In the GAP with my daughter I feel a twinge of something. Guilt? Yearnings? Identity crisis? I put on the brown, faux-fur lined swing coat in girls size 14-16 and spin one way and then the other, asking my daughter how it looks on me, keenly aware that the same coat in a size 4T is hanging within an arm's reach. What is a pre-teen daughter supposed to say to her fortysomething mother in a situation like that, in public?
We regard each other cautiously while treading together in the white nothing -- nothing in common, nothing to say, nothing between us. This white nothing is too familiar, like I've been here before, maybe with my own mother, when I told her, in my tween wisdom, that women her age (and she was only in her 30s) could not respectably wear jeans.
Unsettled by the memory and the awkward spot I stand in now, I stubbornly cinch the sash of the swing coat. With my legs posed in model formation, one knee bent with toes turned out, I hold up a ruffled skirt, asking, "Isn't this cute? Don't you like it?"
"No," she says, like I presented a mangy, stinking rag of a dog and tried to convince her it was a puppy we should take home.
"Ohhh, but this blouse is adorable," I coo.
"Ugg-leeeee," she announces, with boredom bordering on sassitude.
It goes on like that, her rejecting my suggestions, me believing her dismissals will leave me with enough cash to purchase a hundred-dollar children's coat for myself. Being an XX combo, heavy on the X, however, my daughter has a physical disability because of her chromosomal pairing that prevents her from walking out of a store without a shopping bag on her shoulder.
But this is no ordinary shopping excursion. I have either tried on or gushed over nearly every item of clothing on the children's side of the store, significantly narrowing her choices. Desperate, she grabs a handful of bracelets from a jewelry display.
"Can I get these?" she pleads.
"Really?" I question, exasperated.
Attempting words that will soften a heart like mine, one as firm as cold cheese grits, she offers, "They say 'friends' on them. See? Every bead has a letter." She lists her friends by name, putting faces to her charity.
Reluctantly, I remove the precious swing coat and return it to the rack with its 4T cousin. Daily, more evidence adds to the growing pile of proof that I'm not a nice person. It began accumulating in my transitional years and snowballed. Naturally, I desire for my children to turn out somewhat differently from me; ideally, better.
I cave to selflessness, feigned or not. It's a trait I don't possess enough of and I nurture it in my daughter whenever it raises its pretty head.
Lo, a shrill squeal cuts the air. Just beyond the leggings rack, my daughter spasms in front of a wall of shoes. She points at a pair of black boots with silver sparkles. "Oh, Mama," she gasps. "Please. Pleeeeease. Can I get them?"
I remind her of the bracelets she selected for her friends. Though I know her hesitation is imperceptible to mere mortals, I'm a mother and I detect a miniscule pause before she sprints back to the jewelry display and throws those baubles at it. "I'll take the boots," she tells me, out of breath.
Bless her heart, the girl is just like me. Together we wade in the dark something. I punish her for it by looking through the footwear to find my size.
Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run . She lives in Thomson, GA. Email Lucy at email@example.com and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.