Monday, May 20, 2013

Buying My First Bra

 My grandma bought me my first bra.  Now if you ask my mother, she’ll shake her head and swear that she was the one who held my hand as she ushered me through this most sacred of entry doors to womanhood.  But she’d be wrong.  She brought me on my first bra shopping trip sure enough, but our hunt that day was unfruitful. And that’s when grandma came to visit.
            Looking back, I’m pretty sure Grandma’s impending visit was the reason Mom suddenly took an interest in my support wear- not that I had suddenly developed anything that necessitated underclothing - but because grandma was crazy. I know as you read this that many of you are smiling, nodding and recalling your own wacky relations.  (it bonds us; makes us similar and I appreciate that- it’s helpful when sharing embarrassing stories of puberty- but it also lessens the crazy that this woman wore like stolen boy scout pants*.)  
            “There’s a garage sale in your neighborhood.”  Grandma grinned at my sister and me as she poured the milk.
             We were both eager to go. We wolfed down our breakfasts and grabbed up our few dollars and shoved them into whatever purse was the latest one that grandma had given us. Both of these facts were important because Grandma hated greedy kids and she hated even more, ungrateful ones but she also seemed to feel a sense of loss if none were to be found and so she was quite skilled at making my sister and me fit the bill, and we in turn, wore lots of hair clips fashioned out of neon shoelaces.
          Garage saling with Grandma usually guaranteed a happy day. If we could pack in a few sales every day it an ensured an entire visit of relative peace. Here we were, only a few hours into the morning and already on our way to hunt bargains—it bode well for this visit and we could all sense it as we tromped out the front door with high spirits. I know my step faltered a bit, when we –my sister and I decked out in some god-awful Christmas sweaters that we’d just been gifted from the Ropa Usada-- realized that the sale we were heading for was not just ‘in the neighborhood’ but directly across the street. As in, we knew these people. I babysat for their kids, borrowed cups of sugar from them, just generally wanted to keep that certain respect that’s usually cultivated between neighbors that never trade nickels for worn-out socks. 
         My sister was younger and therefore had been embarrassed less by grandma’s voracious bargain hunting (like how the second deer brought down by a pack of wolves knew a tid bit less about being chewed on than the first) but even she hung back and together, the two of us dawdled our way across the street until we no longer could avoid being within the perimeters of the sale. We slouched near the “free” bin nearly in the road, not touching anything, definitely not looking at anything, in the vain attempt to make it appear that we’d just donned these sweaters and large old-lady satchels for a casual August morning walk and had only paused here because we were in the area.
                Mom and Grandma didn’t notice our reticence and set to work seeking treasures. In a matter of minutes, Katie and I were joined by quite a few other kids that we knew from school. Most of them were my age and looked just as horrified to be spotted as we were. Somehow, their misery made me feel loads better. I was, at least, used to this kind of Saturday. If the world suddenly ended and we few embarrassed teenagers at the curb were all that was left, then I would be likely be nominated as the leader for my knowledge and adeptness for the situation.
          I felt that we instantly became closer friends as we all kept our backs to the cardboard boxes of bargains and maniacally pretended that we weren’t standing at the base of a garage sale while our parents shopped. The cute boy that always sat in the back of the school bus and that I’d never had the guts to talk to even directed a chin lift greeting my way. And there, in the sunshiney day of summer and childhood and innocence I chose to ignore that it was probably my sweater that made him notice me. Today, we were all comrades ignoring our silly parents and nothing could find a chink in that armor.
           “Jennifer! Get in here,” Grandma called me up to where the Buick was parked and tables were piled with clothes. I could hear my peers snickering, grateful that the gods of the garage hadn’t chosen them as the next victim. That was fine. I’d been through my fair share of embarrassing moments and really what could a table of suburban housewife clothes have that was worse than what I was already wearing? I should have noticed when my mom wouldn’t make eye contact with me.        
             But Grandma sure did.
             For about 2 seconds before her focus dropped to my chest. 
             “Jennifer, they’ve got bras. Try this on.”
             “Grandma...” I looked to my mom to back me up here while I mentally scrambled, “we actually just had this discussion just yesterday- with real professionals, even- and I’m good.” 
            “If you’re not going to try it on, then I will.” Grandma growled.  (She wasn’t talking about putting it on her own body- she was meaning that if I wouldn’t do it willingly, then she would get it on me unwillingly.
          My panic latched onto something that might slow her. “A whole dollar a piece. That’s salty.” And I backed away. But I didn’t get far. 
             “If you’re gonna be a baby about it, then we’ll just try it on over top of the sweater.” Grandma had the neighbor lady’s ragged nursing bra up over my arms with a speed that would have stunned a seasoned cat bather. Then my mom got to work at my back girdling up all the extra wool that my ridiculous modesty had put between me and the perfect fit.
            The two of them mashed and tugged and worked in horrific harmony to take me through several bra fittings all under the stunned audience of neighborhood kids and passersby. We tried on a whole box of them suckers. I went home with quite a few and all it cost was a few dollars and a lot of dignity that I really didn’t need anyway.

*In truth, grandma never wore these pants that I mention- she gave them to me as a birthday present. They were huge and how she wrested them from the grip of the scout, I’ll never know, but when I wore them to school, oblivious in my brotherless life to all things scout, my friends were quick to inform me that somewhere in the world there was a naked boy scout holding up his three fingers and cursing my name.

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