.
What can I say, except that I am exhausted? And so, for a good 48 hours, my cozy pajamas sat in a heap of wet laundry, growing a musty scent in the cold, damp tomb. Imagine my pjs’ loneliness, surely despondent for our symbiotic, warm relationship.
While tidying up last night, I anticipated the congratulatory pjs. How wonderful my cold ankles and offended shins would feel at bedtime! When I opened the dryer to fetch the three necessary pieces, (continuing to ignore the rest of the clothes, because why would I ever put all that laundry away at 10:30 at night?), I assured myself that no, the clothes were not wet, only cold because they’d been sitting in that very spot for two days.
I thought, “Aha! I shall turn the dryer on to warm up the cozy jammies!”
When I returned five minutes later, after washing my face and brushing my teeth, I smelled heartbreak. I caught the mildewy-and-abandoned-once-clean-now-not aroma and recalled how I had both remembered and not remembered to run the dryer. So, I moved the load of laundry backward, right into the basin of the washing machine, for a big re-do in the morning.
Thus, I had to wear unkind pajamas—a matching blue set with short pant legs, made of too-thin jersey, not nearly warm enough. And as I shivered off to sleep, I envisioned a life where I can remember all the important things, like turning the dryer on, again.
This morning, I made a second attempt at washing my best pajamas, with all the success I had envisioned the first time around. I managed to turn the dryer on twice, even though my day was peppered with birthday fanfare. Today my youngest child turned ten years old.
Tonight, as I readied myself for bed and sat quietly in my cozy pj’s, enjoying the mountain fresh detergent scent, I reflected on the busyness of the day.
I’d prepared the foods my littlest loves; I’d packaged her gifts with a flourish of tissue paper; I’d watched the light of ten candles dance across the darkened family room, across the faces of my three children and my husband, as we’d sung Happy Birthday in the same key as our howling dog.
I thought of her gleeful puff that extinguished those candles and ushered out her first decade, the one in which parenting felt expansive and never-ending. And with the candle smoke still swirling, the second half of parenting took a seat on the sofa, set up the ticking clock that cannot be paused, and all the thoughts started up: Did I remember to hold my babies enough? Am I losing them already? Who am I if I’m not caring for little people?
Sitting and reflecting in my perfect cozy pajamas, a tide of sadness rushed over me, grief for the loss of single digits, chubby cheeks, and mispronounced words. For hands and faces glazed in stickiness, for foam lightsaber duels, for dog-pile wrestling matches, for “Let it Go” and Ninjago. Well, no, maybe not Ninjago.
I wept the hot, stored up tears that had been waiting for just this day. They jumped and tumbled out of my puffing eyes, and spilled down all over my cozy pj’s, now wet once again.
And bless that nightwear; it wrapped itself around me in just the right kind of hug and tucked me into bed, where I fantasized about a baby, growing to an adolescent, to an adult, to a mother herself.
I remembered one of the things I’d forgotten in the decade that just departed: I am a mom, and also a thousand different things: a writer, a chef, a dreamer, a motivator, a traveler, an explorer. Things that over time I’d willingly or unknowingly pressed the pause button on, in favor of love-seat cuddles, sleepless nights, and reading the same board book 13,268 times.
While I plan to walk to the tempo of the ticking clock, in step with the astounding humans developing under my roof, I’m going to invite more and more versions of me to come along. I may hit resume on forgotten editions of myself that have been left on the shelf. I expect to meet new pieces of my own developing personhood, as I savor the next several chapters of being a tired mom.
The tapestry of those knit together selves will be sturdy enough when the time comes to launch into the world my most important project to date: my children. I might be a bit faded, worn down, and threadbare in spots, but aren’t those the truest markings of hard-working, well-loved garments—or in my case, the ultimate broken-in wear pattern of parenting and partnership?
I’d love to talk about this more, but I just remembered that I need to start the dryer again.
Andrea Lee Dunn is from Indianapolis, Indiana, by way of the Texas-Mexico border and North Carolina. She enjoys working at home, raising her three children. For decades, she wrote for her own enjoyment and growth but recently began sharing her work, which can now be found in Entropy Magazine, the Same, New Mexico Review, Southwestern American Literature, and Flying Island Literary Journal, for which she received a Pushcart Prize Nomination. Andrea studied creative writing at Texas Tech University. You can connect with Andrea on Facebook.