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Good jeans, better genes

| Monday, February 15, 2021

Shortly before I left for my first year at Saint Mary’s, I came across a box of my mother’s papers and photos from her college days. In it I found a transcript from her first semester at Saint Mary’s, old photos of her friends and siblings with hairstyles they’ve long since changed and a faded clipping from The Observer. Under the headline “Fashion at Notre Dame,” she leaned against a lamppost with a wide smile and a fantastic pair of jeans.

Shortly afterwards, I bought my first pair of wide-leg jeans. My mom rolled her eyes at me and said, “I had those same jeans I was in college.” Those words marked a significant realization for me — my mom was much cooler than I previously knew. Since then, I’ve taken the words “That’s something I would have worn when I was your age” as the highest form of compliment.

As the end of my time at The Observer draws near, I often find myself thinking of what the paper has given me — some of my best friends, wonderful memories and one of my favorite pictures of my mom. Last week, I took the time to search The Observer’s online archives so I could see that picture again. When I found it, it was even better than I remembered. She looked so young and carefree, and that laughing smile hasn’t changed over the past 40 years.

Schlecht’s mom leaning against a pole, wearing fantastic jeans | Observer archives, April 25, 1974.

I sent it to her, and she replied, “Oh dear God” — her token response any time I come across a picture of her while she was in college. (If you’re reading this and know my mom, ask her about the picture of her and her two roommates in the 1977 yearbook).

I’d never seriously considered Saint Mary’s for myself until I made the visit all alumna daughters, nieces, granddaughters, etc. feel obligated to undertake. I was a senior in high school, I was convinced I had the flu during the trip and the bus ride from Midway Airport to South Bend felt endless. I didn’t want to be here. But the way my mom’s face lit up for the entirety of our days on campus stuck with me, forcing me to keep an open mind as I sat in on classes and talked to students. They looked as happy to be here as my mom did, and I wondered if that could be possible for me too.

My mom’s birthday fell on the weekend we were here, so I tried to limit my complaining about how miserable I felt. That was four years ago this week. Some things have changed a lot since then. For one, I wouldn’t dare leave my room if I felt even the slightest bit under the weather. I now understand why my mom and those students looked so happy to be at Saint Mary’s. I also wouldn’t wear skinny jeans if I had a wide leg pair nearby.

One thing that absolutely hasn’t changed is this fact: My mom is way cooler than I’ll ever be.

All of this to say, happy birthday, Mom. Please let me know what you think of my latest denim purchase.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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