by Rachel Caidor
One of my favorite memories is of my mother and me, circa 1977, captured in a white bordered, matte filtered photo. My mother is holding me and looks hip in her powder blue A-line miniskirt housekeeper’s uniform dress from the Holiday Inn. It’s polyester, with large clear plastic buttons down the front, and two prominent wide square pockets on either side. The image of her is a view from below, making her legs seem too long for her 5” frame. She’s laughing a wide, toothy smile as the sun shines behind her.
It turns out this memory is false. There is no photo of my mother in her miniskirt uniform because there never was a miniskirt uniform. During the course of this project, I discovered that the actual uniform was the most pedestrian boxy two-pieced powder blue ensemble – elastic waist pants with an aggressive seam pressed down the middle of each pant leg, the top, a glorified rectangle with short itchy sleeves. It is remarkable that I forgot this because it’s the uniform my mother wore to work the greater part of 17 years of my life. All of the photos I could find of my mother in her uniform show her stern faced, hurrying off to work.
I suspect my false memory is wrapped up in ideas of the ways we imagine the lives of laborers we otherwise never see. Even those of us who live with them sometimes overlook the banal, grueling, intimate work they do cleaning toilets and underneath beds. So we imagine them outside in full view; sunlit, jubilant and glamorous, in completely impractical outfits.
Bio Rachel Caidor is from Miami, Florida and currently lives and works in Chicago. Her mother is retired and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and now mostly wears loose blue jeans.