When I picture my mom I usually see her as she appeared in old black and white photos, many taken at family gatherings. In some, she’s smoking a cigarette, in others shyly smiling. At a little over 5 feet and 11 inches tall, Mom was self-conscious about her height, but until she became very ill she never slumped. When her image comes to me unbidden, I see her standing straight, shoulders back.
Mom wasn’t a flashy dresser. She always looked put together, but she never wanted to attract too much attention. I always felt she was more comfortable in the background than in the spotlight, but then what does a daughter really know about her mother?
One year for her birthday Daddy brought Mom a beautifully wrapped box from a higher end department store. That in itself was a big deal. We were a Sears family. Our clothes often came packaged in “3 for $10” sets, so when Mom began unwrapping that elegant box her hands trembled.
When she peeled back the layers of tissue paper surrounding her gift, some of her enthusiasm had waned. She smiled wanly as she lifted up a bright fuchsia knit skirt and blazer. Of course I thought it was beautiful, and obviously so did Daddy, but Mom didn’t seem to share our enthusiasm.
She thanked Daddy who was beaming with pride, but later I overheard her describing the suit to a friend as gaudy. I wasn’t sure what “gaudy” meant, but by the tone of her voice I knew it wasn’t good.
Nevertheless, Mom wore that suit. At first, trepidatiously, but later with confidence. I hope I told her how gorgeous she looked. I hope she felt beautiful in her fuchsia dress.
I’m pretty sure that’s not the suit Mom was wearing in the photo above, but the time frame is about right. Weren’t we precious?