Can I borrow your pink blouse, Mom? You know, the one with your initials embroidered on the front pocket? Now that’s really nasty, really perfect.”
I stare at my daughter, purposely snarling my upper lip and raising one eyebrow. “Why not?” I return monotone, my lame way of letting her know she was piling on the insults. This child does not know when to quit.
So I’m middle aged, old fashioned and like feminine things, even pink blouses with monograms. But my 14-year-old, bright-eyed, pretty with her smooth skin, reddish cheeks, born with the nose I wanted to have and a profile my eyes love to linger upon, today reminds me of what I once was. I’ll ignore the mouth full of metal and turquoise rubber bands; just exchange them with eyeglasses, oh, and the wavy hair with curly locks, and that’s right, the nose.
Today this high school freshman has decided to dress as her mother for Halloween. She says she will curl and tease her hair into frizz, dab baby powder near the widow’s peak, borrow old eyeglasses of mine, and wear the pink blouse.
I think to myself: Why not just put on one of those Groucho Marx masks? The glasses, eyebrow, nose and even the mustache would be perfect. Instead, I tell her to look like me she’d have to put on 20 pounds.
Without a moment’s pause she retorts: “No, I couldn’t do that, and I couldn’t make my boobs sag either.” That all flows out of her sweet face.
My jaw drops, speechless. I feel a sudden heaviness, a tight gripping sensation in the upper reaches of my stomach, as if I have swallowed several Tupperware lids whole, all needing to be burped.
She must have read what I was feeling, plain as the long nose on my face.
“Oh Mom,” she says, trying to redeem herself. “I didn’t mean you look bad. You look a lot younger than your age, really. And I love you very much,” she says, struggling to get out of her murky ditch. Then she walks up to me and says, “I need a kiss,” puckering those reddish lips in my direction. I kiss her back and hug her.
As we walk upstairs together to the bedroom closet to retrieve the pink blouse, I think about the pink knit cap that was placed on her head in the hospital nursery when she was born. Those early days of her life, the life of my second-born, I remember thinking how it takes being a mother to appreciate my own mother.
And today, I see that it takes having a child to realize how dreadful I must have been, at times, to my own mother.
Fran Fredricks is a writer and mom. She lives in North Aurora with her husband, Paul, and daughters, Kelly, 15, and Kim, 18.