In fact, I have three. Kimono’s that is. In my life I have had four. My first kimono was bought for a heavily pregnant me by my first husband 28 years ago. It was made of slippery white silk with a dramatic yellow and red dragon, embroidered in glossy thick stitching on the back, and lasted daily wear for near on five years. I loved it. I loved the way my bellybutton in my last days of both my pregnancies pushed against the delicate silk of it. And after, how I could pull the tie tight again around a regained waist. And how it slipped off my body with hardly a shrug and pooled at my feet warm from wear but in the morning as I pulled it on again, how cold it was against my shoulders.
It took a long time and an inheritance of sorts until I had my second kimono. This one belonged to my mother, who wore it until she no longer could get out of bed before she died in my house 11 years ago. I have photographs of her in the weeks before her dying, wearing this red silk and synthetic fabric blend with cherry blossom prints kimono, reminiscent of a Madame Butterfly costume, and that beautiful “One fine Day “ aria: my favourite from that opera. It hangs behind my door now, a sweet, sad reminder of my mother. I wear it sometimes, but not without remembering her. I cannot remember if she ever wore it to her kitchen: somehow I don’t think so: she only ever wore any dressing gown when going to bed or when she was sick, over pajamas.
More recently, about three Christmases ago, my lover gave me a kimono he had had made from silk from China given to him as a gift by his ex-wife who lived in China for 6 months with her new husband. I remember how I felt strangely triumphant wearing this around my house: all the way from China the silk deliciously slipping against my thighs, a garment intended for another. But the sleeves dipping into the inevitable wetness of a sink in the morning filling the kettle for a first cup of tea: anything but delicious! Two years of wear later the silk across where my bottom strained against it, started splitting, so now I only occasionally wear it, even though I have darned it.
And then this past Christmas I got a silk and cotton blend kimono as a gift from him, my now husband to be. Soft and silky: in colours of Buddhist monks: orange with maroon trim, and a maroon tie which I now sometimes twist too tight around my 50 year old waist each time I wear it, forgetting that my body has softened and changed in middle age.
Somehow I think that this will last me a while. I have had flour encrusted in the sleeves, from when I made pasta dough early one morning late last year. And just this morning the sleeve swept up a sluice of water from the sink as I rinsed a pot from last night before stacking it in the dishwasher. I vowed then to not wear a kimono to the kitchen ever again. But I am almost sure that I will, tomorrow morning, slip on that kimono, still half asleep, and trudge through to my kitchen and only when the sleeve gets wet or hooked onto a kitchen unit handle will I swear yet again to never wear my kimono to the kitchen again…