Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gambie

Today would have been my mother's birthday. I'm not going to tell you how old she would be, though, because my mother always said a lady never tells her age or her shoe size. For most of my life, I didn't know my mother's age, but I knew her shoe size was 6-1/2. She was very petite. She was a combination of Coco Chanel and Ava Gardner, and I was always in awe of her. She loved fashion, and a few times a year she and I would make a trip to Vancouver so she could buy the latest dresses, suits, hats, jewelry, shoes, handbags...  Sometimes she would buy something and hide it away in her closet and say, "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

32 comments:

C S said...

Lovely post about your mother, Johanna. She sounds like a beautiful person in every way.

Cheers to your mum on her birthday.

Carolyn
www.mysydneyparislife.wordpress.com

greenpanda said...

Absolutely beautiful post, your mother sounds simply amazing. I never knew my mother's age either.... ;)

the walking man said...

Loved or not, no one ever forgets the woman that they call mother. Yours sounds exceptional Jo which makes it one of those cases where the nut did not fall to far from the tree.

Linda said...

What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful lady!

Brenda said...

The Walking Man said it well. I ditto what he said. Great tribute to your Mother Jo!

DJan said...

The words on the page were transformed into a portrait I will not soon forget. What a beautifully written post about a beautiful person. Happy birthday, Gambie, and I have been honored and privileged to know a little bit about you, thanks to Jo.

Indian Pundit said...

Happy Birthday to your mom.
Absolutely fascinating read.Loved it.

A beautiful trip down memory lane.

Cheers

Katy said...

As always Jo, you have such a way with words. Your mother sounds a lot like the stories my mother tells about my Grandmother who died before I was born.

When I was a teenager and dressed like a grungy homeless person my mother would always say, "Thank God your Grandmother isn't here to see this!"

PinkPanthress said...

Happy Birthday to the interesting Fashionista, that was your Mother! :D

And sorry to say it, but your grandfather was egoistic about not letting your mother further her education.
From your tellings she sounds like she might have become very famous in her later life. :(
All those lost opportunities, it really saddens me.

Jennifer D said...

Your Mother sounds so lovely, like a gorgeous movie star with a longing heart.

I need to go call my mom now!

Happy Birthday Jo's Momma.

Whitney Lee said...

You painted an incredibly clear picture of your mother. What an amazing woman she must have been! I can see that you come by it quite honestly. Happy wishes sent your way on this day of memories.

The Bug said...

My mother was always the center of attention too - but she was NOT glamorous at all. She had that same slight dissatisfaction about her. I think she wanted her children to do what she hadn't had the opportunity to do. Sadly we were more like my dad - happiness wins over ambition every time!

Happy birthday to your Mom!

jojo said...

Jo,
she sounds absolutely divine! How exciting to be part of such a beautiful life. Happy Birthday to your mama...;p

A human kind of human said...

Jo, this is so beautifully written. Please pop over to my blog, there is something there for another great lady.

Pauline said...

what a wonderful tribute to your mother. your words make pictures.

Susan said...

She sounds so lovely and sad....a Gatsby heroine. Every mother is a magician, with her own special powers. It sounds like grace was your mother's gift.

ρομπερτ said...

What a beautiful entry of yours. As love does negate all time and distance, for sure, she would be very impressed.
Please have a nice Wednesday.

KrippledWarrior said...

A very nice testimony to your mom.
Well done!

Marguerite said...

Lovely post and tribute to your dear mother, Jo. She sounds like such a beautiful person. Happy Birthday to your Mom!

A Woman said...

Jo, This is a lovely post about your Mother. I'm amazed at all we have in common. My Mother's birthday would have been the 13th. She also was a very talented artist. Are you sure we aren't living semi parallel lives (what ever that would be) ;)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

So that's where you got your charm, elegance and talent. Your mother sounds like an utterly divine woman - you truly learned from the best!

Happy Birthday to Jo's mum!

Meggie said...

A lovely tribute post about your mother. She does sound beautiful.
I still miss my sweet mother, and always will.

KathyB. said...

Oh to be a mother so beloved by her daughter as you. Beautiful words about her Jo.

Russell said...

I like what KathyB said -- that is so true.

And I agree with the Walking Man, too.

Lots of nice comments. Certainly your mother was a role model for you and I have a feeling you are a role model for others.

Kitty Moore said...

That is a beautiful tribute to your mother - she sounds like she was an amazing woman x

Michelle said...

Wow! I can see her in her dress. She sounds lovely and amazing. A movie star, an artist, elegant, a real woman. A wonderful role model.

Blonde Bookworm! said...

Wow, I think this is my favorite post of yours so far. Really beautiful tribute to your mum, she sounds like she was a wonderful person :)

Jo said...

Thank you, everyone, for your lovely comments. My mother was truly a unique person. She was a little bit like a movie star, and definitely she was a bit of a hard act to follow. I still talk to her about all sorts of things, and I can still hear her voice, answering me. :-)

Have a fabulous day, everyone!

Cheers,

Jo

Kimberly said...

Happy Birthday Gambie!

Paula Slade said...

Lovely remembrance Jo! Thank you for sharing!

Nathalie said...

I arrived here through Owen's "Magic Lantern Show" and what a wonderful tribute to your mother you wrote here!

I wish you'd posted a photo of her.

Nathalie said...

PS - I can relate to some of it ; my friends at school always commented on how beautiful my mother was. I am lucky to still have her and at the age of ... (I'm not going to tell you) she's an exquisite Parisian lady.