I hadn't figured on my daughter going for the Cinderella blue.
Neither did she when the shop keeper first plucked the frock out of a rack of second-hand prom gowns.
It was gorgeous, no doubt. A designer dress with a gold and blue sequin bodice and a beaded netted ballroom skirt, puffed up with six layers of white and sky-blue fabric underneath.
"A lot of girls have tried this on but none of them could get the zipper all the way up," the shop keeper said after sizing my daughter up. "I think you just might be the one."
"Go ahead, try it on," I offered, thinking there's no harm in humoring the saleswoman while I searched for something more suitable to my daughter's current tastes. Perhaps the long, silky black one with the pale pink trim?
For 18 years now, I've watched as the middle child trekked her way through some rather eclectic fashion choices. It's been a journey of sorts as she makes her way into becoming the person she is meant to be.
I've seen it all on my maternal watch. The pink quilted winter boots she insisted on wearing during her preschool years even when it was 90 degrees in the shade. The cow girl garb and the Pocahontas stage that naturally came right around the release of the animated movie. There were the tomboy years where clothes suitable for running races and climbing trees were in vogue. Middle school brought oversized T-shirts, baggy jeans with blown-out knees and black construction boots. That was followed with a high-school hankering for form-fitting tees and slacks or jeans — occasionally with the knees blown out — as well as hippie skirts, hair bows and anything unique and always, always on sale.
But certainly not fairy tale princess.
Or so I thought. Until she emerged from the dressing room and took my breath away.
She was a vision, even in bare feet and unkempt hair. All zipped up. All grown up, I thought, swallowing hard.
When did that happen?
Yet in her sparkling eyes I saw a trace of a delighted 3-year-old, the day she caught sight of the hand-me-down frilly ballerina dress I was fashioning into an angel costume for her first Christmas pageant.
She was enthralled with that dress, twirled in that dress, going round and round till she made herself so dizzy she careened across the stage and nearly knocked all the shepherds down.
She loved this dress, too. How could she not? Like Cinderella's glass slipper, it fit perfectly.
But even though it's second-hand, it's still out of our price range.
So I called her dad, who advised me to barter with the shop keeper.
I do, but we're still over budget.
So I figure it's time to have one of those "let her down easy" mother-daughter talks.
"It's only one night," I tell her, noting she'll probably never wear the dress again. The black and pink satin one is a better deal, I reasoned. And what about all the other stuff: shoes, accessories? In this economy …
"I know," she said, reminding me that she always, always shops the clearance racks. "But once in a while it's okay to splurge, Mom. Sometimes you just buy the dress."
She has a job so she'll chip in, she told me in a very mature kind of way. She'll pay for her own prom ticket, scrimp on the shoes and scrounge around her jewelry stash for a necklace and earrings to match.
"I guess that will work," I said, wondering where the heck that 3-year-old went.
She's still making her way, I realize, wearing Cinderella blue.
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6251.