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I Got More From My Mom Than Her Eyes

I slipped the Navajo-inspired oversized cardigan on. It was cozy. It was comfy. I looked in the mirror and I was completely overcome with emotion. Moisture began to invade my eyes and a lump rose in my throat challenging me to take a deep breath. As I checked out how the sweater looked in the reflection, I didn’t just see me — I saw my mother.

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My mom passed away, unexpectedly, about 10 years ago. In her absence, I’ve really embraced a few of the signature things that I have inherited from her: blue eyes, freckled arms and a size 10 shoe size. But there is one thing that was not genetically passed down but one that plays an important part in my outward appearance: I inherited her style.

Now, I never ever had the intention of dressing like my mom. It happened organically. Her influence on what I wear totally snuck up on me — like my addiction to coffee or falling head over heels in love with my husband, they are all things I never saw coming.

In my youth, my mother tended to gravitate toward several key pieces of clothing: navy and white striped shirts, dark blue pants and jeans, ballet flats and oversized cardigans. My mom also had a fondness for jewelry and I often slip on her old pieces: large Mexican silver and turquoise rings, vintage Bakelite bangles and my favorite, a long gold chain with an eclectic collection of charms. These are all pieces — from the striped shirts to the big rings — that have starring roles in my “mom” uniform. But there are some items I just can’t embrace; she loved scarves, lots of lots of scarves. I will occasionally throw one on, but not as boldly as she would. And Birkenstocks — she lived in her Birkenstocks. Yeah, yeah, I know they are on the comeback trail and are being heralded as totally chic footwear choice, but I just can’t do it. But the majority of things she would wear, I would throw on in a heartbeat.

It goes even deeper than the cotton and silk resting on my skin.

This whole inherited style thing doesn’t just stop with me. Her granddaughter, who she never had the chance to meet, has picked up on her style too via my clothing cues — the jeans, the striped jeans, the veering-toward-boho chic. These are all things that came directly from my mother.

It goes even deeper than the cotton and silk resting on my skin. As I raise my daughter in an outfit that my mother would have approved of, I am also parenting in a way that she would have approved of. Giving my daughter the freedom to find out who she is, doing crafts, cooking, playing with her. Just like my mother did with me. I am shepherding my daughter to meet her full potential — in her relationships, her passions and, yes, even in her style.

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In thinking about my mom and her striped shirts, ballet flats and blue jeans, I realize I’m paying tribute to her in subtle everyday ways. I may have her blue eyes, her freckles and her big feet, but I’ve inherited so much more, and it shows up each and every day in how I look, how I dress and how I parent. When I look in the mirror, I am never alone. She is always there, in ways big and small.

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