Months of endlessly pestering had finally paid off. The end of 8th grade was coming in two weeks, and I was determined to get an early present, even if it killed me.
In 1965, I was thirteen and completely flat-chested. While the other girls flaunted their lacey symbols of womanhood under crisp white uniform blouses, I sported a cotton tee shirt. I was what people called a late bloomer. Spring’s first bud had yet to form on my bony body, but I was adamant—chest or no chest, I was going to get my first bra!
“You don’t need one,” Mom said gently. “It’s not your time.”
“But Mom!” I cried. “I feel like such a baby. I want to be like everyone else!”
“If I say yes, does that mean you’ll ask to shave your legs and wear nylons too?”
I had thought about making that request next but kept my mouth shut. It was best to accomplish one task at a time and not push my luck.
“No, just the bra!” I squealed, hoping she’d agree.
Unable to stand my whining any longer, we went to buy my unmentionables that afternoon. As she handed me over to the store clerk, Mom let out a long sigh. “Lucy, set her up. She’s driving me crazy!”
From behind the counter, the saleswoman pulled out a measuring tape that could engulf three women’s bodies. Placing only a fraction of it around my shivering ribcage, she got the dimensions needed, then went to a drawer labeled “Young Teen” and pulled out a white, nondescript training bra. There was no underwire, no cup, no padding. There wasn’t even any lace, just a tiny pink bow sewn in the middle. And I was thrilled beyond belief. My mother was another story.
As we walked out of the store, I noticed tears brimming in the corners of her eyes. “Mom, this is nothing to cry over,” I said, carefully reaching for her hand. “Girls get these every day.”
With a loving look, she hugged me as if she was about to lose something precious. Then she said, “You’ll understand when you have your own babies.” She was right.
Parents instinctively know their child will need food and water for growth, as well as an unconditional love for a healthy soul. Discipline, education, morals, and values are also important. But it wasn’t until I had my own kids that I understood how crucial my support would be, even when I didn’t agree with what they felt they needed.
Then, from out of nowhere, they too turned thirteen. I was no longer the center of their universe, and I sensed them slipping through my fingers. I finally understood Mom’s sadness at Lucy’s Lovely Lingerie that day. She hadn’t been ready to let me grow up and wanted to freeze-frame my childhood.
But despite her pain, Mom knew it was time to take the first step in releasing me. The day wasn’t about buying support for her daughter’s chest, but about helping me feel good about myself, despite the sadness it brought her.
Today, my children are adults with lives all their own. And, like my mom, I mourned over and over their growing up. But I’ve come to understand that while the bulk of my work is done, the one thing they’ll always need is my support.
Mother’s Day is coming and this year I plan to be the one to give them a gift. I’ll find the largest box and line the edges with a promise to assist them whenever they need me. Next, I’ll fill it with my approval for the choices they make for their lives, even if their decisions take them far away. Finally, I’ll tie it all together with a pretty bow that aids in holding onto any dream they may have.
Over the sixty years I had with my mom, the one thing I learned was a child, no matter how old, will always need the love and support only a mother can give.