Every year I take the kids down to Florida to visit my Mom and Dad. In anticipation of our visit, Mom always goes shopping and has gifts waiting for us. A few years back she was extra excited about the gift she’d bought me. “Wait ‘til you see,” she said, her gold bangles jangling. “You’ll love them.”
Following my mother’s instructions I went into the guest room to find a pair of Lilly Pulitzer pants lying on the bed – blue and white with a pattern of palm trees and ocean scenes.
Mom came up behind me. “Do you love them?” she asked. I looked down at my black yoga pants and t-shirt – my uniform. “Well, um, thanks, but they’re not really my usual style.”
Mom pushed through the doorway. “Not your style?” she said holding the pants up in front of her. “They’ll be darling on you. Try them on.”
I held them up in front of me and turned toward the mirror, Mom looking over my shoulder. “I really won’t wear them,” I said.
Mom was hurt. She took the pants and walked out the door. “I can’t believe you don’t like them,” she said. “I thought you’d love them.”
“They’re cute,” I called after her, fingering the beaded choker on my neck, “just not on me.”
And with that my mother and the pants were gone, upstairs to her bedroom.
And yet, hours later the discussion continued. This time with Dad.
“So I heard you don’t like those pants your mother got you,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder.
I looked up from my book. “They’re not really my style, Dad.”
“Well, maybe you should work on your style,” he said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, dropping my book on the table.
“Well, I just think you could spruce up your look a bit.” He took a step away from me. “Maybe add some color. Get rid of some of those dark, baggy clothes you’re always wearing.”
And with that, I was 13 again.
“Thanks, Dad,” I said and picked up my book, and then because I couldn’t stop myself, I motioned to his madras Bermuda shorts and shoeless loafers. “I’ve always counted on you for fashion advice.”
It wasn’t but a week later; we were home from Florida, getting ready for a special assembly at the kid’s school.
“There’s a new dress on your bed for you,” I told Andie. “You’ll love it.”
A few minutes later I found her sitting on the edge of her bed, still in her pjs. “What are you doing?” I asked. “We gotta get going.”
“I don’t like that dress,” Andie said.
“What do you mean you don’t like that dress? That dress is gorgeous.” I held it up and motioned for her to come stand in front of the mirror. “Look how pretty that looks,” I said, holding the dress up in front of her.
“Lee, come see how pretty Andie’s dress is.” My husband came in the room and stood behind me, so we were all three standing in a row in front of the mirror. Lee told her how nice the dress would look on her.
“It’s not the kind of dress I like,” she said softly, wiping a tear off her cheek.
And then I saw what was happening. Lee looked up and met my eyes in the mirror. He saw too. He kissed the top of Andie’s head and said, “Sweetie, wear whatever you like.” I left the dress on the bed and we both walked out of her room shaking our heads.
And there she was, not five minutes later, standing in the kitchen wearing the exact dress she’d been crying over. Lee and I exchanged looks. “I actually do like this dress,” she said. I wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked. I wanted to jump for joy at the sight of my daughter out of her usual sweat pants and t-shirt. Instead, I hid my smile, took her hand in mine and walked out the door.
Maybe I should take another look at those Lilly Pulitzer pants.