New Suits by Rick Forristall
“Okay guys, it’s time to go,” Dad said to us, somberly. His challenges were plenty during those days – most would consider them insurmountable. This day’s required activity surely didn’t make his life any easier – spending money he didn’t have for an event he probably wished away, four hundred or ten thousand times every day.
We gathered with guarded excitement – kids can do that in these situations. Living poor put us in the position of viewing the simple task of trying on suits as an exciting endeavor. This would be the first time for all of us to have a suit. Of the eight brothers, five of us piled into Dad’s car in anticipation of the suit-buying process. It was a surreal time, even if we didn’t understand what surreal meant.
The ride to Anderson Little – a men’s clothing store – in Wellington Circle escapes my memory, but I can imagine it was quiet. Quiet, except for possibly the radio on the talk show channel or sports channel, as each of us was probably thinking about the same thing, not wanting to share our thoughts. How hard this must’ve been for my father – driving us to buy suits for the inevitable event that would refuse to bypass our family.
We arrived and, when we entered the store, dispersed like the sparkles of a firework that just exploded high in the sky – each of us searching the mazes of racks for suits that would fit us. Flipping through the lifeless suits, with their multitude of colors and styles, was fun to do, even at a time when fun would seem to be a crime.
Each of us eventually found two or three or maybe four suits that Dad considered appropriate. With each one we selected from the racks and showed off to our siblings, we smiled and were genuinely having fun – smiling, giggling and even bursting out in laughter – or maybe the smiles, laughter and fun infiltrated where they felt needed.
Each of us would try on a suit and the other brothers would see how friggin’ cool they looked. We would laugh out loud with each other at just how great we looked. The contrast of this group of brothers wearing suits compared to our everyday garb was so stark that we would think it looked simultaneously fantastic and completely silly – these mixed emotions induced our laughter. We were not laughing as to say the other brother looked silly. Instead, we would laugh because they looked so good, so upscale that it just seemed funny. We enjoyed this for what seemed a very long time. By now the reason’s appearance was imminent; we probably knew it, but subconsciously told it to wait – for just a little while longer. I don’t remember what my Dad was doing, but in retrospect I imagine his emotions were knocking him around pretty solidly.
All the brothers went through the process, trying on each suit for the other brothers to see. The laughing continued; genuine, but the reason, the dreaded reason decided it was time to reenter and it didn’t care what fun we were having. As though we were all in a dark room cajoling about our suits, the reason turned on a light so we could all see it standing there in the middle of us announcing its presence. It announced its presence with such clarity that the laughing, goofing, giggling and the resulting smiles all went away – instantly.
For a moment – what seemed like a decade – we just stood where we were, limp, like the suits we were wearing before we lifted them off their racks to don them. Each brother looked at another realizing what the other just remembered – the reason. As I said earlier, we didn’t understand the concept of surreal, but we knew that moment was just that.
The same thought pushed its way to the front of each brother’s mind. The same thought that my Dad was probably struggling with since we piled into the car and headed to this place. The same thought that stayed in the back of our minds allowing the fun to take center stage for a while. But, the reason decided it was time for that to stop when it reminded us…
We’re buying these suits for Mom’s funeral!
How long we stood there – mimicking the lifeless suits on the racks – I just can’t remember, but at some point we, sadly, chose one suit each. Dad paid and we went home. What we were doing on the ride home slips my mind, but Mom and the reason were no doubt all we could think about.
When the reason finally arrived, we wore those suits. We seldom laughed or giggled then, as the suits played their intended roles.