My Mother's Day
What I remember most about my mother is the way she wore her girlish smile. She used it strategically, knowing it would make a lasting impression. It would get her good service in stores, spark friendships and generally endear herself to everyone. Along with that smile came her sense of fashion. Never one to leave the house "un-chic", she took pride in the clothes she wore well and she loved to dress the part, complete with that smile (and a nice piece of jewelry). One of her favorite words: "distingué", dictated how she lived. "So and so was not very distingué" or "it isn't very distingué to put containers on the dinner table". I often did not meet that standard, especially in my rebellious years. "Sit up straight!", she would bark at me, "cela ne fait pas très distingué (it doesn't look becoming)", she would add in reference to my poor posture. We had our challenges; especially in my teenage years. She could not accept the shift women's place took in society. Feminism equalled unbecoming behavior and smacked of all things unfeminine, something she abhored more than anything. At that time I hated the way she used that smile of hers, and thought it a submissive way to get what she wanted. Get what she wanted she did, whether I liked it or not, my mother had a way about her that absolutely charmed people. "Your mother is such a lovely woman", people would say to me, making me recoil. "And she always looks so beautiful", making my teenage insecure self feel inadequate.
Born number 3 of 4 (2 girls/2 boys), I was used to group settings in our household. It was her way or the highway with us and the only way she could be in control of us four and continue to live her life the way she chose. Nothing we did stopped her from seeing friends, going to "Bridge" games, travel or anything else she chose to do. She put up with us and her very difficult husband, all while breezing about with that smile as if nothing affected her. Her spirit remained unbroken, a stubborn refusal of things clearly out of her grasp. She kept herself together through every storm, her oldest son leaving for Vietnam, the eldest daughter choosing a career path she was less than thrilled about, my boyfriends she hated and on and on. Life just didn't deal her the hand she expected but she dealt with the one she was given her way, head up and "distinguée".
She left us a long time ago. I hadn't finished growing up. I still needed her quips to keep me in check. It was an unbearable loss, but some things of her remain. I hear her in my own conversations. I see her in the way I dress. I feel her dissapproval when I opinionate on women's rights, but I know she is still with me because her smile is mine now.