Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lavender and Blue

Every woman must have in her wardrobe the perfect “little black dress”.  Every woman except my mother that is. In her closet you will not find a little black dress. What you will find is clothing in a rainbow of beautiful colors with two-thirds of the closet filled with shades of lavender and blue.  I love that there is no black dress in her closet. That would be ordinary. My mother is certainly not ordinary.

My life is filled with extra-ordinary events to which I can tie memories of the dresses my mother wore. In previous blog stories you may have seen the photos of the matching dresses she made for herself, my sister and me for the Easters of my childhood.

I also vividly remember the dress she wore on my wedding day. It really wasn’t a dress at all. It was a VERY expensive blue satin night gown from Italy. My sister had given the gown to my mother as a gift at the end of her semester abroad. However, even after four months in Italy Beth had not figured out the currency exchange. The cost of the beautiful blue satin gown was not $50.00 as my sister thought, but $500.00. My mother could not imagine sleeping in a $500.00 night gown and so with a few extra dollars and the help of a seamstress she turned that Italian night gown into a beautiful mother of the bride dress. I loved it! It was a dress with a story, not just any typical “mother of the bride” dress.

But the story of mom’s lavender dress is among my favorites. The lavender dress has been in her closet for over twenty years and just recently came out for a party with her “Red Hatter’s” group. The women were asked to pull something out of their closets they just couldn’t bear to part with.  My mother not only pulled the lavender dress out of the back of the closet, but wore it to the party. It was the second party that dress attended.

Twenty years ago my mother served as president of a feminist religious women’s organization and was asked to represent that organization to attend a birthday party in honor of Marie Wilson, editor of Ms. Magazine. The party was to be held at the Upper East Side apartment of Gloria Steinem – a BIG DEAL PARTY. Mom knew, in New York, most of the women at the party would be adorned in their little black dresses. She went shopping for just such a dress but came home with a beautiful lavender dress instead. She had an entire conversation with the lavender dress in the fitting room. “I know I should wear a black dress. But I love you and I want to wear you.” Her heart and her head began to war in that fitting room and ultimately her heart won. The lavender dress went home with her.

As she approached Ms. Steinem’s apartment the night of the BIG DEAL PARTY, she watched a sea of black dresses entering the building. She approached the crowded apartment and felt like a “crocus in the dirt” - “rich, productive dirt – but dirt none the less”. For an instant she questioned her choice. But as she squeezed into the crowd, she realized no one cared what she was wearing, and she loved her beautiful lavender dress.
As she stood in the corner of the room a young woman in one of the requisite little black dresses approached mom and asked, “Are you from New York?” My mother laughed and replied, “Obviously not.” The laughter connected those two souls in the corner of the room and conversation, an exchange of stories, began.
As is often the case when stories unfold, the world becomes smaller and more intimate. During that conversation my mother and her new friend realized that they had both grown up in Springfield, Massachusetts. And, as often happens when serendipity steps in, my mother soon came to realize that this new friend was the daughter of her high school crush.
On the day of her “Red Hatter” party mom told her friends the story of the day she confessed her love for Buzzy Wagner in the corner of Gloria Steinem’s apartment wearing her lavender dress in a sea of basic black.
I love that my mother has the spirit to be lavender in a sea of ordinary basic black. I love that she has the confidence, grace and ability to laugh at herself. And what I love most is that she can share her story and have others laugh with her.

Happy Mother’s Day,  Lavender Lady.