Cactus Pants

When I was younger, my mom would always buy my sister and me the exact same gifts: matching stuffed animals at first, clothing a little later. We would both get the same dog, or polar bear or stuffed rabbit. For other holidays, we would receive the same Valentines or Easter baskets – the same stuffed dog but with a flower or heart instead of the plaid scarf, depending on the season. Always in two. Always the same.

My mom made Valentine’s Day and Easter two of my favorite holidays when I was young. I loved dressing up in the most flowery frou-frou dress she could find, with a matching ribboned straw hat, and heading to my nana’s looking like an 8-year-old 90s style prom star, with my matching 4-year-old sister as a side kick accessory.

Recently, my mom gave one of our old matching stuffed dogs to my niece. And my niece is joyously carrying out her mom and aunt’s tradition of over-the-top and out-of-the-box fashion choices with red sparkle high heels and her own large collection of tutus she models and changes every day.

When I was young, the frilly matching dresses had their limelight for a good while before I became an angsty tween and started my exposed midriff phase that lasted too long. When the subsequent gift ideas plateaued, my mom adapted. We, as a family, adapted. We all started giving each other the opposite of froofy formal wear: we started gifting matching pajamas instead.

What started as my mom buying these things for my sister and me morphed into us buying them for her. Every Christmas, three new pairs of matching pink cat pajama bottoms would appear under the tree. We’d all head out to our suburban TJMaxx or Marshalls separately, and end up buying nearly the same thing for each other on the other end. Before there was a social media phenomenon of people wearing matching Christmas PJs at home, my mom, my sister and I were wearing, exchanging and switching our nighttime wear constantly for years, surprisingly on trend.

Now, in another country, an entire continent and ocean away from them both (they live in SF) during this crazy pandemic, I am comforted by this memory as I sit in a pair of furry cactus pajama pants I bought for myself and my sister the last time we saw each other, more than a year ago now, in a Marshalls down in New Orleans. I usually buy a cozy pair of socks or lounge pants for her or my mom right before any anticipated visit, and always get the same reaction of joy and excitement that I feel myself when I purchase them. This is what brings us together. This is what keeps us in each other’s thoughts. When I call now, my sister and I are still, almost 30 years later, wearing the exact same outfit on the phone, enjoying our lounge wear in our separate lockdowns, apart but still the same. Always wearing the same.

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