Motherhood is an early retirement position. Your children do grow up. – Colleen Parro
I was a woman long before I became a mother. Once I became a mother, I became superwoman. From there, everything went downhill. I lost my cape, flew in the wrong direction, had some close calls with Kryptonite, and I caught a cold.
Despite all the mistakes I made, I still take a cue from Bryan Adams: “Those were the best days of my life.” They truly were – the waking up in the middle of the night, the bottle warming, the knee scrape remedies, the schoolbag/lunch packing, the hugs, the kisses, the bedtime stories, the teen years, the fights, the hugs and kisses again, the college goodbyes, the phone calls, the quick visits....
I would not exchange them for anything in the world. And I had my hubby, faithful partner in the mission.
Then that period of stillness came, as it almost always does, and all parental activity ceased.
Recently though, shopping has officially become mother-daughter bonding time. Sometimes, I wonder if my young adult daughters are exercising a little revenge on me for making them wear matching dresses when they were little. They talk of this often enough with an exaggerated amount of horror, in my opinion.
“Remember how Mom made us wear matching dresses and hair bands? Uggghh!” They roll their eyes at each other and shudder, even as I protest that they looked really cute.
The warning signals about revenge beep the loudest in my brain when they drag me to those crowded sales at Victoria’s Secret. Anyone on the ascending side of 50 would balk at the thought of going there during sale time. Not only is it infused with young 20-something’s with near perfect bodies, but the color pink that reverberates from its walls can linger cloyingly in your brain for days afterward.
Overpowered by the femininity that oozes from the doorway, my husband disappears in an instant, mumbling something about checking out shirts at J.C. Penny’s. My daughters are already enthusiastically pulling out stuff for me to see. “Mom, look it’s only $25 for five pieces – such a great deal!”
“Uh, no girls. I don’t think my bottom would fit into that.” My protests are fully justified, as what they hold are thin wisps of some satiny material that is bordered with lace. Or is the lace bordered with satin? It’s difficult to tell.
I try to backtrack from the shop, but they drag me in further. The next thing I know, I’m in the middle of a group of women feverishly grabbing panties out of drawers and little-boxed cubicles marked by size and design. There are hordes of women literally fighting to get as many as they can.
I wonder why they need so many. Do they change them every hour now?
“Here, these will fit your bottom,” my eldest says loudly, never one to sugar-coat, attracting amused looks from fellow shoppers. She’s holding up tiny looking ‘shorts,’ which she has triumphantly pulled out of an XL drawer.
I don’t much care for them, but in the past, shopping has been nothing if not a fun experience for me, so I join in the happy scuffle and start digging in with the rest. It’s not easy as there’s a lot of huffing and puffing and elbowing going on.
I pull out a strange yet familiar contraption. “Hey look, bum floss!” I declare, borrowing the term from my husband’s droll uncle from Montreal.
“That’s a G-string, Mom.” The three of us collapse in a fit of giggles. The laughter comes easily in a shopping mall.
“Let’s get some bras for her!” says my younger one, and they drag a groaning me further inside.
I make a convincing and valid case about how Macy’s understands gravity and sells bras more my style, but my protests are drowned in their youthful exuberance as they pick out wired stuff and push me towards the trial rooms. I can see they are determined to get their mother to look young and sexy again.
Is that even a possibility?
I spend the next hour trying on bras in every shape, color, and size. I finally pick up two – one in flaming red with black satin edging and the other in a shocking shade of pink. They are both underwired and outrageously expensive, and I know they will lie in my lingerie drawer, unused and occupying too much space.
Why are bras these days made to look like mini helmets anyway? In our days, bras were bras; no big deal.
Still, at the end of the shopping spree, it seems worth it, buying all the useless, never-to-be-worn stuff, just to see the happy satisfaction on my daughter’s faces. Obviously, they feel they have slashed a big chunk off my chronological age.
Time flew by at an impossibly fast pace while I was busy juggling career and home. I want to take my children shopping, dress them up, hold their little warm bodies in my arms, and smother them with kisses and hugs.
But they are too big to pick up and hug. I can’t walk into their rooms and find them sleeping under the blankets. They are thousands of miles away for most of the year. The emptiness in my arms is tangible at times as I look at them, wishing them to be smaller again.
They shoot similar looks at me when they think I’m not looking, worried that their one-time invincible young mom is now growing older – the one who had never-ending energy, and who now huffs and puffs when she climbs stairs. Her once smooth skin has faint wrinkles. Her memory, once so sharp, now seems muddled.
Our shopping sessions, however, override all the worries. I cannot but gratefully grab these moments as they, too, speed by.
I willingly step into the shorts and wriggle them up my bottom, breathing in resolutely while I button up. I optimistically climb into slinky dresses and sometimes slide them off halfway, as they refuse to go over my chest. I slip on pretty tops and twirl around in flouncy skirts, all as two pairs of eyes inspect me from head to toe.
Our roles are reversed now. I’m the one who’s whining now.
When I get tired, trying on stuff, they say, “Just one more, Mom. Trust me, this will look really good on you.”
I give in and try it on, and when they smile, all seems okay in my universe. One more shopping experience. One more shared memory.
The sadness, the nostalgia, the long periods of separation all seem to ebb as my daughters and I, surrounded by fabrics, textures, colors, designs, blur the lines between our roles. I’m not sure who’s the mother, the daughter, the sister, or the child now. We have casually flung our identities over each other, like old comfortable cloaks, and have simply become women. Women, who love each other and hold onto each other.
This love strengthens me over the passage of time.
Who needs Superwoman anyway?