Closet Memoirs #4: Uptown (Cow)girl


Washington Heights is a small neighborhood located just above Harlem in the upper region of Manhattan. It was my neighborhood for 2 years until only a few weeks ago. My first NYC home.

The streets were continuously booming with salsa music and lined with characters. But then again, that’s just New York. Though I lived across the street from a funeral home, above a bar and under what sounded like professional bowlers; I found some sort of twisted comfort in the live mariachi bands and drunken behavior outside my window. As funny as it sounds, It was the soundtrack to my neighborhood. Aside from that, we had several hidden gems: some of the most delicious tapas food you could ever imagine, the friendliest local bar that was days away from closing when local, Lin Manuel Miranda generously funded and saved it himself. It was the home to the most delicious guava pastries, the STRONGEST coffee, and the liveliest families who were constantly celebrating, barbecuing and playing checkers on the street. People were always selling flowers, food, trinkets, and clothing lined every block. I always kept an eye out for something special. Much like discovery of my leopard coat, this street find was too good to pass up.

I was trudging home from the subway in a pair of shoes that were neither practical or comfortable when I walked by a hoard of freshly unloaded boxes on the street in front of a small 99 cent store. To my surprise, I looked over and saw a cardboard box full of cow-print jeans. I was instantly blasted back to this outfit I had as a kid. I stopped dead in my tracks and thought of a specific day. Triggered (in a good way) to say the least. Seconds later, you better believe I was rummaging through that box.

The jeans reminded me of this dress I once had.  I was a 4-year-old kindergartner who thought she was 14. Being the youngest kid in my grade growing up didn’t mean a thing to me. I still felt 10 years older in my over sized head. I still remember that time so vividly though it was so many years ago. We had just moved to my little town from the one next door and I was starting at a new school. I missed the birthday cutoff and had to hop into another year of preschool. After being in there for a few weeks, I was bored to tears. I loved school back then. I wanted to do more. I liked math, could read at an early age and wanted to be with the “big kids”. (Not sure what happened there as only a few years later I became a solid B/C student for the rest of my school years.)

Long story short, I was lucky enough to be bumped up to kindergarten at age 4. I was in the afternoon group which meant the whole morning was free for shenanigans. Extra time picking outfits, playing, getting into trouble at home… usual 4-year-old things. (I wish life still abided by this luxurious schedule.) It was around the end of September when I officially began at my new school which meant I entered in just in time for picture day. *Yay!*

I began that morning at a doctors appointment (which every kid hates) and was whisked away to picture day. (I remember this so well because I did not want to change out of my new favorite outfit.) I was not ok with the finger prick, or the temporary outfit change, but was definitely ok with my flashy new band aid. Freshly poked and pawed at I pulled it together and was off to school in an outfit that made me forget about the previous hour. It was a denim dress with a cow-print collar, paired with two (very) high pigtails tied up with some matching blue scrunchies.

The best part about this outfit had to be the matching purse that came with it. I wish I had a picture! (But you can see that it is strapped across me in the photo above because God forbid I took it off!) From the smirk in this picture… I think you can tell I felt like a million bucks. Needless to say, I was pretty proud of this outfit and the fact that I was in with the big kids.

I think I can speak for my parents in saying I was not the easiest child to get dressed in the morning not only because of my over sized head not fitting through most of my shirts, but I was incredibly choosy and HAD to pick my own outfits (shocker).

So… when I saw those jeans on the street. I couldn’t help but think about the only other cow-print item I had ever owned. The jeans were a more sophisticated spin on it! (Or so I thought.) After rummaging through the box I noticed every pair had a tag that read “10/12”.

“10/12”???” I thought.

“Like a kids 10/12?”

I didn’t have a clue… but for some reason I felt like they looked about my size. Plus, I forgot to mention… they only cost me a whopping $2.99! I took them home and (somehow) they fit like a glove.

Every time I wear them, they become a conversational piece.

When I get the:  “Oh I love those! Where did you get them?”

I surprise them by saying they were actually $3 jeans made for little boys that fell off the back of a truck somewhere and somehow made it to my neighborhood where I scooped them out of a cardboard box… *wink*





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