Being the youngest in a family of five, my parents had no protection from being considered “old”. In fact I never considered them being “young”. As I became aware of friends’ families, I noticed they had grandparents close to the age of my parents.
This contributed significantly to my eldest sister, Donna, being the one I sought for advice and explanation regarding maturation.
Another reason for Donna being my confidante, I spent my fifth summer with her new husband and her for two exciting months of young love, exploration and fun. I can still conjure the feeling of reins in my hands, driving the team of horses that pulled the old hay rack. The new husband stood close by, giving instructions, while Donna scolded from a distance. Even then, she allowed her kid sister a taste of being “grown up”.
Donna and her husband moved to Calgary. I loved visiting them. She’d tell me more and more about the physical changes I could expect as my body matured. She talked about entering womanhood with a respect that enhanced my impatience for the full experience.
By age 11, I had begun development – my promise of achieving that elusive state of womanhood. I wanted to wear the appropriate under garment to disguise my development from snoopy eyes.
Certainly mother would not be the one to discuss such matters.
Donna was in Calgary and we didn’t have a telephone. There was only one solution. I’d go to the General Store, buy the necessary under garment and use the charge account that was for emergency use only.
I waited until no one else was in the store. I raced in, “Hi Mrs. Hunter. Could you please get me a brazzzeere?”
“Oh…well, okay. But I’ll have to measure you first to get the right size. It’s very simple so you don’t have to feel shy.”
We went to the counter where female products graduated in size. “Hold your arms out and I’ll just put this measuring tape around you and your blouse. Let’s see…okay…28 inches. Hmmm.”
“28?” I said and headed to the first row. “Is that what these tags mean?” The smallest I could see was 32. I looked up at Mrs. Hunter trying to mask my disappointment.
“Dear me! Have we sold all the 28s?! Why didn’t I notice? I’ll put in an order right away. But, these orders take a long time so you’ll have to be very patient!”
For a few months, I checked with Mrs. Hunter weekly trying to contain first my enthusiasm, then my disappointment. “Are you sure you sent in the order?” I’d ask. She’d remind me that ladies’ under garments always took a long time to arrive.
Finally, one Saturday morning, Mrs. Hunter said, “I was waiting for you. I think I need to measure you again to make sure I got it right.” She lead me to a private area, measuring tape in hand, smiling as she performed the operation once again.
“Look at this! I now have one your size. I’ll wrap it up so no one will know what you purchased.”
Relief washed over me that the order had finally come in. I raced home and climbed the stairs to my bedroom. I carefully took out my precious new purchase and studied the adjustments and hooks. With untold delight, I put it on. I turned toward the mirror. A crinkly cup was good, I thought. There was room for growth. In a while, I decided, I would look just like my older sisters.
With a burst of pride, I ran to my friend’s house to show her. When we entered her room, I undid my blouse and turned in a circle. She looked closely and said, “I thought you said you were 28 inches.”
“Yep. Mrs. Hunter measured me again to make sure she did it right.”
“Wonder why they put 32 on the tag.”
“I dunno! I’ll ask Donna the next time we go to Calgary.”
Donna’s face transformed into a soft knowingness when I told her the story and asked about sizing. She then explained what had actually happened and said, “Mrs. Hunter’s a pretty special lady.”
If only I could have thanked Mrs. Hunter for recognizing the tenderness and fragility of a young girl so enthusiastic about maturing into womanhood. I’d hug her for cleverly and kindly giving me a chance to grow into the 32 that was in stock all along.
I’d tell her she helped me begin a lifetime of growing into the right size.