Shopping With Daughters

When you’re a mom of active daughters you get to do some fun things during their growing up years. You get to attend dance recitals, band and choir concerts, piano recitals, science fairs, and sporting events. You also get to shop with them for dress up occasions. Well, maybe “get to” is not the right phrase.

I have spent countless hours in my life loitering outside department store dressing rooms. Each daughter brings her own personality to the shopping experience. For years (maybe she still does and I am just not there to know it) one of them had a habit of trying on nearly everything in the store as she sought just the right dress. She would max out the limit on how many to take in and ask me to stand outside holding the remainder so we could trade them out. The other was very choosy before she even got to the dressing room, looking through all the merchandise on every rack before selecting a very small handful to try on. Prom and homecoming dresses were the biggest challenges. We often went from store to store to store, checking out every potential item and negotiating budget discussions.  I actually made a few special occasion dresses for them, sometimes with more success than others.

When they did try things on and showed me the results I was always very careful with my words. Very careful. Especially during the teen years. If I really loved something on one of them I was cautious about tempering any gushing statements so they wouldn’t reject it just because Mom liked it. If I hated it, I also had to temper my remarks with something like, “that may not be the most flattering fit for you.” If one of their friends was along for the excursion I always waited for the friend to comment first, then could usually second those remarks. My daughters will tell you a different story. They may, perhaps, remember me as too outspoken. They didn’t know I was actually holding back a bit.

Fast forward a few years and now they are picking out clothes far away, so I am nowhere in sight during the process. But amazingly, they still reach out for my opinion once in a while. With the younger one’s college graduation pending they have both been on the hunt for dresses recently. The soon to be graduate called and emailed a couple of times asking my opinion on some things she had seen online. We exchanged some ideas and links to various sites. When she finally chose a lovely pale blue dress that will look fabulous with her auburn hair, she said, “Thanks Mom. I trust your judgement on these things.” Not long afterwards her sister texted me a photo of a dress she was trying on, just to show me what she had chosen. It’s navy and white and looks spectacular on her!

I have also been on the hunt for an appropriate dress as the mother of the graduate. I found a couple that fit well, but one looked too business-y. The other was nice, but I was afraid the Kelly green might be too bright. The goal is to look dignified for a spring daytime occasion without standing out too much. It’s her day to shine and our day to stand next to her looking proud. I sent a picture to my daughter and she loved the green dress. Then a few days later I found some fabric I really loved, so now I am making a second dress. It also happens to be navy blue but doesn’t look a thing like the dress my elder daughter has chosen. As it turns out we will have a couple of different ceremonies and special events to attend on graduation weekend, so I’ll be able to wear both dresses.

Here’s the kicker:  my daughters were always very vocal when I was trying on clothes.  They were blunt and honest, using phrases like, “Mom, that is not your color,” “You’re not going to wear that, are you?”, or, “It makes your hips look bigger” (the kiss of death for any article of clothing.)  They never held back and for that I am grateful.

Yes, having daughters has had both challenges and advantages.  But it turns out we still rely on one another for shopping, at least a little bit, even from afar.  It also turns out that I really miss those long hours waiting by the department store dressing room.

Pogo, Perry, and the Primary

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Some of us oldsters know this as a quote from the long defunct comic strip Pogo. Walt Kelly wrote the iconic phrase as his main character, a possum named Pogo, overlooked a forest floor littered with tossed out junk. The comic was made into a poster to help promote the first ever observance of Earth Day, April 22, 1970.

The comic strip quote is a takeoff from a phrase coined by American Naval Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. After defeating the British in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1812, Perry had the presence of mind to utter two memorable lines: “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” and, “Don’t give up the ship.”

Strangely, these linked phrases from both Pogo and the Commodore have been on my mind recently. That’s not because Earth Day is coming up. Don’t get me wrong, I conscientiously do my part to reuse and recycle and to take care of Mother Earth. But the day itself doesn’t usually hold a lot of meaning for me since I firmly believe that we need to take care of our planet every day. No, the real reason I have been thinking along these lines which are oddly linked together is because of the New York State Presidential Primary.

IMG_4282Honestly, I have voted in this primary at every opportunity since I registered to vote at the age of 18. In all of those 39 intervening years my vote has essentially meant nothing. In the past the candidates have been all-but determined by now. But this year is a whole different animal.

For the first time ever we have seen major political candidates actually campaigning in New York State before the primary. We have seen and heard ads for the candidates. We have had auto-dial phone calls from candidates. This is unprecedented. I know for sure that it has happened in other states which traditionally run earlier primaries. But New York State has never been in the mix before, mainly because our primary falls rather late on the calendar and the delegates and candidates are almost always decided by now. This year, since no one has locked up the full delegate count from either major party yet, registered Republicans and Democrats in New Yorkers have a chance to make a genuine difference in choosing their party’s candidates.

Voting, to me, has always been more than just a civic responsibility. It is almost sacred. I never take it lightly and always vote. I vote on everything: school budgets, town council races, state representatives, questions up for referendum on the ballot – everything. And before I vote I always take the time to learn exactly what is on the ballot, who is running for what office, what those candidates stand for, and what the issues mean. I can’t understand people who vote only when there’s a race for governor or president. To me, every election is important, and that may be because I truly believe that government formed at the grassroots is the most sincere form of politics.

If you are a registered Republican or Democrat in New York State I strongly encourage you to vote in this primary on Tuesday, April 19. Because of the way our primaries run, registered voters from each party get to choose which candidate they want to see as their party’s standard bearer. Every registered Republican and Democrat gets a say this year. Even if you think you are voting for an underdog, your candidate still has a chance. So there it is, “Don’t give up the ship.”

Similarly, if you fail to vote and don’t like the outcome here in our state, you have no one to blame but yourself. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Polling places in Chautauqua County are open from noon to 9pm tomorrow (Tuesday, April 19.) If you are registered, there is no good excuse. Vote!