From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Flannel in the Food Court

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid the happiness of others.

David Assael

The smell of a wet golden retriever filled the bedroom, confirming that the tap-tippety-tap against my window was September rain. I burrowed deeper beneath the creamy comforter in hopes of delaying the usual morning chaos. While my husband hustled to get ready for work, I milked every mommy-minute—until there it was, the sound of mousy footsteps trickling down the hallway.

A tiny voice filled with naïve anticipation sang, “Good morning, Mommy! Is it Pajama Day?” And with that, the day had begun.

“Yes, it is!” I pulled back the covers and lifted Hayley into the warm bed. She held my face in her hands, rubbed noses and placed a big, wet kiss on my lips. I drank in the sweet, salty smell of her morning breath.

Fridays are the best days of the week. Fridays are Pajama Days. They were birthed from an overflowing laundry basket one cold, crummy morning. I’d made the desperate decision to rewash an entire load of laundry that had sat unfolded in the basket for several days. It seemed less daunting than ironing the wrinkled wardrobe. Unfortunately, several other loads of laundry waited patiently for a spin, and we had few clean choices. So pajamas made the cut for the day’s outfit.

By lunchtime my daughter asked the obvious, “When do we get dressed?”

I stumbled for just a moment, and then these words spilled out: “Didn’t you know? Fridays are Pajama Days. We get to stay in them all day long!”

Pajama Days became a sacred tradition.

Here we were, a year later, a perfect Friday morning. Grand gray clouds hovered outside, bordering a dense black sky. The rain was light, but persistent. I envisioned cookie baking and finger painting.

“What would you like to do today?” I asked absently.

“Today we’ll make teddy bears. You promised we’d make bears, and today is the day.”

Suddenly, the rain outside sounded ominous. My head started to ache as I quickly searched through my mental filing system. There it was, “The Promise.” I had indeed said we would make bears this week at a nearby mall. A toy store there lets you make stuffed animals—pick out the style, stuff, sew and clothe them. Fun possibilities, but—today?

I’m not sure if it was the multitude of kisses covering my face or the big, pleading eyes, but I quickly caved. “Well, let’s get ready quickly, and we can have breakfast at the food court. Okay?” There was no resistance.

Hayley went one way, and I went the other. We were making good time until I walked into the family room. There she stood in her purple, fleecy-footed pajamas, neon-pink robe with its embroidered butterfly, sunglasses, purse and a book fittingly titled Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton. My daughter took a good look at me and shunned the shades, asking, “Where are your pajamas, Mommy?” Her voice wavered just a little. “It is Pajama Day, right?”

“Yes, but we aren’t going to stay home, so we need to put on some clothes,” I answered.

The perfected pouter wound herself up and whined, “Pajamas are clothes.” Tears welled up in her eyes.

A knot bunched in my stomach, rolling around and around and pushing its way up my throat, making me want to cry or yell. This day wasn’t turning out the way I anticipated. She was going to ruin my Pajama Day.

I closed my eyes for a second before I addressed the inevitable temper tantrum, reminding myself that she was just three and this was her day, too. “You’re right.”

As we walked from our car to the mall entrance, I looked to see if anyone was watching. The drops had subsided, but I could still taste the rain, each breath mixed with a little pride and vanity. I’d made a grand attempt to disguise my outfit with glamorous hair and make-up. But there was no mistaking my gray and red plaid flannels for anything other than pajamas. And my tired cranberry robe was a poor imitation of a coat.

The mall was quiet. This isn’t so bad, I thought. No one is even here yet. The fountains weren’t on yet, and the shops were still dark inside. I started to relax.

But at the food court, I gasped to see the long line to the coffee stand. What in the world were these people going to think? What kind of mom lets her child go to the mall in nightwear? And what kind of woman dons the same?

The swish-swish of Hayley’s footed pajamas shuffled on the mall floor and echoed down the hall. There was no turning back now.

Eyes peered curiously at the two of us as we stood in line for our hot chocolate and muffins. Here I cowered in flannel PJs, all for the sake of keeping sacred our Pajama Day tradition. I’d obviously lost control to a preschooler.

A businessman behind us started to chat with Hayley. Before he asked the obvious, she brilliantly announced to him (and several onlookers), “Today is Pajama Day! On Fridays we wear pajamas all day!”

“Those are the best kinds of days to have.” He winked at her. “I wish I could’ve worn pajamas instead of this suit.”

“I’m sorry.” Hayley nodded in sympathy. She reached out to pat the man’s hand. “I guess not everyone has a mom like mine.”

I stood a little straighter. It was the best Pajama Day ever.

Emily Okaty Wilson

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