Yes, this is really about fringe.
And a mistake I made about tangled fringe.
Keep 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.
It 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.
So 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.