Okay before you flip your cable channel and go all Sarah Mclachlan on me, there is an angel with plain wings involved here, but other than that, it doesn’t have anything to do with a Pet Store or a Puppy Mill. Although it does lean heavily on the impulse buy of humanity, where we spend too much hoping to store it away. So yes, being left alone and unwanted in the end is a similar theme.
Growing up there were always “ladies” in my life (purse, nice dress, gloves – if you get the picture save it, because it won’t happen again) that I would look at longingly, and hope someday it would be me too. There were of course those days of youth, when I also wondered “why” that wasn’t my mother. The typical better looking green grass, or even Greener Acres, because Lisa Douglas was one such lady, and it applies here very well.
Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing bad about the era my mother brought to our family table. She was always nicely dressed, hair clean and fixed, a touch of lipstick and maybe some powder, and always a hint of perfume or lotion. But if she had been a painting, it would have been a still life, one of those nice basic bowls of fruit everyone enjoys, but don’t get overly excited about, like an impressionist painting, tomato soup cans or even some wayward glitter.
As I grew up, the special ladies in my life were always larger than my life, with their make-up and fancy clothes, sparkling jewelry which was always real, and hair that was styled, not put up on rollers at home and sprayed with Aqua Net. They had families too, but somehow the whole picture for them was just in a better frame and better canvas, and they colored my life more green than black and white. Then I grew up.
One day when you awake and realize it isn’t your alarm clock shaking you, but reality and God, it truly is time to get up and look around. About the time of my wake-up call, my daughters were young women and my mother was elderly. First thing I noticed was that she was a lady. I would take her to church where she mingled with those about her age, and I noticed how nice she dressed, taking care in her appearance, when others had passed 80 and gone into the HOV lane of if it fits I’ll wear it (jogging suits DO have an expiration date and a place), her perfume still as sweet, lipstick in place and a laugh in her heart, as she would chat and reminisce. Nobody guessed she was over 90, especially the wrinkles that never caught up to her. She especially stood out next to the women who were trying to squeeze 80 into a youthful 40, losing the battle of the bulge. They were almost cartoons with make-up too bright, nails too long, jewelry to fussy and hair teasing to runaway. My mom was a lady – plain and simple.
Once we reach that acceptance in life when we no longer want or wish for rose colored glasses, and see that life is a journey and not a fashion or talent show, time seems less complicated. Our memories aren’t as hard to keep and we remember to look for the good in each other, and not just look good for each other. The cute little doggie in the window we see is a facade, just a doggie in a manger, and the cost becomes higher as we become older if we don’t.
We need to accept that what life has in store for us, is simply a learning experience hopefully we share with others before we are gone. Side by side, we are really nothing more and nothing less, despite the window dressing that appeals to us all one time or another.
Recently speaking to an old friend, he remarked how his mother was in a group home now, politically correct for nursing home, and how she was doing the best they could expect. His mother had been one of my “ladies” as a young girl, larger than life, almost a Queen looking over all the Cinderella wanna be’s like me. Money for her was never a problem; she seemed to have had the best of everything in life (even though she suffered the same pitfalls we all did), looked like the proverbial million dollars every time I saw her, and even had that pedigreed European background, accent and name, which caused a sigh before she ever entered the room. However simply put, she was just a woman in the end like my mother, no more and no less.
As I drove home after that conversation I remembered mom in her last days. She also had been in a group home setting before coming to live with me. I remembered her dressed casually, but very tasteful, her hair fixed, reading a book or talking with the staff so intelligently she could have been one of them, and not a 91 year old resident. What glittered in that memory wasn’t gold, or style, it was love plain as the nose on my face, as daddy liked to say. Mom stood out without a pedigree, a window sign or a price tag because she simply saw the beauty in every day, raised us proudly with morals, and truly loved everyone she met. Thinking of my friend and how hard it probably was for his mother to step down from the world where she had lived, where she was a somebody, admired and recognized, to become just another elderly woman seeing the end of her life, made me sad. I know she did it with class because her heart was so good, and I am sure she found a way to fit in. However, for her family the memories of her will never be the same, the lady in the great home was now in a group home.
So the next time I head out of the house, making sure my clothes are clean, and my hair is combed and maybe a touch of lipstick, I will channel mom and smile. Being a lady is what makes you a lady, and I thank her for that lesson. It will be one I take with me to the next plane of my existence proudly. Paintings may eventually end up admired in a museum, but ladies with only decorations sadly fade in group homes. Mom left this life, here in a house that was our home, her things all in place, and a family who loved her everyday of her life because of who she was, and not who she appeared to be.
And that Ladies and Gentlemen is how it should be done, and why most homes have a still life painting somewhere on their wall, because it looks nice, fills the space, accents the room and for some odd reason just makes them happy. It also doesn’t take as much explaining as the fancy art, that costs more than it should, and does far less than it could.