There is a discussion going on in one of the online groups of which I'm a part about the handiest and most appropriate length for skirts and dresses for busy moms. Some things being discussed, are kids pulling on skirts; moms ascending stairs without tripping while carrying several children and diaper bags; modesty and respect for our husbands and other men; setting modest examples for our daughters; and etc. Many different ideas and concerns have come up.
Some of the funnest parts of the conversation have included personal examples of things that can happen to a mother's clothing while parenting our children in public. Things like skirts getting pulled off by little tugging hands or by stepping on a long hemline. Shorter skirts getting pushed up by a little one or two grabbing mom's legs (sometimes in church on the way up to Communion, for instance).
With many of these stories I can easily equate.
The conversation reminded me, though, of one of the funniest and potentially most embarrassing things to ever happen to me. This little incident is far enough away now, that I can write about it without shame. It tickles me still to think of it. Really, really tickles me. And I hope that it gave as much humor throughout the years to the other party.
The setting: Our church's kids' room. The occasion, I think, was the children's Christmas program. If memory serves, the program was finished. Supper was being served, as is the tradition. Parents and friends were standing and sitting to visit, while the children opened their gifts, and people meandered through the supper line.
I was kneeling on the floor of the kids' room changing a diaper. I was visiting with Kyle N., one of the younger dad's in our congregation.
I'm going to interrupt myself to give a little Northern Minnesota cultural lesson. Whether this is all in my head or not, I don't know. But I have been conscious since living here, of the Norwegian Lutheran tendency to keep a wall of separation between men and women. It's much more marked here than other places I've lived. So although I was visiting with this other father, I must explain that I didn't know him well. Those of you who know Kyle, know he is one of the more gregarious men in our circle of people. Otherwise I probably would not even have been talking to him. After more than ten years here, there are still many men with whom I've done little but exchanged hellos.
So back to my story,
After I finished changing my baby, I stood up to gather together the child and all the accompanying paraphernalia. I felt myself trip over something a little bit. It was kind of as if my feet were tangled in something. I glanced down, imagining that I had dropped a blanket or burp cloth or something. That's the kind of thing any slightly frazzled mom might drop and trip over. Imagine my chagrin to see that instead of something normal, I had instead dropped an undergarment. My slip had slid out from under my dress and was gathered around my ankles.
Inside myself, I was laughing with big, tremendous, boisterous laughs. But I didn't feel like I knew Kyle well enough to share this joke with him openly.
I don't really remember for sure what I did. In my memory, I think I just kind of stepped out of the slip and gathered it into my armload of other things and continued talking. I remember playing it kind of nonchalant, as if this kind of thing happened to me all the time. I remember wondering whether Kyle had noticed, and whether he realized what it was I had tripped on and subsequently gathered up.
I imagined him also laughing to himself with big, tremendous, boisterous laughs.
I imagined both of us totally tickled, but unable to share the joy. Him, out of respect for his pastor's wife. And me, out of this kind of unsurety. This awkward separation thing that I sense. That women and men simply don't share a laugh about undergarments in church.
It reminded me for all the world of those old 70s commercials in which the neighborhood ladies are having coffee. The narrator's voice says something like, "I stood up and my pantyhose didn't."
Didn't Carol Burnett do a skit with that, too?
So this is my, "I stood up but my slip didn't," moment.
I still laugh about it. Whenever I remember this incident, I feel the laughter gurgling up from within. Bubbling around the edges and forcing its way out. Until soon, I find I'm laughing right out loud. I hope that if Kyle did fully perceive my difficulties, he's been able to laugh about it too, rather than feeling mortified over this poor woman's embarrassment. Or by being too embarrassed himself.
Because although it was slightly embarrassing for me, mostly it was just purely, hugely funny.