38: Making It Work

38: Making It Work

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Making It Work

What do girls do who haven’t any mothers to help them through their troubles?

~Louisa May Alcott

I thought the dress would be perfect for my first high school formal dance. “Look what I bought today!” I exclaimed to my mom.

“Wow!” my mom said. “It’s beautiful.”

Then she looked at the v-shaped neckline. I could feel her hesitation begin to brew the way you can feel a storm that’s about to roll in.

“The neckline seems a little low,” she said. My fourteen-year-old eyes rolled so far back in my head I could have seen the kitchen sink behind me.

This wasn’t the first time my mother had reacted to my necklines. I’d worn tank tops that she stared at intensely, as if she could will the fabric to grow and turn a scoop neck into a turtleneck. I’d worn camisoles that she’d tug at until the fabric practically reached my collarbones.

My excitement about my dress — a $19 find in a sea of $200 dresses — was a diminishing as her disapproval rose.

“Well, why don’t you try it on?” my mom suggested. Ah, a glimmer of hope, I thought.

I zipped up the gown and shuffled out to hear the verdict. Mom’s face scrunched up like Lieutenant Columbo’s as she solved the mystery of how to cover my adolescent cleavage.

“I have an idea!” Mom exclaimed, and she lifted up the tiny ruffled train from my dress and held two inches of it across my bust line.

“What do you think?” she asked.

I didn’t respond. I was unimpressed at the notion of having my plunging neckline decorated with a tiny curtain to cover my cleavage.

“Let me just try it,” she said. “You won’t notice this little bit of fabric removed from the train and I’ll sew it so it will blend right in. It will look like it was designed this way.”

I was willing to try anything if it meant I could wear the dress to the dance.

When the alterations were complete, my mom was right. Somehow she was able to sew the extra fabric into the bust line as if it had been part of the original design. No one would ever notice — or so I thought. I was at the dance when a very voluptuous senior strutted onto the dance floor wearing the same dress. Well, not the exact same dress. Hers did not include a modesty panel.

I remember thinking on the dance floor how embarrassed and upset I should have been. But I wasn’t. Instead, all I felt was cared for and loved. I had a mother who, when faced with something that made her uncomfortable, worked to find a way to keep me happy.

I’m twenty-eight years old now and my mom no longer tugs at my tops to cover up cleavage. Well, not all the time at least. But change, and stepping outside her comfort zone, is still a challenge for her. I especially stretched her comfort zone when I accepted a job in a city I’d always dreamed of moving to: New York.

“I guess I feel like once you move,” she said, “you’ll stay there and never come back.”

I was sad to imagine this as a possibility. I assumed after having the experience of living in New York City for a few years, I’d eventually go home to Michigan.

Now after three years of working in New York City, I’ve been promoted twice at my job. I’m loving how convenient and active my life can be in the city compared to my rural zip code in Michigan, and I’m in a relationship with the most wonderful man. Will I ever go back to Michigan? The guilt I have for choosing to live 800 miles away from my family surfaced during a recent visit home. I felt like I should be in Michigan with my family, especially my grandparents, so I could fully enjoy the time I have left with them.

“You should never feel guilty about living your life,” my mom said to me. “You have so many great things happening for you in New York, and that’s all your family wants for you.”

“Plus,” she continued. “Your time in New York isn’t done. You still have more to accomplish there. You can’t come back now!”

This woman who hates change strongly supports me living away from home, almost as strongly as she used to pull up my tank tops. My mom has always put my happiness first and has found a way to make my dreams come true, whether it’s altering my formal dress or learning to live with me so far away. My happiness is her priority and I am grateful.

~Katelyn Stanis

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