Childhood memories flash pictures of my mom in soft earthy corduroy, knee-socks and Birkenstock. The nubby feel of knitted garments still remind me of a favorite striped sweater she wore everywhere. I’ve seen pictures of her in her youth and she was quite stylish. She sported short skirts, fun fabrics, trendy hats and sunglasses that could compete with any fashion icon. Of course, that was before I knew her, or at least before I had any memory of my mother. By the time she was the age I am now, she found her true style though. It emerged with her new career, teaching. Suddenly the stay-at-home-mom attire was replaced by classic lines and sophistication. Now that she is retired, she has morphed into something between a J. Jill or J.Crew model, a wardrobe worth envying.
My dad joked that I was the best dressed college student he knew. I worked in retail, although one might have thought I only got paid in clothing. For a while, my fashionable and costly wardrobe followed me through college, divorce, and my first real job. When DW and I met, there were still bits and pieces left of the well-thought-out, impeccably put-together modern woman. And for the first few years we were married, I still sported the latest fashions to church, mothers’ groups, lunches and my part-time jobs.
I never realized how drastically my “look” had changed, especially since so many of my favorite things are still hanging in the closet. Although, I must admit, I push past them more often than not to reach my lounge pants and sweatshirts. It’s not that I am lazy, or frumpy or even that “down-to-earth”. I think I just don’t mind snuggling a little longer under the covers or hopping in the car at a moment’s notice to make it to a school function in time. I’m content, for the most part, to be who I am: a stay-at-home-mom. Does it hurt when I feel the judgement of others, that look of “surely you should take more pride in how you look”? Yes, of course it does. And I’d be lying if I said I had never had those opinions about others before. But today, it doesn’t really matter. Today I look in the mirror and I see my mom, the woman I am proud to model in this season of my life. I see the woman who had time to make weekly trips to the local library, bake fresh bread, create home-made play- doh, watch Little House on the Prairie marathons, spend hours picking fresh fruit or planting a vegetable garden and sing silly songs all day long. She didn’t worry about her hair being out-of-place, or her nail polish being chipped or her clothes getting dirty. My brothers and I always knew what was most important.
And yet, now that I am an adult, it’s also nice to know my mom is making herself a priority.
My parents came to visit over Thanksgiving. One afternoon, my mother and I took The Hare shopping and out to lunch. We visited one of my favorite boutiques in our little downtown, full of trendy and modern pieces. As I fingered through the luxurious fabrics, holding them up in front of the mirror, I had a vague recollection of life before children. One particular shirt caught my attention.
“What do you think about this?” I asked The Hare.
“I think it’s pretty but not really you,” she replied.
“Really? I thought it looked just like me,” I said surprised.
“No – it’s more like something Mi Mi would wear,” she said, “you’re more of a sweatshirt and pajama kind of mom.”
For a moment my stomach knotted. She must have sensed my disappointment.
“But it’s a good look on you,” she quickly added, grabbing my hand.
Yes. Yes it is, I thought.