Childhood, Nightgowns, and JCPenney’s

Over the weekend, I finished reading: “Still Points North” by Leigh Newman. A memoir about Newman’s Alaskan childhood. When I read this line, my mind wandered to my own childhood, my grandma, and JCPenney’s:

“Only then do I realize about her nightgown. It’s bunched around her chest, almost to her neck–a classic Nana bed garment; creamy JCPenney satin with a froth of French lace at the neck. She has drawers and drawers of them; they’re her trademark, along with the kimonos and martinis and hot-silver hair.” page 202

I do not know how many of you grew up with a JCPenney’s in your town. When I was young it was always exciting when the JCPenney’s Christmas catalog came in the mail, where you could go through pages and pages of toys and see what you might want to add to your Christmas list. Looking back though, I am not sure I ever really received anything from the catalog, but I guess it was always the dream of it.

What I remember most about JCPenney’s was my grandma and her nightgowns. She always wore a specific kind. It was silky soft, and usually was a subtle pink or blue. Nothing too exciting, but she always purchased them at JCPenney’s. It is funny as I look back how consistent my grandma was, how even, and routined she lived her life. I see a lot of that in me, and yet, I also like to try new things. Sometimes because of the adventure, and sometimes I do not have a choice. You know what it is like when your favorite t-shirt is no longer made or the company makes it but not out of the same fabric? So you have to move on and try something new. Sometimes the new version you find is actually better than what you were stuck to, and other times you never find a backfill that will ever compare.

My grandma would also wear these atrocious cotton robes. Although, she called them housecoats. They were hideous. I would never have wanted to be caught wearing one. The cotton felt harsh on your skin, but it was what she wanted. She would get up in the morning put the housecoat over her nightgown then put on her slippers and often wore that outfit for a good part of the day. Until she decided it was time to put clothes on, or because she was leaving the house.

Each time Chris and I would visit her, we would make sure to make a trip to JCPenney’s to pick up a new nightgown and housecoat for her. I knew I could never buy them anywhere else as she would not wear them. It would either sit in her drawer, or she would berate me to return it right away. Even when she was in the last few months and weeks of her life, Chris and I made the trip to JCPenney’s to see what we could find for her.

I have been to a JCPenney’s once or twice since my grandma died, but not for my usual grandma sleepwear purchase. Chris and I found that they have a great blinds section. Even so, anytime I see a JCPenney’s ad I think of my grandma and her nightgowns.

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