This is my mom in 1964 or 1965 or thereabouts. While I was growing up, I knew my mom was beautiful. It was just a fact - obvious. But it wasn't something anyone talked about, least of all her. In fact, she was so shy about herself that she seldom agreed to have her picture taken. This is one of the few pictures I could find of that era.
She wasn't much for girl-talk. Her shyness kept her somewhat aloof from other mothers - no neighborhood kaffee-klatches or gab-fests at our house.
My education as a girl was not what you might call comprehensive. She didn't teach me how to curl my hair or put on makeup. She didn't really practice those arts herself - she had her hair done once a week at the "beauty parlor" and as for makeup, she'd slick on a lipstick quickly with only a glance in a mirror, blot her lips and forget about it.
She did enjoy style, and I was her willing pupil in those arts. When we had drapes and slip-covers made, she shared swatches with me to compare together. She decorated my bedroom - helping me choose cotton chintz printed with Degas' ballerinas in gold.
She had a classic sense of fashion, and enjoyed clothes that fit well and flattered. I remember trips to town for school clothes, where she showed me how to match patterns and colors - the plaid skirt that could be paired with a blue top or a red top.
Above all, she loved to garden. Whether it was petunias in the dooryard of our small Pennsylvania house, the ambitious rose garden in Illinois, or the wildflower woods at our New Jersey home, she had to have a garden. Even during the last years she lived in her Texas home, she loved her garden, and made sure the winter pansies were set in before she left it.
She's almost 85 now, and lives in a small apartment in an assisted living facility near family. When she left her home last autumn, she didn't look back.
She and my father, who died in 2002, kept and carried along with them almost every material possession they gained during over 50 years of marriage. They even took in possessions left by other family members as they passed away. But when Mom decided to move, she let go of all that. She took a suitcase, some treasured trinkets and photos, and little else.
Along with the house, she left behind the furniture, the piano, the records, her books, the waste baskets, the lawn mower, the dishes, old letters and photographs. Each of her children kept something to remember, but the rest was sold by estate-sale liquidators.
I have the photographs - where I found this picture of her - slim and elegant in this simple linen dress. She was probably 38 or 40 years old here.
When I packed Mom's suitcase for the trip north, I went through her dresser and her closet. She didn't need the Ferragamo pumps or the silk blouses or the skirt suit anymore. They would fetch a good price in the sale. But I took a couple of scarves she used to wear - and I wear them to remind me of her sense of style. Today I'm wearing a '60's era silk square, fresh green and aqua by the designer Vera.