My newly-graduated daughter took a break from her summer job picking strawberries in Oregon last week to interview for a job with health benefits. The original plan was to shake off all memories of her senior thesis by digging in the dirt for the summer and to start sending resumes out...eventually. But one, just one, job posting at her college career center had appealed to her back in May - a progressive law firm near home in California doing just the kind of work she wanted to be a part of. She applied. Thus, the interview in June.
She flew home a day early to get her head ready and to scrub berry stains out from under her nails. She was excited. I offered to come with her to shop for an interview outfit. She agreed. I was to give it the over 40, office-appropriate assessment and she would give it the 20-something coolness test. Any outfit that satisfied us both would be the winner.
We went to Ross. Nothing. We went to JCPenny. Women's pant suits 60% off. Score. She picked out a few nice-looking suits (size 6 - geez, was I ever that small?). Penny's entire upper floor was under construction, so her dressing room options were the little boys' dressing room or the little girls' dressing room. Little girls' dressing room it was.
I sat in the chair for mommies at the end of the dressing room as my daughter disappeared into a stall. I sat there, turning to look at the frilly girl clothes on the racks waiting to be re-shelved. She would have hated them as a girl. I drifted back to our many frustrating shopping outings, trying to find something cut for a girl but not pink, not purple and not sparkly. Half the time we gave up and looked in the boys' section for a plain t-shirt or simple plaid shorts.
I indulged myself, looking down to my daughter's stall, imagining her at ten, bursting out with a frown, clearly unhappy with the shirt I'd asked her to try on. "Why'd they have to put this stupid flower on it?," she'd say.
When the real door opened, I'd half prepared myself for her ten-year-old frustration. Not yet fully back to the present, what emerged so surprised me that I heard myself gasp: a beautiful young woman, hair pulled back in a loose bun, in a black, well-tailored pant suit. She was stunning. She walked towards me, confident, pleased, looking every bit ready for a job interview with a law firm.
Holy mother of God. It's happened. She's grown up. She's ready to face the world. And all I had to do was sit there, admiring her. This is really going to be fun.
Causes Kate Marshall Supports
Project Second Chance, an adult literacy program run by the Contra Costa County Library system in California.