Painted in her underwear

My mother was an incredibly difficult woman to pin down. By all outward appearances, she looked and acted like the “lost” Gabor sister..Let’s see there was Eva, Zsa Zsa, Magda, and oh yes, Gertrude. Shelley, as my mother was known had reinvented herself many times in her and my lifetimes. You see, she married a military man, which carried the burden of moving every 22 months, or staying in one spot while he was in combat. Her first incarnation was that of a young wife. She peers out at me in pictures in full length pose, head slightly turned toward the camera, a fur slung seductively over her shoulder, hair dark and bobbed. Movie vixens of the time, influenced style. The next phase was that of mother. Pictures show her in 50’s shorts and top with a headscarf of some sort tied like Rose the Riveter, laughing along with other women as their children played together. Then the next phase is all a blurr to me. Somehow she went from a happy brunette to a blond, red lips, red fingernails, ironed bra making sure things were in the proper perspective, and very sharp. Sharp talk, sharp edges, sharp deadlines, sharp expectations, sharp dresser, just ‘sharp’. This is the mother I remember, up until the sharpness softened when she became old. In between the laughing and the sharpness was a woman of incredible creativity, loyalty and love, who realized the life she was given was perhaps not exactly what she signed up for. I was thinking about my mother today, as I was painting a back door for my mother in law. I remembered my mother, who insisted that we paint the walls of our current house or apartment every summer. We would pull down the shades and she would stand on a ladder in her underwear to paint the ceiling.


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