Those who are aware of my penchant for sometimes leaving the house looking “undone” might be surprised to learn that I spent my childhood being served breakfast by a perfectly pulled-together lady. No, we did not hire help. That lady was my mother Josephine. I can still recall sitting in Sister Catherine’s fourth-grade classroom when a friend of mine looked out the large windows with a view of the street. “I think your mom just passed by with groceries,” she reported. “How do you know it was my mom?” I asked. We were, after all, on the third floor of the school building. “Black hair, white skin, red lips, a pretty dress, high heels, and a matching handbag — it had to be her,” she answered.
Yep, it had been her. To my dismay, the “always well turned-out” gene — and a similar one from my mother-in-law Dolly who was also a snappy dresser — skipped me and went straight to my daughter and son. For a long while I believed that my transgressions in the area of “always looking one’s best” had gone unnoticed by my family members. After all, I was cooking somewhat edible meals and trying to keep the house reasonably clean. Nobody can really “do it all” these days. And perhaps I was indeed flying under the radar. And then Josephine moved in.
Josephine brushes her hair, puts on earrings and lipstick, and wears a well-coordinated blouse and skirt pretty much 24/7. She never puts on pajamas until she is headed for bed, and looks askance when I plop on the sofa in sweats to watch evening TV. Even on weekdays when I suggest that she eat breakfast in her PJs (“relax a little,” I say as she sighs and rolls her eyes), she manages to make flannels and a matching bed jacket look positively regal. One day after getting dressed she grabbed for her earrings as we headed downstairs to watch our game shows. “It’s just the two of us,” I argued. “I know,” she answered. “And I don’t care.”
Just recently my husband confirmed my fears that all of mom’s ” primping” was putting me in an unflattering light . “Don’t you think Mom overdoes it a bit?” I asked. My timing was bad, as my mother had just gone off to bed with uneven pajama legs thanks to my poor hemming skills. “It’s OK,” she had assured me but I heard doubt in her voice.
“No, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to care about how you look,” he answered, looking at me a bit too meaningfully.
“Well, do you have a problem with my appearance?” I bravely asked.
“To be frank, I think all of us in the family would be a lot happier if you stopped watering the lawn while wearing your pajamas and robe,” he confessed. “I think you are scaring people, partly because they might assume you are related to Vinny the Chin Gigante.”
Ok. Point taken.
And so, for the time being, I have stopped watering the lawn.