My mother's birthday was a week ago, and in her honor, I dressed in bright colors. My own wardrobe leans towards anonymous - khakis and white t-shirts, navy blue and grey and brown, a Catholic student's closet. I want to fade into the background, not attract attention. My mother would throw together orangy pinks and purple berry and forest green. And it worked for her. Her Capri's were ironed with a sharp crease and she wore delicate chains of pink pearls and turquoise. Her last purse had crocheted pictures of women's faces from the flapper generation. She found this at a flea market while visiting my son in Ann Arbor. My mother loved clothes. Marie was raised in flour sack dresses and castoffs from charity contributions. My talented older aunt would rip open the seams and redesign the fabric into new outfits. Irene would not allow the children to be seen in the original clothes.
Mom squirreled away money for clothing purchases. Dad would cluck-cluck his tongue. He wore forty year old shoes that needed resoling every few years. He took pride in his purchases from second hand stores, even the corduroy pants, shiny seats from too much wear. My mother especially loved coats. She bought a new coat every year but would bring it out of the closet a day here, a day there. Slowly, so my father would not notice. After her death my sister and I looked at the closets and dressers and numerous Rubbermaid tubs full of all that clothing. Check the pockets, I said to Amy. We found approximately $7000 at the bottom of boxes, tucked away in purses, Social Security envelopes and, yes, pockets . My father would shake his head thinking why this strange, unnecessary behavior. I knew she needed to spend money on what she was denied for so many years.
I took my mother shopping. She needed a dress for her grandson's wedding. I came out of the dressing room to see her wearing a hot pink teddy. "I want to buy that dress over there, but look at the cleavage. Your brother will never allow that." That day I bought a jacket of orange and red panels with grape purple lining. Never would I have bought this thing if it had not been for her influence that day. It seemed the right and authentic thing to do. The jacket hung in my closet for a year and then was donated.
As the days lengthen I am beginning to realize the awful loss. She was the best of friends. She lived up the lane and I could stop in numerous times a day with stories and jokes. Now those moments are stilled and I fill them with other things, I just don't know what those will be yet.
So, I wore the wine-colored blouse and the sky blue earrings and the mother-of-pearl shell necklace. I find the pink Birkenstock slip-ons I bought the day after her death. I wanted something new and brilliant for the upcoming wake. I was drawn to the soft coral orange but knew my mother would buy the pink and that is what I chose.
Today is another perfect autumn poem and my oak tree outside the french doors is nude of leaves. A few tough maples are still holding out with their dressy autumn colors but harsh wintry winds are starting to blow and I hold my own on my daily walks. Once again prolonged exercise helps to staunch the feelings of loss. In one day and night's time I have exercised four hours. My legs and arms are telling me this is too much. I am obsessed these days.