Thursday, October 14, 2021

Been There Voices: Dolores Forsythe - My Mother

My Mother, Opal, was the youngest of eleven children, her father died when she was a toddler and her mother was left on a remote farm in the country to raise her children with no income. Opal and her sister’s dresses and her brother’s shirts were handmade from flour sack material. The manual sewing machine with the foot treadle was a valued possession. There were no “store bought” clothes and the holes in the soles of their shoes were patched with newspaper. During her childhood my mother’s paper dolls were cutouts from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. She told me she would pour over the beautiful dresses in the catalogue and dream of someday having a “real” dress.

At eighteen, when I was two years old, she married my factory assembly line stepfather who already had three daughters. So, as her mother her now electric sewing machine was her salvation. Not only did she make all the clothes for the five of us but she constantly altered hand-me-downs from cousins and even her own dresses for our school clothes. I guess in all those years of studying the Sears catalogue she picked up a few fashion tips and tried to make our dresses more than just functional.

I remember in the ninth grade I was going to a school dance and she made me a pink gingham dress she altered by adding a huge matching fabric bow that draped over one shoulder. She was so proud of it. I was too until I got to the dance and all the other girls had beautiful dresses which were, of course, store bought. Not one boy asked me dance the entire night. I felt like the ugly duckling. I blamed it on the homemade dress.

When I got home, she asked me “Did you look as good as the other girls?” I told her I did. But from then on, I hated hand me downs and homemade dresses.

Happy birthday, Dolores!

-- ** Dolores Forsythe, Coronado, CA, jewelry designer

Click here for more about Dolores and other Been There Voices  


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.


  1. Oh my, this reminds me of Dolly Parton's song "Coat of Many Colors", now you understand she sewed every stitch with love. So many of our mothers had lives we cannot image. Love this story and your mom. Susan Larson

  2. Opal's dream of a real dress and her efforts to give you one tug at my heart. Thank you for sharing.

  3. So much of what you shared reminded me of stories I knew of my mother's childhood--and my mother also made all of our clothes when we were young. Then I learned how to sew and made my own. From generation to generation the talents were passed along. Thankfully, I didn't need to wear hand-me-down shoes with cardboard in the soles to cover the holes. Thanks for sharing...