Pretty rough still, going for personal essay type thing. Critiques welcome and encouraged!
It was a beautiful, sunny January day the morning of my mother’s memorial service. My dad had taken me to the mall a week before to pick out the outfit I would wear to the funeral. I chose a black silk skirt and a light purple tank top with a darker purple lace overlay. It was a beautiful, springy shirt. Wholly inappropriate for a funeral, let alone my own mother’s funeral. That is why I chose it.
That morning began a long battle against tradition and appropriatness. A few months later I had red highlights put in my hair and a few months after that blonde was added in. In those months after my mother died I began the process of removing the understated things from my life. My simple, classic clothes were replaced with cast offs from my older cousin’s closets, clothes too mature for a 12 year old. Shorts that were too short and the infamous 90’s wardrobe staple: the spaghetti strap tank top.
Pretty soon my wardrobe consisted of t-shirts with angry messages on them, jeans and more eyeliner than any 15 year old should be allowed to wear. I was an angry teenager, unhappy not just with my life but life in general. I rebelled for the sake of rebellion, fighting against the world that had taken my mother.
I often wonder how much of my life would have been different if she had not died. Would I still have a penchant for clothes that push boundaries and a love of black eyeliner? Would I have six tattoos? As much as I miss my mom and feel cheated by her death, I like who I am. I like the woman I have become and I like to think my mom would like me to.
I like to think if she could have seen that shirt on the morning of her service she would have smiled to herself the same way she smiled the first time she let me shop in the Juniors department.
When I started 6th grade in 1999 I was in a new school, didn’t have many friends and was feeling genuinely out of place. My mom took me to Sears and told me to pick out a new pair of pants and a new shirt. Rather than leading me towards the girls clothes we headed to the juniors section. I was still only 11 years old so this was an exciting upgrade. My older cousins shopped in the coveted juniors section, I felt like I was finally growing up. We walked past a lot of clothes I knew my mother would never approve of, cropped tops and shorts so short just wearing underwear would provide more coverage.
I didn’t quite know what to choose so my mom grabbed a few pairs of jeans for me to try on. They were different from the jeans I had at home, they weren’t straight leg and they weren’t loose. These were flare leg, lower rise jeans. The kind teenagers wore. I tried on a few pairs and settled on a pair of light denim flare leg jeans that sat low on my hips and as the cliche goes, fit like a glove. I loved those jeans, I wore them until they fell apart. When I could no longer wear them I actually was upset enough to cry, which is very unlike me. At the time I was unwilling to admit I was crying because I had lost one more connection to my mother.
I wish I still had that purple tank top, I’d like to give it to a daughter I might someday have and tell her how that shirt changed who I became. I often write about my mother’s death from a negative perspective, focusing solely on the loss. Very rarely do I consider what I gained by her loss, I gained who I am. I do often wonder whether she’d love me still and I know the answer to that question is unequivocally yes, she would. She always told me to be myself, to be true to myself and always be honest with myself. I think she’d see that the woman I’ve become is exactly who she wanted me to be.