Every family has their own traditions. It’s what makes each family unique and special. Some families celebrate everything. Some aren’t big celebrators. My mom was a big celebrator of holidays, sacraments and ordinary days. It’s funny what we remember. My maternal grandmother was a kindergarten teacher so I’m sure my mom carried on some of the creative traditions my grandmother created. Prior to marriage and motherhood in the late 1950’s-1960, my mom worked in Manhattan as a travel agent and as a result had been fortunate enough to have traveled the world with her close group of girlfriends. Those influences probably shaped her attitude towards living a more romanticized and celebrated life. She loved to treat my brothers and I to surprises and memorable experiences. Some of my favorite memories with my mom were the unexpected surprises that would await me on my bed after a long day at school; our fancy white table cloth lunches at her favorite department store A&S; shopping at Craft Shoes for my very first pair of high heel shoes (black patent leather platforms); her surprising me with my first Judy Blume book “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” as an introduction into womanhood; our fun-filled Disney World family vacations; helping her make lasagna; watching “Gone With the Wind” and many of her other favorite movie classics; shopping at Gimbals for my communion dress; giving me free reign to pretend shop in her closet and dresser drawers and then performing a fashion show for her showcasing all of her shoes, scarves and dresses. My mom loved that her one and only daughter enjoyed all the things she enjoyed…fashion, jewelry, make up, a good book, a great love story, nurturing friendships, family time and fun adventures… There was ONE thing my mom would not allow me to experience…
As a young girl I wanted my ears pierced. Badly. Pierced ears were a big thing in the 1970’s. A real rite of passage. If your preteen ears were pierced you definitely felt like “you arrived.” I wanted to be that girl that casually slipped her hair behind her ear only to reveal her cute little gold butterfly earrings. My mom was all in on frilly girly stuff but for reasons I’ll never know for sure…pierced ears would not be in the cards for me until I was a teenager, which felt like an eternity. Until that day arrived, I would have to settle for playing dress up in my parents’ bedroom…rummaging through my mom’s old gaudy clip on earring selection in her jewelry box…trying them ALL on…staring at myself in her big hand carved dresser bureau mirror…admiring how glamorous I could look. I had such potential. Why the delay?
Truthfully the delay probably had to do with my mom worrying about whether or not I was old enough to bear the responsibility that went along with earring ownership. Being mature enough to properly care for my ears post piercing and responsible enough to not lose them. She was strict about the 14K gold rule. No junky metals were going into my pure little ears.
Traditions are funny. My mom loved punctuating life’s moments with a celebration of sorts. Birthdays were always special…I usually had two parties…a family dinner in the dining room and a friends’ themed party, her homemade birthday cake and lots of thoughtfully chosen presents. All of our sacraments were honored and celebrated with either a big house party or at a special restaurant. My mom’s dinner parties, pool parties and girlfriend coffee clatches were legendary. The special celebrations both big and small are the highlights of my childhood…the good times.
I have joyously carried on most of my mom’s traditions and have introduced some of my own!
My oldest daughter Blake came out of my womb as a self assured grown woman posing as a newborn. Her big brown “taking in the room” alert eyes said it all. They just knew. And they knew everything. A wise old soul here to teach us all. Friends and family would always comment on how she was “beyond her years in her maturity level and desires.” She questioned everything, much to our frustration at times but always persevered to get what she wanted. One of her many assets!
Little did she realize I was going to be an easy sell on getting her ears pierced one day. There was no way I’d ever not experience such a beautiful mother daughter moment together. I had my own personal unfinished business that needed to be corrected. If she never wanted to get her ears pierced I honestly wouldn’t have cared. It’s not so much about earrings. There are certain feelings that you never forget and ones that are so worth sharing together. Mother daughter moments are special. You must grab them when you can. Whether it’s an ear piercing outing or a visit to a dance store to purchase their first jazz shoes. It’s being there with them sharing in the moment. We are all curators of our lives. Creating and celebrating life’s most precious and ordinary moments. Interior designers say that decorating is in the details. I say parenting is in the moments. Stealing special moments together. Those little moments can add up to a beautiful life.
I have a vantage point that most people don’t have. I lost my mom way too soon but I was old enough to remember what mattered most when she was alive. I know what I loved about our relationship and I also know what I would do differently with my own family. I took the memories I loved and repurposed them in my life with my children. I took the memories I didn’t like and made sure I didn’t default to some of those measures. I think every parent does this but I had the wisdom to know there are no do overs.
So did I ever get my young little ears pierced? YES…but…
I don’t know what my Big Ear Piercing Day was originally supposed to look like. I’m imagining my mom and I would have gone to get my ears pierced on my 13th birthday, followed by a celebratory lunch and shopping excursion to pick out pretty new earrings for when it was time to take my starter earrings out.
Here’s how it actually went down…
I turned 11 in January of 1977. Only two more years to go before I could get my virgin ears pierced! In reality…getting my ears pierced was the furthest thing from my mind. All I could think and pray about was for God to grant our family a miracle. We needed one. My mom was very sick and fighting to stay alive. She was tired, weak and frail from all the chemo treatments.
Amidst all that she was facing, in true mother fashion, from her hospital bed, my mom asked her best friend Sharon to take me to get my ears pierced…EARLY! I know she wanted us to have our mother daughter moment together but she feared she would never see that day and she wanted to make sure I knew that she knew how important this was to me.
And as sick as she was, she still laid down the rules…I had to have them pierced at my pediatrician’s office because he used 18k gold starter earrings. Clearly my mom was obsessed with hygiene. Sharon obliged. It was not the most glamorous setting but beggars can’t be choosers and I was so excited to FINALLY be able to showcase my lobes! My mom never got to see my pretty pierced ears but I know she was at peace knowing she made it happen and I am forever grateful for her loving and generous gesture.
The second my four year old daughter Blake asked me if she could get her ears pierced I started warming up the car! We were going to have OUR moment! Little did my girl realize this day meant more to me than her little heart could ever comprehend. I would make sure that it would be a day that my mom would have approved of. Well, my mom would not have fully approved. (Claire’s jewelry store’s surgical steel post earrings would not have met her strict hygiene protocols but I’m happy to say it’s been almost 21 years since Blake got her ears pierced and her ears are still intact. Although, sometimes we question whether or not they work…wink, wink.)
The day of our big outing, back in 2001, we excitedly headed over to our happy place…Somerset Mall. Land of Nordstrom, FAO Schwartz, Tiffany’s, The Disney Store, Crate and Barrel, The Sweet Factory, The Limited and…Claire’s! I will never forget how excited Blake was. I further pumped her up by telling her she could pick out any earrings she wanted for when it came time for her birthstone starter set to come out.
As we entered the store, we were greeted by a young upbeat sales girl. I liked her energy! She was the perfect person to inflict pain on my young and unaware child. I explained to her that it was a BIG day for Blake. I asked her if they pierce one ear at a time or both. She said both. Praise the Lord! I knew that if it were the former we would be exiting the store with one earring, which leads me to the very first white lie I told Blake (next to Santa and the Tooth Fairy…).
“Does getting your ears pierced hurt?” Blake cautiously asked me on our car ride over. I thoughtfully paused for a second and said “It’s more like a quick pinch and then it’s over FAST.” She seemed pacified with that response. I felt badly about not saying “YES!!!” I justified my little fib in my mind by reminding myself that this could be a little life lesson for her in that some things can be painful to go through but are worth it in the end. And there you have it…
She nervously jumped into the hot seat. I stood in front of her with a reassuring grin on my face, holding her sweet little hands and never breaking eye contact with her while the Claire’s SWAT team surrounded her with their loaded piercing guns. BOOM! Blake’s excited and anxious smile quickly turned into a quiver and the tears started to flow…UNTIL her assailants quickly threw a mirror in front of her face and her tear drops dried up in an instant. She stared at her angelic little face in awe and disbelief. It’s funny what a teeny tiny pair of earrings can do. Mission accomplished!
Shortly after we exited the store with her little purple goody bag loaded up with her hygiene instructions, special solution and lots of new earrings to enjoy once the trial period was over, Blake said “Let’s eat!” A girl after my own heart. And off to the food court we went to celebrate over a nice saucy slice of Sbarro’s. Just two girlfriends.
We sat down to enjoy our pizza and Blake looked like she was in heaven. I remember that euphoric feeling. I don’t know what it is about getting your ears pierced for the first time but it’s special. She then casually offered “I didn’t know it was going to hurt that much.” I said “I know. I’m sorry. I did tell you it would be a quick pinch. Was it worth it?” She said “Yes!” as she tenderly touched her ears making sure this wasn’t all a dream.
I then handed her a mirror from my purse. She looked at herself one more time and smiled.
I will never forget that smile.