By Esther C. Baird
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript
Boxford Topsfield Middleton —
Well, I’m willing to believe that it’s finally spring. I’m still often chilly but I can sense that soon I will feel consistently warm, perhaps even hot. So in a fit of optimism, I tackled that spring time task that strikes fear into the heart of any mother: I switched over our daughter’s closets.
The horror. The horror.
I’m not talking about the mere tedium of weeding out the winter corduroy and sweaters and wool dresses and furry boots. No, I refer to the state of chaos — the pack-ratty, hoarding, mayhem — that exists at hazardous levels in their closets so deep I need a snorkel to get to the bottom, or at least a stiff drink.
The socks alone, the impossible way in which plain, white socks bought in bulk never match any other plain, white socks, makes my heart palpitate. Then there are the fruity smelling lip balms and sparkly fake gems, the opened markers and wads of silly bands, the favorite rocks from vacation and endless legos pieces that all, for no reason whatsoever, end up in the shoe pile, strewn through the underwear, and tangled up in the tights.
Nothing matches. Nothing fits. There is no rhyme. There is even less reason.
What there is however, is a bigger force at play. You see, they come by this naturally. My own child-hood closets caused my mother anxiety that I thought was ridiculously overwrought. Clothing only brought me down. I was a tree elf. A space princess. A pirate queen. A scientist saving the world one afternoon in our back woods at a time. Closets were for hiding my invisible army of talking flying horses, plus, it goes without saying, my time machine and my own favorite [magic] rocks.
But my mother knew that my closet also represented who I could and would become. Talking animal armies were fine, but someday I’d need to go to college. I’d need a job. I might even get married if she could ever get a dress on me.
I now realize that she must have agonized about buying outfits for her sap-covered, tomboy daughter. It was up to her, against extreme odds, to plant the seeds of what she knew was possible. And if she did find an outfit that didn’t have itchy seams, tags, frills, lace, or heaven forbid, the color pink, if she found something cute, possibly even stylish, that I actually enjoyed wearing, to then lose it in the compost pile that was my closet would have been heart breaking.
I can see that now.
And to her credit, as I type, I’m wearing clothes. Nice ones. Ones that match and which I hang on hangers and try to keep clean. Sure I’m nearly 40, but her efforts have finally paid off and – – much to her glee — have come full circle.
I spend hours trying to find outfits that say my third grade daughter is confident and beautiful. Clothes that are classic but with a hint of flair to help her be brave and not shy; cool so she’ll fit in, but not like she’s trying too hard. For my kindergartner I look for glitter and bright colors and skirts that twirl but that are pretty and not trashy, outfits that say that nothing will squelch her enthusiasm for life but that she is also sweet and kind.
Is it too much to want these clothes, which I buy lovingly considering their individual gifts and dreams, to stay nice?! Clean?! Not mixed up with squirreled away gummy bears left over from a birthday goody bag?! For heaven’s sake!
And so, this Mother’s Day I hope for clothes on hangers and white socks that match and rocks to be left outside. Happy Mother’s Day to my Mother, and to all of us, shaping and growing children across American, one spring closet changeover at a time.