E Jane Dickson: Clara and I look like an allegory of time

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The Independent Online

"Come on, Mum," wheedles Clara, "let's be twins." It started when I nipped into Gap's mid-season sale and picked up a pink chambray button-down shirt for Clara, a garment roughly similar to the dozen or so chambray shirts in my own wardrobe.

"Come on, Mum," wheedles Clara, "let's be twins." It started when I nipped into Gap's mid-season sale and picked up a pink chambray button-down shirt for Clara, a garment roughly similar to the dozen or so chambray shirts in my own wardrobe. It wasn't intended as a sartorial rite of passage - I just like chambray shirts - but there's nothing Clara likes better than a ritual. Add to that a god-given talent for humiliating her mother and whaddayaget? Ritual humilation.

We're on our way to visit a rarely seen - and drop-dead elegant - friend and Clara has her heart set on us wearing matching outfits. There is a this-won't-hurt-a-bit glint in my daughter's eye as she leads me through to the bedroom, where she has laid out identikit ensembles of pink shirt, cropped trousers (an item I haven't favoured for some time) and sneakers.

"For god's sake," I grumble. "We're going to look like rejects from the bloody Boden catalogue."

"I know," beams Clara. "Isn't it great? Our hair's different of course, but we can put yours in plaits and I'll lend you my flowery bobbles."

"Absolutely not," I insist, bundling myself into the pedal pushers, which, to my ever-increasing delight, I find have grown quite tight. "No plaits, no bobbles."

"But then we won't be proper twins," chivvys Clara, prodding me about like Trinny and Susannah rolled into one scary eight-year-old.

"My darling," I point out, "I was 35 when I had you. I really don't think anyone will think we were separated at birth."

"Well, no, hardly," she is forced to agree, surveying our reflections in the wardrobe door. With roughly similar features and colouring, we look like an allegory of time painted by a particularly misogynist artist of the Vienna Secession. Full-blown (to put it kindly) and fraying round the edges, my image staring back at me is a hall-of-mirrors travesty of my daughter's peachy promise.

"Not twins, then," says Clara, kindly enough, "but we could be sisters, or maybe best friends?"

My answer is a low groan, not entirely occasioned by the cheese-wire effect around my midriff. Any minute now we'll be breaking out the popcorn and discussing boyfriends. I have a particular horror of the mum-as-best-friend syndrome, which seems to me the most inelegant construct. My relationship with my own, comparitively youthful mother is entirely comfortable - there is no woman whose company and humour I enjoy more - but she has always most definitely been a mum rather than a pal. And that, I realise with a kind of low-impact thrill, is what I want for Clara and me.

"Sorry, lovely," I say, swapping the death-pants for a linen skirt, "this just isn't going to work."

"S'all right," says Clara, hugging me round the waist, "you look better as a mum, anyway."

We keep the matching shirts, though. Rites of passage come in different colourways.

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