The ___________ that Changed My Life

October 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

She was that perfect brand of prep.  If she went to boarding school, she would run with the crowd that snuck out to smoke cigarettes and meet boys.  She would probably get in trouble for rolling up her skirt or accessorizing dangerously.  Lucky for me – and the nuns! – she went to public school.I remember thumbing through prints of my mom and her friend Diane, Diane in a canary keyhole dress and my mom in a halter jumpsuit.  If you looked hard, you would see the glint off the horseshoe on her Etienne Aigner belt.  Fuji Film, predating Instagram by more than 30 years, left a fiery patina over the photo.  Instant chic.

My mom’s champagne taste left behind some gorgeous pieces that titillated a young me, well before I was old enough to be using words like “titillated.”  I dreamed of the day when I would be old enough to wear her silk tie-front blouse, chevron-printed of course, with the high-waisted maroon trousers and stacked heel shoes; I had it all planned out.

Unfortunately, in her years as a 70s glamorpuss, my mom put the size 4 in Studio 54.  Me?  Add those 2 numbers together and then we’ll talk.

In an “old is the new new” economy, my mom’s disco digs were right on time for my high school career.  Oh how I longed to wear her metallic tops, which I imagined her sashaying around in, outdoing even the mirrored ball suspended above the dance floor.  I settled for her hoop earrings, which she graciously offered as a peace treaty with my fragile teenage ego.

“Wait, what are those?”  I pointed at a sun bleached cardboard box deep in the shadows of her closet; a denim leg dangled hopelessly over the edge.

“I’m not sure,” she replied carefully, tempering my expectations.

Out came a pair of no-name bells with a 30-inch waist.  Likely Prussian blue at one time, the jeans had faded to a perfect shade of cornflower.  They were like the Paris Blues and L.E.I. brand jeans the girls in my classes wore, only better.  My heart leapt.

Carefully, I stepped into each leg.  They slid over my thighs… my hips… my waist.  Only one more step!  I sucked in my breath and zipped them up gingerly.

“They fit!” I exclaimed.

My mom and I both exhaled.  She’d been holding her breath, too.

*             *             *             *             *

I wore those bell bottoms no less than three times a week for the next decade of my life.  Built tough and before the denim industry decided women’s legs were Naomi Campbell long, they were the only jeans that didn’t need hemming.  Yet they flattered flats and wedges alike.  They were like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, those jeans.  Like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, if it were directed by M. Night Shyamalan.  Or maybe “Daughterhood” is more like it.  Because after all the stuffing and tucking and wishing and sucking, I wasn’t made to wear the clothes that fit my mom.  The bell bottoms that changed my life?  They belonged to my dad.


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