I'm about to lecture my grade five kid about the stuffing of her snow pants into the secret compartment of her backpack, when the memory of a winter coat creeps in and silences me like the overnight snowfall waiting for us on the other side of the front door.
I was in grade nine and sitting halfway back on the bus—not all the way in the back, with the older boys and cool girls, but close enough that I was on the periphery. Sometime during the school day, a blizzard came and blasted the neighbourhood. It was still blowing fiercely as we approached our stop, where I caught sight of my mom doing her best to lean away from the snow.
She hadn't walked me to school since grade two and was never one to like the cold. Her hood was drawn so tightly she might have gone unrecognized, if not for the coat she held folded over her arm.
It was cotton-candy pink and out-of-style. It came off the rack of a discount department store. My parents, and their hard-earned money, were never fooled by designer names. They bought whatever made sense, like a warm coat for a good price. They gave it to me and I stuffed it in the front hall closet, where they assumed it was waiting for the right day.
Even now I can hear the silent but indignant scream, How could she do this to me? She extended her arms to offer me cover from the cold, and I stood frozen with embarassment.
My memory ends there; I don't know what happened next. Did I walk past her? Was there an exchange of angry words? I am certain I was hurtful. Years later, when I first became a mother, I asked about that day and was surprised she didn't remember. She had long since forgiven and forgotten.
And there was the beginning of a new understanding. Even with its hurt and disappointments, parenthood is a two-way leap of faith that delivers us to the best version of ourselves.
My daughter stands with her back to me and slides her arms through the straps of her backpack—willing to carry the extra weight of hidden snow pants. She knows they are a step in our mother-daughter dance.
I stay quiet, wishing I could have been so kind, but knowing it's okay that I wasn't.