Yesterday I chose the clothes for my mother for her burial. A pink suit with a white blouse and earrings. She has dark skin and hair, and has always looked good in reds and pinks. My father liked color “on his women” as he used to say of my mother and me. He was very careful of his appearance and expected us to be the same.
Mother went back to work when I was two years old. This was not a choice of ego or career pursuit – or even of a passion for what she did. She worked because we needed the money. My father was a textile foreman and mother worked as a secretary in the mill office.
She was always proud of her job – proud that her skills at typing and shorthand were excellent, proud that she could spell and produce letters that were grammatically correct, proud that her files were in order and accessible for needed information. Mother is smart and she worked hard to be the best secretary she could be. She understood the value of secretaries in business – she was never just a secretary, she was a Secretary and proud of it!
All during my public school years, my mother drove me and two friends to school each day. I was aware that my mother was wearing a suit and earrings when she dropped us off, not a housedress or robe, because she was on her way to work. She always looked pretty. As a little girl, it was the earrings that were the most important for me, and in early grammar school I went through a period of sneaking earrings to school and putting them on at recess. My teachers, of course, were not pleased so that did not last long!
When I picked out her burial clothes yesterday, earrings were part of the outfit. Earrings had to be a part of it. She would not look herself to me without them. But the choosing was difficult. Mother was always so independent and self-contained. She kept her hair done and her colors matched. She would not go out her front door unkempt. Now she has no choices. Others bathe her, choose her clothes and comb her hair.
Now I am choosing for her how she will appear at the last. And I am grieving for the feisty, independent, pretty woman who wore a cherry red dress to see me married.