“I mailed you a box on Wednesday, “my mother said. “You’re going to be surprised when you get it.”
My mom laughed into the phone. No. Actually it was sort of a snicker, and no child, no matter how old wants to hear his or her mom snicker. Especially not at eight in the morning. Annie Holmes, may have given birth to me— a certified night owl— but she chose not to acknowledge that fact. Yet, I always answered when my mom calls, rolling from the center of my bed, gasping the receiver from the phone on the floor, pulling it toward me, nestling it between my cheek and pillow as I greet the start of a new day. I let her have her fun. There will come a day when my phone will not ring at the crack of dawn. And if it does, my mom will no longer be on the end of it.
Two days later, Saturday afternoon, as I limped through the lobby of my Upper West Side apartment building, the doorman flashed a warm smile, but waved a stop sign like palm at me.
“Miss Holmes, I have a package for you,” Nick said.
I delivered a sideways, you must be kidding glance, as twin, over-stuffed Trader Joe bags dangled from in each hand, over-stressing my shoulder sockets. Clearly I had enough to manage. However Nick would not be deterred. He ignored my annoyed stare, and gestured firmly to the corrugated boxes stacked behind the desk.
“Actually there are two,” he said, giving me a don’t shoot the doorman look gentle but unyielding.
Since doormen rarely, if ever, joke about packages, the mail or water leaks, I gave Nick the nod. He added the boxes to my Sherpa load, walking behind me to the elevator. Luck was with me, of the two elevators in the building, the cab to the right, the one closest to my apartment door was the first to response to my elbow jabbing the call button.
I wrangled the bags of groceries inside the cab. Nick handled the parcels.
“They’re light,” he said over his navy-uniformed shoulders as he left the elevator before the doors closed.
I exited on my floor, placing one bag to anchor the door, as I unloaded the rest of the groceries and parcels. I picked up one box, set it down then picked up both boxes. Nick was right. The boxes were light.
After every parcel and peach was inside my apartment, I put the groceries away, then pulled a pair of scissors from the kitchen tool drawer and headed over to the boxes sitting in the living room.
I opened the first box. A shock wave rolled over me, like a freak ocean swell, the randy kind that you believe will splash up to your calves and wind up soaking you to the neck, knocking you off your center of gravity.
The box was stuffed with neatly folded clothes, baby clothes: sweaters with embroidered flowers, a knit hat topped with fluffy pompom, terrycloth-one-zees with little Peter Pan collars, cotton britches with matching wee jackets, blankets, booties, tee-shirts, and more— all pink. The few random blue items— three be exact— two sleepers and a warmer, seemed to be lost, as if they were out for a stroll and were swept up in the frothy, pink tidal wave.
I headed to the phone and dialed my mom. She picked up on the second ring. She never picks up on the second ring.
The boxes came,” I said. “ What… did you corner the market on pink clothes in the state of Michigan?
My mother released a long, steady laugh, like a car horn.
“I’d knew you be surprised.”
“Surprised? I’m shocked. When did you buy all this stuff?”
“You like them?”
“Absolutely, there are some cute things here. But when did you buy them?”
“Here and there. When I saw something pink that I liked, I bought it.”
My mom is not a girly girl. Never has been, never will be. So this development, is well, I quite a development. I went through the clothes with my mom, what I liked— the velvet hoodie embroidered with the words “My Little Peanut” and what I loved, the soft blanket with a tulip appliqué— for 45 minutes. The thrill in her voice was undeniable, a soft, centered, calmness— Sunday afternoon in the Lazy Boy recliner happy.
In the coming days, after I found the time to purchase the proper laundry detergent gentle enough for a five-month-old’s skin—(some swear by ALL, the hypoallergenic variety, other moms prefer, Dreft, I’m not saying what I bought and start World War III. I’m having a hard enough time with deciding on formula) I began to sort the tiny clothes for the laundry, culling out the few blue, yellow and white items from the massive mound of cotton-candy-colored clothes.
As the miniature wardrobe began shaping a soft mountain range that spanned across on the tan, tile floor of my kitchen, I thought of my mom handling the same sweaters, socks, and sleepers, stock piling them in the drawers, closets and baskets in her 1950s Arts and Crafts style home in Redford, Michigan. Had she started hunting and gathering goods back when I sought the help an Upper East Side fertility doctor to become a mother, seven years ago? Or had she started her shopper-rama after I announced to her and my brothers that I’d decided to adopt from Ethiopia— three years ago this Thanksgiving—leaping through the last open door to motherhood before it shut.
For two and half years I had no idea whether I’d get a boy,or a girl. As a childless woman, with my agency, I couldn’t specify which one I wanted. As I studied the rising mound of pink I realized my mom tapped into something greater than herself.
More than the wardrobe of a princess, the clothes confirmed a truth. As I’d lay in the cave of waiting, aching for something to break my way, alone, my mother had, too.
I hadn’t known it back then. We never discussed my infertility, my miscarriage, directly. The Holmes Clan are doers. We celebrate success, and failure, with as few words as possible. My father was the same way. In temperament we’re pretty much a family of brown-skinned Gary Coopers.
But it wasn’t until I saw the blushing wardrobe of two large boxes laid out on my sofa—laundered and fluffed—did I know all those nights over the eight years that it took for me to become a mom, as I lay in the dark I wasn’t as alone as I had believed.
Maybe that’s the first lesson of motherhood whether you’re a single baby mama, or a married mom, is to become practiced in the art of silent support, to see, to hear attentively, lips sealed. And to be ready to pop a cork, or mail your daughter’s new bundle of joy a bundle of pink baby clothing once the celebration finally, at last, begins.
4 thoughts on “Pink is the New Black”
Jenine, The packages you received from your mother sound wonderful. It sounds like she sent you an entire baby shower. Never be surprised at what mothers do. You are going to be one soon and within mere days of having your precious daughter with you, in YOUR HOME, in New York, you will begin to have all kinds of “mom thoughts”. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your joy. Actually, I began working on one project last week – somehow I knew you would allow me into your group of supporters. I am so happy for you. I suspect that your daughter is going to have special aunties all over the country. I will be shipping my package(s) in December, before the holiday mail rush. If there is anything specific that you would like for me to make, please let me know. You are going to be an amazing, wonderful mother. Somehow I can just sense the special love that is building in your heart. I can’t wait until you and your brother make that long journey that will make you a mother. You and your sweet baby remain in my daily prayers. I look forward to your future notes/posts and will pour my heart into each item I make for your angel. Stay strong and patient. Remember, no woman becomes a mother overnight, this is your time of labor. I hope you have begun a journal for your daughter. If not, you need to start soon. Write a letter to her each day. At some point in the future your letters will mean the world to her and she will fully understand how very wanted and loved she has always been. Write while your emotions are raw and new, as this will allow your true thoughts and feelings pour onto the pages. You remain in my prayers. ~Elizabeth
You are so sweet, in so many ways…I will keep an eye out for the package!
I cried when i read the post about mama Annie. I just read it again and I can’t stop crying. Life, God’s precious gift! I look at Julia’s picture everyday. I love her so much till it hurts. I can only imagine how much you love her. I can’t wait to take her to a beauty supply store in Detroit! LOL. Just kidding.
You are just too beautiful. Your joy and love comes across the airways. Much love,