Mom Needs New Pants

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Around age 12, I remember Mom admonishing, “Don’t ever let your husband keep you in stretch pants.” Seemingly random, this simple statement was anything but; cryptically hidden in the words, Mom was imploring me to always make my own money.  

Pop gave Mom an “allowance” of $60 every week… the same $60 for 20 years… no cost of living increase for inflation… no raise… no bonuses for a job well done… Just $60. It was a constant in her life - ten dollars, per person, per week - for a wicked long time.

Somewhere along the line, I learned the amount of Mom’s weekly stipend and thought we were rich. Sixty dollars sounded like a mountain of money to someone earning $0.50 an hour for babysitting. I had no concept of cash flow... no understanding that Mom was budgeting her Benjamins to feed and clothe a growing family of six… no awareness that she might be scrimping to save… no concern over her perpetual putting-on of stretch pants.  

As I got older, I made the connection that Mom’s penchant for stretch pants was directly tied to her deficiency of dollars. Her inequitable cash flow left her with limited funds for frivolity or frocks; her uniform during much of my childhood being a navy blue polyester pair, and a top. Lucky for her, she was (and is) a beautiful woman whose face commanded consideration far greater than her clothing.  

Every Christmas, Mom would go rogue and break out a pair of beautiful blue velvet pants for our annual Christmas party. As I recall, they were a moderate nap, royal blue, stove pipe pant that rested just above the ankle. She paired them with a white ruffled blouse and pair of black flats; a total classic on a woman who was often compared in beauty to Jackie O. Her Christmas outfit would have impressed even Jackie.

Later, with me in high school and her other kids managed, Mom went back to work as an Occupational Therapist at a local nursing home. Now with a fraction of financial freedom from Pop (…still doling out that $60/week) her wardrobe grew. Somewhere along the line, she replaced her stretch pants with jeans, or as she calls them – dungarees. Very specifically, Mom wore Lee Riders, straight from Walmart. When they stopped carrying women’s Lee Riders a few years back, Mom’s solution was to purchase a pair of men’s. Though she’s been pleased as punch (her words…) with her new dungarees, the denim is stiff and the top button is a bugger. More often than not, Mom defaults to her older pairs of well-worn jeans that are dangerously close to being age inappropriate, with holes in the knees.

But, I get it. We love our jeans almost as much as we love our children.

Recently, Mom had an extended rehab stay after a six day hospital stint for a kidney stone and an ensuing bladder infection. During this time, there was a lot of rushing to the bathroom to pee. Dressed in her jeans, she got to a point where releasing the metal button with her feeble fingers was just too much. At this point, I mentioned stretch pants and Mom was totally on board with this descent down the fashion food chain. Further, she admitted to having several pairs of stretch pants hiding in the bowels of her closet. Given the life span of polyester, these might actually have been the originals – one pair blue, and the other gray.

Home from The Home, Mom’s first order of business was to change into her comfortable worn jeans… button be damned. Since then, and each time I visit (ie: every day…), I see further failing in the functioning of her hands. neuropathy, carpel tunnel, and fragile long fingernails make it difficult for her to manipulate anything with accuracy, especially metal buttons. Recently Mom mentioned going back to stretch pants which I think is an excellent idea. As with other experiences with Mom and aging, this feels like a natural progression of sorts.

With the holidays in full swing, my inbox and my mailbox are both filled with colorful Christmas catalogs. Yesterday, while perusing LLBean’s offerings, I came upon a full page of “modern” stretch pants, which (apparently) now come in a variety of shapes and styles; Cling-free comfort. Stay-true color. And stretch that won’t stretch out. These pants are the perfect fit for absolutely everything.  The most exciting part of my find is that their expansive collection of colors now includes “denim” and “indigo denim”.

This year, Mom’s Christmas gift is a no-brainer, and with the reasonable cost of these stretch pants, Santa could give her both denims and a pair in heather gray. I’ll just have to guesstimate whether the “original”, the “slim”, or the “straight leg” would be best. Ahhh… if they only made them in Royal Blue Velvet.

Emily Gaffney6 Comments