IMG_20190217_125422952Yes, this is really about fringe.

And a mistake I made about tangled fringe.

Maggie and ChairKeep in mind I was a late-in-life mother. So when we adopted Maggie, I was over-the-moon ready. Okay, some people would call it overzealous. Looking back, I see I turned my perfectionist’s dial to 11 because 10 simply wasn’t sufficient for this beautiful, sweet child.

In the early days of international adoption, we attracted attention with our Chinese baby everywhere we went. And I turned Maggie out in heartbreaking baby fashion. Not expensive. Just the kind of luscious stuff that stopped people in their tracks.

I even ironed her tiny, spotless white shoelaces.


IMG_20190217_125356820It will help you know that my mother Betty was a stickler for perfectly matched and trimmed everything–table skirts coordinating with drapes, candles matching tablecloths, shoes complementing outfits. She explored department stores with swatches in one hand and me in the other. Nothing would do until we found the right shade of everything. And she believed when you sat in a room, you should enjoy a lovely scene no matter where you looked.

So there’s that lesson in my life.

And I listened to women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s in the community college English classes I taught. They’d been young mothers who devoted themselves to parenting before learning who they were in the world. They’d deferred personal ambitions but believed in taking a last chance on themselves.

As my mother would say, I got things bassackwards, having my careers before parenthood.

IMG_20190217_130254146_HDRSo Maggie arrived in a perfectly appointed house. When she was still in a stroller, we planned her bedroom around a purple toile duvet with elephants. She napped beneath a fringed chenille lavender throw.

That’s when the trouble began.

She braided the fringe.

Appalled, I told her to stop. She untangled what she could. Clumps continued.

To my exquisite fringe. How could she? It no longer hung pristinely over the toile spread, catching the light, their tips tickling the coordinating dust ruffle.  I tackled the strands with a crochet hook, separating the snarls. But they’d lost their verticality.

They just happen, she insisted. I couldn’t imagine how. She didn’t know how to explain it. We moved on, as mothers and daughters do. So much was ahead of us.

Then I fell on the ice this winter, spending days in my chair, applying home remedies to my bruised and swollen ankles, and swaddled in a fringed chenille throw.

At long last I saw it: clumps. Clearly, I wasn’t braiding it. They just happen.

I called her immediately at college to apologize and felt fortunate that I could.

So many mistakes are never settled between mothers and daughters. They’re left to rattle like empty hangers in closets of misunderstanding. All they will ever hold is regret. People die without ever having the chance to pitch them once and for all. Or straighten them out at least.


It took me decades to understand that being a mother meant I was not the center of my world anymore, something those mothers in my classroom already knew.  I thought my sense of myself was locked and polished when Maggie arrived. I didn’t know the half of it.

I had a lot to learn about fringe, especially fringe that wasn’t mine.


10 thoughts on “Fringe Apology

  1. Hi, Karen,

    Thank you so much for sending this to me. You have no idea how timely it is. I always liked coming to your house because everything was so in its place, which was rarely this case at my house. I remember when we visited your mom together in Oklahoma. She sure made a lasting impression on me. She just seemed to know how things should be. I love your stories about her. And I love reading your writing. Now I must go apologize about my own fringes.

    Peace, Roseann


    1. You understood my mother perfectly. I remember when you took her to a nearby produce stand while I was at work and stood aside as she studied every last cucumber and tomato. She thought the world of you. For good reason. (And no one made cream cheese brownies than you.)


  2. Funny, you can still manage to exhaust yourself while executing your motherly duties, and almost always dialed to an eleven. I appreciate, love and admire you for your relentless determination.


    1. I know you’ve done your patient best, Cliff. In the middle of a Nordstrom’s children’s dept. when I was beside myself with choices, you quietly said, “Karen, every dress she’ll ever own doesn’t have to happen today.”

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So many things appear to me as metaphors–right down to fringe, obviously. That incident with Maggie never left me. So when I experienced the tangles, I thought of her instantly. She wasn’t wrong. I was thrilled to set things straight. No apology is ever too small.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, indeed. It was a mystery for both of us. She greatly appreciated the fact that it finally happened to me. That I apologized to her was even more appreciated. It’s a funny thing how some events linger.


  3. I loved this! And, it’s true. There are so many things between mothers and daughters. Good things and tough things. Peeling an onion, always fascinated by the next layer, and the thin, almost invisible skin that protects each layer, you now?
    Women are so complicated and mysterious.


    1. Yes, yes, yes. Really there’s nothing else to say about your remarks. Even though my mother has been gone for 20 years, I finally understand things about her that escaped me at the time. It never ends–the fascinating influence of our mothers.


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