Here is the next post in my “A Day in the Life” Series. To see the last post click here:
My mom had a unique way of looking at some things that probably had more to do with the way she was raised than with her schizophrenia. Growing up with three brothers and four sisters, my mom had a definite opinion about all things female. She considered herself to be somewhat worldly and was determined to make sure my sisters and I were prepared for our journey into womanhood.
Mom’s first order of business was to teach us about menstruation, or as she called it, “the curse”. She started by telling us about her poor, innocent sister, who sat in a well after she started her period, not realizing what it was and thinking she had some type of serious injury inside. She told us about how her mom had called it the curse. She sealed the deal by making sure we knew every time she, herself, got the curse.
Our lessons progressed from there:
Lesson #1 – It is important to practice wearing a pad in order to be prepared for the day when “the curse” hits. About a year before I started my period, my mom laid a sanitary napkin and the belt that it would attach to, on my bed, and told me I should start practicing now so that I would be used to it by the time it came. Several years later when my sisters were coming of age, they had to do the same thing.
After we had daughters of our own, we threatened to make them practice like Grandma Shirley had us, but never followed through. We did, however, make sure to celebrate each time one of our girls entered into womanhood.
Lesson #2 – You are on your own when it comes to inserting a tampon, because virgins shouldn’t be using them. It’s too bad, because without the usual instructions my sister ended up trying to insert the entire applicator into her lady parts.
Lesson #3 – Just because you miss a period, doesn’t mean you are pregnant. After I had my first period I didn’t have another one for several months. One day my mom and I were sitting in the living room watching my sister play, and I got this uncomfortable feeling that my mom was staring at me. When she asked me if I’d had another period yet, I was convinced she thought I was pregnant. How that could have happened I’m not sure now, since at the ripe old age of 12-1/2, I had yet to even kiss a boy.
Lesson #4 – Sharing childbirth stories is a bonding experience. Shortly after my mom had my oldest sister, I read a story in a Reader’s Digest Condensed book about a college couple who got married and had their first baby. I remember lying in bed next to my mom, talking about the part where the wife had a baby and asking all kinds of questions. My mom seemed to delight in imparting her wisdom about childbirth, and I felt so grown-up listening to her explain the intricate details of when my sister was born.
Lesson #5 – When slipping a note under your mom’s pillow to ask for a bra, make sure you don’t have any spelling errors. That way you stand a better chance of her not bringing it up at the dinner table.
“Amy, I got your note about the B-R-A. Your spelling in the note was atrocious. But yes, I will take you to get fitted for a bra this week. I have noticed you are getting little buds.”
My brother almost spit out his food he laughed so hard.
It wasn’t long after I got my first bra that my brother invited all of his friends over to sneak up behind me and snap my bra strap. Apparently that was a hilarious way to spend the afternoon.
Lesson #6 – Fitting into your mom’s clothes is a big deal. Once I entered womanhood, my mom gave me some of her clothes. I was in sixth grade and could already fit into her clothes – her tiny frame barely showing any signs of having bore 3 children. I will never forget the green stockings and garter belt that she gave me to wear to the spring festival at school; it was the longest day of my grade school career. By mid-morning I realized it had been a bad idea, as they kept slipping down my legs and were extremely uncomfortable, like many other things about being a female were becoming for me.
Lesson #7 – Puberty cannot be rushed. This one has nothing to do with my mom but still makes me laugh. One summer my best friend, Kate, and I decided that our friend, Jane, needed a bra. We created a code phrase for the word bra, calling it the “Bunny Rabbit Association”. We insisted that she let us be the ones to tell her mother.
So the three of us went into Jane’s living room and Kate blurted out to the unsuspecting mom. “We think it is time for Jane to join the Bunny Rabbit Association.”
“The bunny rabbit association, what in the world is that?” her mom asked.
“A B-R-A”, Kate and I proudly spelled out in unison, as Jane ran out of the room in horror. “It is time for Jane to get a bra!”
“Oh don’t be silly, she doesn’t need a bra now.” Her mom chuckled.
Jane didn’t speak to us for quite some time after that one.
Lesson #8 – Sometimes my mom did know best. Later when I became pregnant, it was my mom who went with me to pick out my nursing bras, and she bought me the gown set that I would wear in the hospital. We talked almost daily on the phone during my pregnancy, and she listened sympathetically when I complained of swelling ankles and sleepless nights.
My mom was there right after each one of my girls were born. Each time I watched her smiling down at the baby’s tiny little face, it felt like a milestone for us all. We had made it this far after all of our struggles, and these little moments of joy were what had sustained us.