Growing up, I never understood my mom’s after-work routine.
She would walk in the door in her suit, heels and jewelry, and immediately stride down the hall to her bedroom.
Moments later, she’d emerge in decades-old sweat pants and a T-shirt to disappear again into the bathroom to scrub off the mascara, lipstick and rouge I had watched her so carefully apply that morning.
Only then would she hug us, join us at the dinner table and ask about our day.
My mother entered the house an elegant, mysterious woman and quickly transformed to my same old mom. I never understood why she was so eager to shed the glamour.
Now, I see that same bafflement on my daughter’s face.
Emma, 6, often watches as I get ready in the morning. She looks disappointed as I bypass the dresses and skirts hanging in my closet and pull yet another well-worn sweater from the shelf. She frowns when I don’t even bother opening my jewelry box, which she reverently combs through at any given opportunity.
“Are those even comfortable?” she asks as I button up my jeans. Recently, she reluctantly wore jeans for the first time in her life. She is not a fan. “Don’t you like dresses?” Emma adores dresses, the fluffier, the better.
Because I work from home and dedicate most of my day to keeping up with her and Benny, her 3-year-old brother, all Emma ever sees is the same old mom. Same old sneakers. Same old shirts. Same old jeans. Sometimes, she might spy a swipe of lip gloss or brush with mascara, but she always sees her comfortable, cotton-clad mom.
When Emma colors pictures of her family, I am inevitably decked out in brown, my favorite color. “She doesn’t even like wearing pink,” I once heard her lament to my mother-in-law, who shares Emma’s affection for pastels and all things shimmery.
So perhaps I should not have been so surprised for Emma’s burst of joy when I told her I was going to go to a ball. Not only was I going shopping for a gown, but her daddy was buying a tuxedo for the occasion. “I go, too,” Benny said when I told them that their grandparents would be spending the night at home with them while Daddy and I went to a charity gala.
“No, silly, Mama and Daddy are going alone.” Emma twirled. “They’re going to dance and have fun and maybe a prince will be there.”
The next day, as I dragged her brother through the mall, I remembered Emma’s eager face. My hands drifted toward simple black and brown gowns, but I knew Emma would beg for me to model the dress that night and I somehow couldn’t disappoint her. I draped scarlet satin, rhinestone-studded velvet and orchid-hued cocktail dresses over my arm instead.
“What do you think?” I asked Benny in the fitting room as I zipped up yet another dress.
He stared at me. At last he said, “I want a soft pretzel.”
“Yes, I know, but do you like Mama’s dress?”
“I like soft pretzels.”
Shopping with Emma is so much more fun.
That night, she clapped her hands with delight when I strapped on high heels and showed her my new, vibrant purple dress, complete with satin belt and slightly off-shoulder cap sleeves. “Oh, oh, oh, Mama!” she squealed. Her eyes were so wide and her smile so huge as she took in this mysterious woman who sort of resembled her same old mom.
“Hold on! Don’t change!”
Emma disappeared into her room, emerging moments later in a red velvet gown she had begged for at a summer yard sale. “Let’s dance!” She curtsied deeply and took my hand.
And I have to admit, while I usually dread formal affairs, this time, I feel a little like Cinderella. All thanks to my little princess.
Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3. For more Smart Mama columns visit www.smartmamapa.com.