"Ssshhh... don't tell your Dad." And then weeks later she would put it on, and my father would say, "Oh, that looks nice, I don't think I've seen that before," and my mother would reply, "Oh, this old thing? I've had it for ages." My Dad was always wise to her tricks, but he went along with it anyway. My mother was beautiful and she knew it. Whenever she and I went downtown after school, my friends would gasp and say, "Is that your mother?" Yes. *sigh*
My Mom and Dad occasionally went out to formal events, and I remember one evening my mother wore a gown that was floor length pale green brocade, with a bow at the back and a deep cut bodice, and the fabric rustled when she walked. Another dress was a deep mauve taffeta, and it shimmered and changed colors in the light. And she always wore Chanel No. 5. My mother was also very funny, with a droll wit. Whenever she wore her high heels, she would chuckle and say, "I sound just like a hor ...sss." For years I didn't get it, and then one day I repeated it out loud, and I got it.
Her favorite flowers were gladioli and in the summer our garden and our house was always filled with masses of them. She was a wonderful gardener and cook, and she loved to entertain. My job was always to polish the silver, because everything had to be done just so. My mother was always the center of any gathering. One Christmas I was invited to a party at the house of a CEO of a large corporation in British Columbia. My mother was staying with me at the time, and I took her with me. Half way through the evening my daughter and I looked over, and there was Mom sitting on one of the chesterfields, with everyone gathered around her, mesmerized, while she entertained them with one of her stories. We laughed.
My mother was born and raised in South Africa and educated in England, and how she ended up in a small town on Vancouver Island always caused her the greatest consternation. She was a wonderful artist and wanted to go to Paris to further her art studies, but her father -- a Captain in the British Army -- prevented her from doing it, afraid he would never see her again if she left.
When I remember my mother now, I realize what a unique person she was, but she was like a caged exotic bird. She came from a world far away from small town British Columbia, and she always had that far-away look in her eyes. There is not a day goes by that I don't think about her.
"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity." ... Coco Chanel