Was it because she put my hair in ringlets and dressed me in dresses? Was it because when I turned 13, she looked at me and said, “You are thirteen and you will need to wear lipstick and a bra. We’re going to town,” ignoring my wail,“But I don’t want to be a girl yet.”
When mom came to live with me, in a matter of time, out went the bra and the girdle. In came comfie undies of both kinds. Comfie became the style -- looser pants, pull over sweatshirts, bright colored with designs of animals, or flowers or sayings about being the greatest grandmother in the world. In the spring we went for colorful hoodies over floral tees. I couldn’t resist an occasional “peace” message on them. In came the bright and wacky socks, special for each holiday season like her second grade bulletin boards always were. Mom was a real holiday décor person. Glitter, pompoms, the glitzier the better. It worked because if mom had the same socks on for two days, I could tell with a glance.
She complained about the sun in her eyes, so I always threw on a billed hat -- black straw for fall, white canvas for spring. On the white canvas since it was much too plain, I pinned some of her elephant pins and a special locket pin of the statue of liberty. It was so nerdy it was cool.
Ok. Comfie undies, tees and hoodies, a billed cap with pins all over it -- HEY! we are ready for a demonstration. Slap on some sunglasses with leopard designed frames and whip out her candy apple red wheelchair, and we’re ready to go! Mom would go with me to a few gatherings against the war or for immigrant justice. She enjoyed people watching during the speeches, read the signs aloud to me, and when we lined up to circle the federal building holding our signs and marching, the cars would honk, and mom would do her princess wave. She thought we were in a parade.
When she would ask, I would answer truthfully. “We think it’s fair if people who come from other countries are treated with respect, not like criminals. They’re like grandma and grandpa.” She would nod. That made sense. Like Grandma and Grandpa.
Before the wake for her, my sister and I were going through pictures. I stared at Momma’s photo as a very prim elementary school teacher. “Oh, my,” I thought, “ I hijacked mom’s style.” The comfie, hip, youthfully dressed Eugenean who
mom had become would have tickled the perfectly coifed, collared, pinned, girdled woman of her past and made her giggle. It reminded me of the time she visited us, a long, elegant dress in her suitcase because I was taking her to the Bach Festival. She was shocked to see so many people at the Hult Center in casual clothes, Bermudas and tees. “People just don’t know how to dress in this town,” she complained. I liked mom’s old style. She was always dressed colorfully, with jewelry, and very put together. But, I have to admit some satisfaction with the balance of things as we dressed one another -- she when I was a girl and I, these past precious years, ushering each other into the next phase. Momma, forgive me. At least the clothes were stylish. The proof lies in the fact that your style conscious granddaughter now wears her Obachan’s hoodies to keep herself comfie, warm and close to her Grandma.
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