“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.