A Common Thread

A Common Thread

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

A Common Thread

The three-ply cord is not easily severed.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

I’m not sure how the tradition originated. Either it was pure financial necessity due to my father being in medical school, or perhaps my mother’s desire to be unique by creating homemade clothing. Whatever the reason, her outfits were clearly labors of love.

Each homemade outfit was carefully thought out, whether the ideas came from well-worn pattern books or the latest American import (we lived in South Africa). Investing hours of time and energy, she painstakingly cut out and measured, pinned, and stitched each individual creation. While matching mother-daughter outfits was the latest rage in the United States, they were unheard of in my country in the early 1970s. Each new season would herald small versions for me, larger for herself. Pastel pinks or party polka dots, cotton or corduroy, each outfit would be worn with a sense of pride, as people would stop to compliment my mother on both the original clothes as well as “that pretty little daughter who looks just like you!”

Skinny as a rail with long sticklike arms and legs, I would glow with pleasure as I realized that the magic outfits had tricked everyone into believing that I mirrored my beautiful mother. I would stand a little straighter, practice smiling the same way she did, and began to believe that some day I, too, might be as comely and clever.

As the years passed and I entered the turbulent, traumatic teens, our relationship changed. My moodiness seemed mirrored in her face, and my fluctuating needs and emotions made it difficult enough for me to live with myself, never mind with anyone else. Whatever she said, I did the opposite. If she liked an outfit, I automatically hated it. If she approved, I automatically disapproved.

In defense and in hindsight, I now realize I was no different than most adolescents in the never-ending quest for balance, both physically and emotionally. I think that one of the most benevolent blessings God encoded in human genetics is the all-encompassing love of parents for their offspring. While we may not always like the actions, or even character, of our children, that inner love is always present. Perhaps this love alone is what leaves the door to our hearts ajar, regardless of how often the door to our homes may be slammed shut. Eventually time and maturity soothed my unrest, and I grew into what I hope can be termed an “adult.”

A generation later, Mom’s clothing tradition continues. Now it is my turn to search the pattern books and ponder over materials. For my first attempt, I made matching skirts for my little daughter and me. Once again proving her creativity, my mother changed hobbies—completing our ensemble by knitting matching sweaters for us. Each time we wear them, my daughter begs me to go for a walk around the neighborhood with her, and makes sure it’s during a time when everyone is outside. The look in her eyes and the glow on her cheeks bring back memories, as she too basks in the feeling of security created by the knowledge that she is an important and beloved member of our family.

Perhaps some day we’ll make Grandma/Mother/Daughter ensembles, and it will be proof that love and traditions connect the generations.

Michelle Borinstein

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