The summer before my junior year, the year I spent abroad in Ireland, my mom was getting rid of some of my dad's old clothes. We're talking stuff from the '70s and '80s here--Dad does not regularly clean his closet. I found this great blue fuzzy sweater and despite some signs of aging, it fit me perfectly. I took it and I guess she didn't realize it, but I took it abroad with me. It's in a lot of my pictures from that year. The summer after that, showing Mom all my travel pictures, she realized that the sweater had traveled a lot too. It was not a popular choice, apparently.
Senior portraits rolled around during spring of my final year at Smith. Consulting Mom over the phone on wardrobe, she said, "As long as you don't wear that blue sweater!"
There was no way I had considered that option. However...
I took my portrait, normal sweater and pearl earrings. It's not bad, actually. I got home from my session and popped into a friend's room. "I need you to take my picture in 5 minutes." She was confused but not entirely surprised--this kind of weird request was not unusual, from myself or any of our friends. I met her in front of the trees by our house, camera in hand and blue sweater on. My hair, makeup, and jewelry were still photo appropriate. "Amanda, just pay the portrait fee if you want your picture in the yearbook. It's not that expensive."
"Oh," I replied grinning. "I just got back from that. This one...is for my mom." She realized what I was wearing and shook her head. I posed exactly as the photographer had told me before, mimicking my actual portrait pose. (You can tell I'm sort of laughing in this one, though.) After a quick trip to CVS, I called my sister. Proofs from the real photographer would be sent to my school mailbox but also my home address--the people with money. I told Twin to intercept this letter at any cost. My father was brought into the fold for this. I cropped my newly printed picture and scrawled some letters and numbers on the back, as I'd seen from older proofs. A quick note to my mom asking for her opinion was written and my pictures was in the mail.
She called me. "Of course I like it, you look lovely in--wait. What...are you kidding me?" My father and Twin, unable to hold it in any longer, sang like birds and gave up the real proofs.
But guess what? I learned all this behavior somewhere, so Mom was not to be outdone. I received a care package not long after the picture incident. Some cookies and stickers she'd seen at the store. And a wrapped gift. A note about keeping pictures nice and showing them off. My mom had taken my fake picture and blown it up, then framed it--in a frame of her own design. Remember when I said my mom taught preschool? This picture frame was a hot mess. She hot glued all manner of trinkets and crap around the frame. Pom poms, seashells, a plastic bunny, buttons, sequins, pine cones, dyed macaroni...it's ridiculous. We cried laughing, passing this monstrosity around the dinner table. A nearby first year, unaware of the backstory, awkwardly tried to find a compliment for my mom's talent. I loved the mental image of my mother sitting at a small table in her classroom, glue gun in hand, making her 21 year old daughter a gift. I imagined her telling her friends what she was doing, laughing at what I'd done to deserve it. That frame still sits on a shelf, displayed proudly. (Lots of pieces have fallen off, actually. I need to do some repair work.)
My mom is awesome.
**Yes, I still have the sweater.