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Sunday, 25 March 2001

The New Outfit

Written by  Sherri Mandell

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It's Sunday morning. Pam, a 31-year-old mother, is getting ready to go to a party with her four-year-old daughter, Cara.

Mother: We gotta hurry. Grandma said that we should be there early so she can take pictures of us.

Cara: Okay.

Cara stays on the floor playing.

Mother: Let's get you ready.

Cara: Why?

Mother: I told you. We're going to Grandma's. She's having a birthday party.

Cara: Is it my birthday?

Mother: No, it's Grandma's. Listen it's time to stop playing. It's time to get ready.

Cara doesn't look up.

Mother: It's time to get dressed. Here are your clothes. I'll give you a few minutes and then we'll get you dressed.

Mother goes out of the room. Five minutes later, she returns.

Mother: (shouting) C'mon now. Get up. Don't you hear me? (She collects herself and takes a deep breath.) Fine, I'll help you. (She tries to pull Cara up, but Cara jerks back.) Here's the outfit I bought you....Put up your arms...Stand up!

Cara sinks back to the floor.

Cara: No, Mommy. I don't like that shirt I want ....

Mother: What do you mean? You know I bought it special for today.

Cara: I want this shirt.

She gets up and pulls a shirt up from the corner of the room.

Mother: I want you to look pretty and special. That shirt is for every day. This shirt is for a special day. Like today.

Cara: I won't wear it.

Mother: Oh yes you will. You're going to look clean and pretty today! I'm going to do your hair in ponies, just like you like. And everyone will say: what a pretty girl.

Cara: I want this shirt!

Mother: Sweetie, that shirt is dirty. I just forgot to put it in the laundry. Everybody will think your mama doesn't take care of you.

The mother pulls Cara on to the bed and tries to put the shirt over Cara's head. Cara pushes her arms down and screams. "No, no."
She starts sobbing and lies on the bed.

Mother: (sitting down and putting her hand on Cara's hand) You're going to surprise me. You're going to put on the new blue shirt all by yourself and you'll do it by the time I count to ten.

She counts to ten. Cara doesn't put on her shirt. She just cries harder.

Mother: I buy you beautiful clothes and I want you to wear them.

Cara: No. No. No. No. I won't.

Mother: You're not being fair.

Cara: No. My shirt! I want my shirt.

Mother: You don't mind spoiling my whole day, do you? You're ruining this party for me, Cara. It's bad enough that Uncle Joe is going to be there. And now this? Maybe you just won't go. Maybe I'll call a babysitter for you.

Cara: (starts to scream) I want to go to Grandma's!

Mother: (sternly) You'll go to Grandma's as soon as you wear what I tell you. Now get into these clothes. Now! You hear me? Or that's the last time I buy you pretty new clothes!

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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

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