Months of endlessly pestering my parents had finally paid off. Christmas 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 attended St. Charles Grammar School. 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 call a late bloomer. Spring’s first bud had yet to form on my scrawny body, but I was determined – chest or no chest – to get my first bra!
“You don’t need one,” my 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?”
Hmmm, now there’s an idea. I thought, but knowing I better accomplish one task at a time, and not push my luck, I kept my mouth shut.
Unable to stand my whining any longer, we went to buy my unmentionables that afternoon. My mom sighed as she handed me over to the store clerk, “Lucy, set her up. She’s driving me crazy!”
From behind the counter, Lucy pulled out a measuring tape that looked like it could be tied around ten women. Placing a fraction of it around my shivering ribcage, she got the dimensions needed, went to a drawer labeled “Young Teen” and pulled out a white non-descript, flat 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.
Walking out of the store, I noticed tears brewing in the corner of my mother’s eyes. “Mom, this is nothing to cry over,” I said softly, trying to contain my enthusiasm. “Girls get these every day.”
With her typical all-knowing look, she hugged me as if she was about to lose something precious and said, “One day you’ll understand.” Twenty years later her statement came to fruition.
Having children is a momentous occasion in any parent’s life. We instinctively know they’ll need food and water for growth, but they’ll need unconditional love for a healthy soul. Discipline, education, morals and values are also important, but the one thing I wasn’t prepared for was how crucial support is for their development.
I knew they’d want encouragement when it came to school work, playing sports or exploring artistic interests and was thrilled to be their number one fan. I wasn’t ready, however, for the daunting moment when they appeared to stop needing me. That ripped my heart out.
Looking back, I realize how difficult that day at “Lucy’s Lovely Lingerie” shop was for my mother. She wasn’t ready to let me to grow up. I was slipping through her fingers and she wanted to freeze-frame my childhood. But being a wise and loving woman, my mother knew she had to release me to mature to adulthood. The day was about supporting her child – not my chest. It was time to let me fly.
This Christmas I plan to give my kids an early gift. I will fill an empty box with encouragement for the road ahead. I will line the edges with a promise to assist them whenever I can, top it off with approval for choices that are perfect for their lives (even if the decision might take them far away from me) and tie it all together with constant cheering over their accomplishments.
I learned from my mother those many years ago, a child (no matter how old) will always need the love and support of their parents. It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.