If I could take back the words I’ve said, these three would be the ones.
“You’re not petite.”

I said those to my mother as she held up a blouse from the clearance rack of JC Penney’s.
“Maybe I am a petite.” she had said.

It was a pretty blue floral print looking somewhat like a Laura Ashley. It would have been the first new item of clothing she bought for herself for as long as I could remember. It would have brought out the blue in her eyes. It probably would have even fit her. But instead she replaced it on the rack, the smile gone from her face.

For years my mother had tried to quit smoking and finally did when she realized the smoke was not only harming her but her year old daughter. Smoking for her was a nervous habit, the need to fiddle with something in her hands, needing something in her mouth. So, she turned to biting her fingernails and eating. She gained more weight, a little more to add to her pregnancy weight she had not yet shed after I was born. And then she was pregnant again. And gradually over time, and with babies her svelte figure of her youth became more rounded, more filled out. Never obese, just over weight. Mom was active, always on the move whether it was chasing one of her 5 kids or tending the garden, milking the goats, or splitting wood to heat the farm house. She still ate a bit more than she needed and never got to the weight she felt she should be at.

Recently, she had just lost some weight, I don’t remember how much. Enough to reach her self imposed goal and decided to reward herself with a new blouse. And there I was to burst her bubble and ruin it for her.

I wish I could say that I was referring to mom’s height when I made that comment- as in “Oh no mom, you are too tall to be a petite.” But no, in my naivete I thought petite meant tiny as in not weighing much so I blurted out , very quickly I might add, that she was far from small enough to fit into anything with the petite label. I have since then apologized to my mother for those cruel words. She has a vague recollection of the time, ages ago when I said them and we have moved on. Still though, I regret having said them.

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