Some moments in motherhood pass without notice. Some warrant celebration. But a select few go down in history, moments of infamy that warrant inclusion in family folklore.
My daughter was 4 years old the day of the “Kmart incident,” as we have come to call it.
I had been on another one of my “getting healthy” kicks, something I do at regular intervals. Every few months, we eat a lot of brown rice and choke down bowls of high-fiber cereal, and I feel better about myself in the nutrition department.
In the weeks leading up to the Kmart incident, I faithfully consumed foods fortified with vitamins, minerals and more fiber than if I had simply eaten the grapefruit tree in the front yard. My efforts paid 3 pounds’ worth of dividends, more than ample reason to add something new to my wardrobe.
So I hopped in the car with my sweet 4-year-old and made a trip to the store. To buy jeans. Jeans. No woman in her right mind would go shopping for jeans with a witness in tow, especially if that witness hasn’t yet learned the virtue of tact. With the wisdom of hindsight, I can see that I made a serious tactical error. But I was enveloped in an aura of determined optimism, something that served me very poorly that day.
I knew exactly what I wanted and wasted no time getting there. We reached the rack of stylish denim in record time. My fingers lovingly caressed the fulfillment of my “getting healthy” dream. I pulled a pair out and examined the jeans closely.
“I have lost weight.” I put that pair back and pulled out a more optimistically narrow pair. “Perfect.”
Firmly focused on my mission, I headed directly to the dressing rooms. In we marched. I gave my daughter the assignment of holding the little plastic card with the number printed on it, something I thought would keep her occupied for a moment or two.
I unfolded the tiny jeans with a snap, feeling remarkably smug. This pair was, after all, a size I hadn’t worn since the days when my age began with a one. Weeks of avoiding cookies and cake and whipped cream from a spray can had finally paid off. My moment had arrived!
I pulled the jeans up with no difficulty ... to about my knees. I had clearly made a serious miscalculation. Perhaps it was the euphoria of losing a few pounds or maybe the delirium that comes from malnutrition. Either way, my optimism had been extreme.
The denim refused to accommodate me, fighting every effort I made to slip into my selection. In the midst of my struggle, I made the mistake of glancing at my daughter. Her face was twisted in doubt. In a voice louder, more disbelieving, and far more articulate than any 4-year-old should be capable of, she asked, “Are those gonna button?”
Laughter immediately followed, and not from me. Every person in the dressing room, it seemed, had heard my moment of ego deflation. Every person, including me, knew the jeans were not, in fact, going to button.
Mine are not always the most supportive nor cooperative of children. I can’t help but think they have set themselves up to be left at customer service in a rain check bin.
My grandma Zelda has often said, “All mothers should get into heaven just for being mothers.” I am coming to believe that more and more each day. I suspect I am earning passage through the pearly gates simply because, after years of tactless comments from brutally honest children, forcefully expressed opinions, disastrous shopping trips, and moments of utter humiliation, I keep bringing the children back home. That is one of the true miracles of motherhood.
Sarah Eden is an award-winning author of short stories and has been a Whitney Award finalist for her Regency-era novels. Her website is at www.sarahmeden.com.
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